Five Exercises You Must Do

These Five Exercises Are a Must for Any Athlete

The number of exercises you can add to your training plan are endless. Ideally, you will design a specific workout routine based on your goals and abilities and then change that routine regularly. But if you don't have time to get a complete workout, these five exercises rise to the top of the pile when it comes to getting the biggest bang for your buck. These exercises are arguably the five exercises every athlete must do to stay strong and prevent many common sports injuries.

The Plank

The Plank Core Exercise
The plank exercise. E. Quinn

The plank exercise is a fabulous core strengthening exercise that engages muscles of the entire body from the tips of the toes to the top of the head. You'll engage your back, arms and shoulders and legs, and isolate the abdominal muscles. The plank can also be used as an assessment of core strength as well as a daily core stability exercise. 

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The Side Plank

Side Plank Exercise
Side Plank. E. Quinn
Along with the standard front plank exercise, I'm a huge fan of the often forgotten side plank. The side plank targets all the muscles that get missed during the plank, namely the hip and knee stabilizers. Performing this move on a regular basis can help prevent (or reduce) knee pain and lower the risk of injury to the knees during sports that require a lot of pivoting and quick changes of direction. Be sure to do the side plank on both sides and maintain a balance in the body.

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Walking Overhead Lunges

Walking Overhead Lunges
Walking Overhead Lunges. Photo (c) Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Walking lunges work the majority of the muscles in your body in a combination of isolated lower body movements that build strength, stability, balance and power. When you add an overhead weight to the movement, you create an advanced exercise that targets the entire body, including the upper body and core. This exercise should be started without the weight. Try adding a light bar or 5 pound hand weights in the beginning. Over time you can add heavy weights as long as you maintain good form during the exercise.

You may find that you don't have the shoulder mobility to do the overhead lunge, in which case starting with should mobility exercises or potentially visiting a physical therapist to have your body biomechanics evaluated may be the best first step.

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Push Ups

Basic Push Up
Basic Push Up. (c) Getty Images / Erik-Isakson

If you can only do one exercise for your upper body, the basic push up is a great one to add to your routine. You don't need space or much time to feel the burn in your muscles. The push up can be varied in an endless number of ways to keep it fresh and challenging. You can make it easier by doing a table top push up, or even a wall push up; and you can make it much more difficult by elevating your feet and making it a decline push up. Additionally. you can vary your hand position from far apart to close together, and from parallel to staggered and you will change the focus of the muscles being engaged.  Mix up your push up routine and it will never get stale or boring.

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Interval Training Workouts

Stair running workout
Stair running workout. Photo (c) Inti St. Clair / Getty Images

The first four exercises target muscular strength and stability, but no workout routine is complete without a bit of quality cardiovascular exercise. Building your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) with interval training workouts is one of the fastest ways to increase endurance and offers an endless number of workout routines. Any muscle groups that are missed during the plank, lunges and push ups are going to be worked during any of the most popular interval workouts.

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