It is hard to argue with the sentiment that strength can help you a lot when you are on the field. Whether it is allow you to sprint at higher speeds or the strength helping you increase ball security while playing a sport, generally speaking, more strength is never going to be a bad thing. But the problem that a lot of people run into is actually making gains when it comes to the amount of strength they have. We all know that going to the gym is a great way to help put on some muscle mass and get stronger, but after that a lot of people can be pretty clueless. If this describes you, don’t worry as here in this article we will be reviewing 3 of the best exercises that can transform anyone from being a weakling to a very strong person.
Perhaps the most celebrated of all the exercises for the body would be the squat. This is because of how much more effective it is compared to a lot of the other exercises that target the lower body. You can tell that it is one of the most effective exercise that can be down in the gym because of not just how many different muscle groups it trains, but also because of how strenuous a good squat should be. The benefits of squatting are wide and numerous, but if you are looking for any kind of functional lower body strength (which almost all athletes should be) then there simply is no better solution out there than doing the squats. Making sure that you are following proper form when doing a squat is enormously important. If you don’t, you put yourself at serious risk for getting injured, which is not something that an athlete should ever have to do.
Make sure that your feet are planted in the ground at about the same width as your shoulders, and while performing the squat, it is extremely important to keep your back perfectly straight. The load of the lift should not be put on your back, but rather on your lower body and hamstrings. Go down on the lift until you reach parallel (some prefer to go down even lower, only do this if you know your form won’t be compromised), and then bring the weight back up to perform a single rep. How many reps you do is up to you, although most people feel comfortable in the range between 5 and 10.
Here is an abstract from a study done on professional football players regarding the correlation between squatting strength and sprint speed
While squats are a huge part of functional strength and lower body strength, they are by no means the only part of it. Deadlifts are also an excellent exercise for those that are looking to build some muscle mass to help give them a competitive edge on the playing field. Like the squat, the deadlift is an excellent way to build strength in your legs, specifically the hamstrings and quads. But unlike the squat, it is also a great way to strengthen your core, which will always be helpful when you are playing rugby or any other type of sport for that matter. Just like the squat, make sure that when you do the exercise, to keep your back perfectly straight. If you don’t, your back will be doing part of the lift for you, and that will not only mean you aren’t getting as good of a workout, but it also means you are putting yourself at risk for some serious injuries. Another important thing to keep in mind when doing the deadlift is that everyone has their own personal preference on what specific grip they choose to use for the lift. The most popular grip for lifters would have to be the alternating grip, where you have one hand facing towards you and the other facing away from yourself. Again, this is something that is purely down to preference, so be sure to try out the different forms of grip to see which one works best with you.
The Bench Press
The last of the exercises we are going to be reviewing here in this article is the one that most people will already be very familiar with, and that is the bench. The previous two exercises that we covered were ones that were used to train your lower body, but this one is purely upper body. And while you are going to be using your various leg muscles far more on the field than your upper body, that still doesn’t mean that you should totally neglect it, as that is something that would be a big mistake. There are plenty of different variations of the bench press, but the one that you really only need to know about is the flat bench, although the incline is an excellent alternative. An additional note to add is that in the last few years bands and chains have been incorporated into training regimes for extra strength increase. The biomechanics behind the bands and chains is that they produce resistance through out the entire movement, unlike the free weight variation which has different points of maximum and minimun resistance. So do bands and chains actually work? Here is a research study done on 36 division 1-AA football players.
• The ‘chain’ group used three chains (Westside Barbell, Columbus, Ohio) that were attached to each side of a barbell, for a total of six chains on the bar. Four chains consisted of training chains (two on each side), and two were considered support chains (one on each side). A training chain was 5 feet long and weighed 20 pounds. Each 5-foot support chain weighed 4 pounds. The combined weight of all chains used was approximately 85-90 pounds. The two support chains attached the training chains to the barbell and were lowered to the ground during work sets.
• The ‘elastic band’ group used elastic bands (Iron Woody Fitness) to progressively increase overall resistance during the concentric portion of each repetition. Conversely, during the eccentric portion of each repetition, resistance progressively decreased. The elastic bands were anchored at the bottom of the bench press apparatus, creating maximum tension at the top of the lift with lowest tension at the bottom.
All three groups performed 6 sets of 3 repetitions and were instructed to accelerate the barbell as fast as possible. A qualified strength and conditioning coach closely supervised and tracked training loads and volumes to ensure high intensity levels, proper technique, motivation, and adherence to the program.
The researchers observed a significant increase in maximum strength in the variable-resistance training group (bands and chains), compared to the traditional free-weight training group (bench press). All three groups increased bench press strength, but the weighted chains group increased their bench press by 9.6 kg (7 percent), the elastic bands group increased their strength by 10 kg (8 percent), and the traditional bench press group by 7.7 kg (5 percent). These results suggest that when weighted chains and elastic bands are incorporated into off-season and in-season training cycles, athletes are provided with a unique yet viable method to increase strength and power variables.8 These methods are particularly useful in exercises that mimic ballistic movements, such as the bench presses or squats performed explosively. So if you want to increase your bench press, consider adding some bands and chains to your routine to increase maximal strength.
The study proved the usefulness of the traditional bench press along with the benefits of using bands ( +3% strength increase ) and chains ( +2% strength increase ) above the traditional bench press strength increase. So be sure to add in chains and bands in your next off-season training.
With these 3 core exercises done, you are soon going to be well on your way to being a far more effective player on the field. Also, you may have noticed that these 3 lifts are the ones that most powerlifters do. This isn’t a coincidence; these are the best exercise in the gym if you are interested in nothing more than gaining some raw strength.