Looking to improve your athletic prowess? There's more to it than just ramping up your sets and reps. To improve your overall athleticism, you need to work on not just your strength, but your power, endurance, balance, agility, and flexibility. Such a diverse set of skills calls for a diverse set of exercises, and we've got six great ones to add to your daily mix.
1. Burpee: A Royal Invention
When you're looking to improve your total body movement, look no further than good ol' burpees, developed in the 1930s by physiologist Royal H. Burpee. This time-tested exercise helps you build strength and power while improving your cardiovascular fitness. One set of 10-20 burpees and you'll quickly see why it makes your average treadmill session seem about as hard as sitting down.
Burpees do it all. They'll torch your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core—and give your shoulders and chest something to think about, too. They can be done as is, or supersetted with other lifts as part of a metabolic training protocol.
When you do the jumping part of each burpee, make sure your knees always land directly over your toes. This will help prevent the improper tracking that can lead to knee pain.
2. Box Jump: It's Not Always About Height
Box jumps are a go-to movement for boosting athleticism. And you don't need a very tall box or platform to reap big benefits. Start by jumping up the height of just one stair. Then add height as you get stronger.
Pause each time you land and step back off the box or platform one foot at a time, instead of jumping off with both feet at once. Stepping instead of jumping helps prevent impact injuries that can derail your training.
Box jumps are a total lower-body movement that, like burpees, hit your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core.
3. Push Press: When Exercises Collide
If you prefer heavier lifting using compound lifts, the push press will be a great addition to your workout routine. What's not to like about an exercise that combines a deadlift, a squat, and an overhead press? It's the gym version of a Heffalump.
With every rep, you'll hit your quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. Because it has such total-body activation, the push press is a great way to both increase your strength and burn more calories. You'll torch fat not only while you do this exercise, but for hours after you've laid this strange beast to rest.
4. The Walking Lunge: Stroll to Get Swole
If it's a lower- or full-body workout you're after, walking lunges are a must. There's no denying that heavy squats provide an unsurpassed lower-body pump, but walking lunges tend to do more to improve overall athleticism.
First, they'll test your balance and agility as you transfer your weight from step to step. Squats, and many other lower-body exercises, don't involve this same kind of weight transfer, so they don't challenge your stability to quite the same extent.
This lunge is also terrific for improving core strength, as your ab muscles contract with each lunge to help stabilize the weight over your center of balance.
Walking lunges are also good for building strength and power. By loading up enough weight and focusing on the upward movement of the lunge, you'll quickly see improvements in strength and power.
5. Unilateral Dumbbell Snatch: Boost Your Athleticism
Another great move for boosting your athleticism is the unilateral dumbbell snatch, which is great for improving overall performance levels.
This compound lift will challenge—and change—your body if you do it consistently. There are many ways to perform dumbbell snatches. You can time them, alternate them, or use ascending reps with them.
Like the other exercises I've described, the unilateral dumbbell snatch is a great full-body exercise that works your hamstrings, glutes, quads, core, back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps in one fluid movement. You'll get your heart rate up, build strength and power, and improve your agility.
6. Plank Hold: The Ultimate Test For Your Core
Finally, don't forget about the plank. In 2016, a Chinese policeman named Mao Weidong established a new world record by staying in the plank position for more than eight hours. Don't be intimidated, though. A realistic goal for most people is to hold the position for a minute or so at a time.
While this exercise itself may not actually build significant power, it'll seriously strengthen your core while building endurance. Both core strength and endurance can improve your performance on any other power-building exercises you perform.
When you can sustain a strong core, you can also improve your body's ability to transfer energy from your lower to upper torso, a valuable skill in athletic pursuits from pole vaulting to pitching.