Tout dans la vie est une question d'équilibre d'où la nécessité de garder un esprit sain dans un corps sain.


Everything in life is a matter of balance therefore one needs to keep a healthy mind in a healthy body.


E. do REGO

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The 40-Workout Strength Challenge

Here's what you need to know...

  1. Pick one exercise from five categories: a press, a pull, a hinge movement, a squat, and a loaded carry.
  2. The first 10 workouts involve doing these same movements every day, but with varying set and rep schemes.
  3. The important thing is to never miss a rep, and when the weights feel light, add more weight.
  4. After the first 2 weeks, you can either repeat the first 10 workouts 3 additional times, or you can make small changes to the movements every 2 weeks until you reach 40 workouts.

Easy Strength

Pavel Tsatsouline once summed up strength training in three sentences:
  1. Train as heavy as possible.
  2. Train as often as possible.
  3. Train as fresh as possible.
How do you do that exactly? Pavel suggests this:
"For the next forty workouts, pick five lifts. Do them every workout. Never miss a rep. In fact, never even get close to struggling. Go as light as you need to go and don't go over ten reps for any of the movements in a workout. It's going to seem easy. When the weights feel light, simply add more weight."
Pavel called the program "Easy Strength."
I tried it. I picked five exercises I needed to do and did them. Old PR's fell, and yes, it seemed "easy." Here's my version of the program.

The 40-Workout Strength Challenge

You need to pick five exercises. All five will be performed on each training day, five days per week. Pick one from each of the following categories:
  1. Press Movement: Flat bench press, incline bench press, or military press.
  2. Pull Movement: Thick bar deadlift, snatch-grip deadlift, clean-grip deadlift, orthodox deadlift, Jefferson lift, or hack squat.
  3. Hinge Movement: You can combine the pull movement and the hinge movement – as most of deadlift exercise are also hinge movements – or do an exclusively hinge movement like kettlebell swings in the 75-100 range.
  4. Squat Movement: Front squat, back squat, overhead squat, zercher squat, or safety squat.
  5. Loaded Carry: Farmer's walk, waiter's walk, etc. Vary the distance and load every time.
Bench Press

The Plan: Two-Week Block

Train each of the five exercises each day using these set and rep schemes:

Week 1

Monday (Day 1) 2 x 5
Tuesday (Day 2) 2 x 5
Wednesday (Day 3) 5/3/2
Friday (Day 4) 2 x 5
Saturday (Day 5) 2 x 5

Week 2

Monday (Day 6) 2 x 5
Tuesday (Day 7) 6 singles
Wednesday (Day 8) 1 x 10
Friday (Day 9) 2 x 5
Saturday (Day 10) 5/3/2

Sample Plan: Two-Week Block

Monday (Day 1) – 2 x 5

A. Incline Bench Press (Press Movement): 165 for 5 reps x 2 sets, assuming a 300-pound max single.
B. Thick Bar Deadlift (Hinge Movement): 185 for 5 reps x 2 sets, assuming a 265-pound max single. This counts as a pull and a hinge movement.

C. Front Squat (Squat Movement): 185 x 5 reps for 2 sets, assuming a 405-pound max single.
D. Farmer's Walk (Loaded Carry Movement): 105 pounds in each hand, 100 meters out and back with three stops.
E. Ab Wheel (Optional Add-On): 5 reps x 2 sets.
Again, you'll repeat each of these movements every training day.

Tuesday (Day 2) – 2 x 5

This can be heavier or lighter depending on mood and feel. The important thing is to show up and get the movements in.
If one day is too hard and compromises the next day's workout, that's fine as long as you lighten the load and continue getting the reps in without compromising speed.

Wednesday (Day 3) – 5/3/2

Begin with the 5-rep number from the usual 2 x 5 workout. Then add some weight for three reps, and finally add some weight for two reps. Be sure to get the double.
Most people on this program find that this workout is the test for how things are progressing. The weights should begin to fly up on the double. That's good, but stop there.
Remember, this is a long-term approach to getting strong. Don't keep testing yourself.

Friday and Saturday (Days 4 and 5) – 2 x 5

These are potentially the most confusing days in that the load on the bar depends on how you feel. If the effort feels easy and light, "nudge" the load up. Here's the secret (again): The goal of this program is to gently raise your efforts (load) on the easy days so that the bar feels light.
If you start out lifting a weight, say 205 at one effort level, and in a few weeks you're lifting 245 at the same perceived effort and speed, you're definitely stronger.
Overhead Squat

Monday (Day 6) – 2 x 5

After a day of rest, day 6 is going to feel easy and that's how it should be. Get the reps in.

Tuesday (Day 7) – 6 x 1

Day 7 has a simple rule: You'll do six singles, adding weight eachrep. It can be 5 pounds or 50, depending on how each single feels. It's not a max effort on the last set; it's just the sixth single. If the loads feel heavy, just add five pounds. If the bar is flying, add more.
For people who come from the tradition of "smashing your face on the wall," day 7 is confusing. Your goal is to determine the load based on how the weight feels. If it pops right up and feels light, toss on the plates.
If it doesn't, respect today and realize that you're going to have plenty of opportunities to get stronger in the future.

Wednesday (Day 8) – 1 x 10

Day 8 is a "tonic" day. Go really light and just enjoy ten reps. It can be as light as 40% of max. Just use the movement to unwind after the previous day's heavy attempts.

Friday (Day 9) – 2 x 5

Day 9 is often the day when people start to understand the reasoning behind the program. This is the day where the weights seem to often be "far too easy." That's the sign of progress in this program.

Saturday (Day 10) – 5/3/2

This is often the day where people test themselves a little. This is fine as long as you feel like going after it. Again, don't miss.
Farmers Walk

Week 3 and Beyond, Option #1

The original program required that you repeat Weeks 1 and 2 three additional times. It works well.
By week 5, I was a machine on the lifts and broke lifetime personal records, smashing my incline bench press record by 15 pounds and crushing my old thick bar deadlift record by 50 pounds. That represented a staggering improvement.
So Option #1 is to simply keep on keeping on.

Week 3 and Beyond, Option #2

This is the best method for most athletes. You make small changes to the movements, switching from bench press to incline bench press, thick-bar deadlift to snatch-grip deadlift and front squat to back squat.
This is Pavel's "same, but different" approach. That small change seems to keep enthusiasm high for the entire 8 weeks.
After 40 workouts, you'll be stronger than ever before, guaranteed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Posture Cure

Stand Taller, Train Like a Bodybuilder


Here's what you need to know...

  1. Everyone Needs Posture Work. When it comes to posture, lifters and athletes are no better than sedentary desk jockeys.
  2. Use the Right Pulling Exercises. Vertical pulling exercises,
    like pull-ups and lat pulldowns, can exacerbate the problem. Rows and
    other forms of horizontal pulling can help it.
  3. Directly Work the Upper Back and Rear Delts. Train the upper
    back and rear delts directly, using bodybuilding style, with high volume
    and increased time under tension – to improve your posture.
  4. Use a Variety of Lifting Strategies. When training these areas, use constant tension, isometric pauses, and slow eccentrics.

Straighten Up!

Posture is the biggest equalizer when it comes to orthopedic health
and function. The trends we're seeing in shoulder and spine injury and
other dysfunction can be largely attributed to the sedentary nature of
our society.

But even if you're not sedentary, you need to take a closer
look at your posture. I've evaluated the posture of world-class athletes
and will go on the record saying that high-performing physical outliers
have just as dysfunctional – if not more dysfunctional – posture and
positional awareness as the average desk jockey.

And people hate to hear (and see) that their posture sucks. But you
know what they hate even more? Hearing that bodybuilding-style training
is the best cure for cranky shoulders, achy necks, and posture that
halts gains and leaves you hurting on a daily basis.

The Cause of Poor Posture

Sitting exacerbates pre-existing dysfunctions that often lay dormant
in even the most active of populations. Fit or not, the cell phone,
tablet, laptop, etc. have all taken a toll on our posture.

Weakness, stiffness, and general immobile muscles in the posterior
shoulder girdle secondary to sitting can be a recipe for disaster when
athletes do not account for these postural disturbances in their daily
maintenance and more importantly their training programming.

Think of the many muscles of the upper back as postural stabilizers
for the most part. The larger muscles of this group, most notably the
posterior deltoid, teres major, mid and lower trapezius, and rhomboid
complex are often neglected in the average lifter's program. And those
who do make it a point to train the upper back often do so incorrectly.

Upper Back Muscles
Many programs revolve around mirror muscles like the pecs and biceps,
but using bro-science logic, many turn to targeting the latissimus
dorsi directly to rein in that push-to-pull focus into more generally
acceptable ratios.

While the lats are located on the posterior aspect of the torso and
connect into the humerus proximally, one big detail is often overlooked.
The humeral insertion point of the lats is located on the medial aspect
of the upper third of this upper arm bone, thus making it a shoulder
internal rotator when actively contracted.

So when training the vertical (lat pulldown machine, chin-ups,
pull-ups, or any other variation) you're digging the postural hole
deeper and deeper, and actually adding to dysfunction and poor

Sure, having a spread that resembles a stingray is awesome, but
cranking your shoulders and reinforcing the malposition won't give you
the long term physical or functional benefits you're seeking.

If your shoulders are losing more mobility than the strength you're
gaining, place a stronger emphasis on the row and its many variations.
Keying in on the horizontal pull while maintaining a neutral or slightly
externally rotated shoulder position will allow you to rearrange your
posture while also going heavy.

Model Back

A Functional (and Good Looking) Upper Back

Targeting the rear delts, rhomboids, mid to lower traps, and teres
minor are the best ways to improve your posture. Adding size to each
muscle in this region also makes you look like a boss.

By training the area directly, even the deeper, more acute
contractile tissues of the region will be positively affected from a
strength, stability, and functional standpoint.

The external rotator cuff comprised of the infraspinatus and teres
minor can create more effective joint positions and centration of the
shoulder complex, leading to smoother, more coordinated movement and

The smoother the movement of a joint, the better the gross action
will be. This is why it's important to achieve and maintain proper
shoulder spiraling and torque setups before going dynamic with your

Traditional strength set and rep schemes won't cut it for upper
back-emphasized training. Matching a muscle's primary action and
function with the type of training it will respond more favorably to is
the next step in achieving a posture that resembles more of a Greek god
than Quasimodo.

More Volume = Better Posture

When designing a program for any region of the body, match your
volume and scheme according to the actions and functions of the muscles

The upper back responds well to increased volume, high reps and time
under tension. This should be no shock, as many of these muscles
function to keep your shoulders in the sockets, and keeping your
thoracic spine and neck somewhat erect when you're interacting with your
social environment.

Targeting these muscles with power or strength schemes is
inappropriate for a majority of athletes and lifters. Putting a larger
emphasis on metabolic stress and the pump will produce greater aesthetic
results, in addition to more functional and transferable strength

Use The Pump

Tapping into the mind-muscle connection and using proper workloads
and volumes can do amazing things for enhancing posture and unlocking
the emergency brake you may have had on your lifting performance for

Here are two of the best upper-back specific movements and how to
program them throughout a number of variations for a thicker backside,
stronger pulls and presses, and overall less pitiful posture.

1 – The Face Pull

Dynamic Warm-Up

Sets:  3-5

Reps:  8-12

Rest:  10-25 seconds

Tempo:  10X1
  • Take 1 second to lower the weight.
  • Spend 0 seconds at the bottom of the movement.
  • Explode up to the top of the movement.
  • Pause for one second at the top (peak contraction) of the movement before lowering again.
Notes: Using the
accommodating resistance out of the band, explode back, maintaining the
elbows slightly higher than the shoulders. At peak contraction, your
shoulders should be slightly externally rotated with loads of torque and
tension through the upper back. Hold that position for a second and
control your arms back straight and jump right into the next rep.

Strength Movement

Sets:  5-9

Reps:  12-20

Rest:  30-45 seconds

Tempo:  21X1
Notes: Time to
load up with the rope and cable rack setup. Drive your elbows back,
squeezing your shoulder blades together and hold for a second at peak
contraction. As you load heavier, the slight external rotation of the
shoulders on the backside along with the relative position of your
elbows above the shoulders will both decrease. This is fine, just be
sure to control the eccentric portion of the movement and pause with
elbows extended to minimize the use of momentum.

Metabolic Shoulder Finisher

Sets:  2-4

Reps:  30-50

Rest:  30-45 seconds

Tempo:  Constant tension – no holds just smooth coordinated eccentric/concentric movements.
Notes: Using
constant tension with no holds on the front or backside of the movement,
crank out 50 controlled reps and fight the urge to quit. As the pain
ensues, don't let your form suffer. Keep those elbows above shoulders at
all times.

2 – Seated Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Dynamic Warm-Up

Sets:  3-5

Reps:  10-15

Rest:  10-25 seconds

Tempo:  10X1
Notes: Get a
light band under your feet and grab onto the ends with your hands in a
palms-down position. Slump over with your chest approximating your knees
while keeping your neck in a neutral position. Drive your arms up and
hold for a second at the top of the range before controlling your hands
back down towards the ground. You'll really feel these top isometric
holds with the accommodating band resistance that will drive blood into
the upper back quickly and efficiently.

Strength Movement

Sets:  5-7

Reps:  15-20

Rest:  20-30 seconds

Tempo:  20X1
Notes: Get a
pair of dumbbells in your hands and don't let your ego drive your
working weights. From the same position as the dynamic warm-up
variation, drive up the dumbbells with your palms down, hold for a
second and accentuate the eccentric portion of the movement with a two
second descent. A set of 20 will be excruciating towards the end, that's
why it's imperative to choose working weights that you can maintain
your range of motion into the top position for all prescribed reps.

Metabolic Shoulder Finisher

Sets:  2-4

Reps:  30-50 with partial reps

Rest:  30-45 seconds

Tempo:  Constant tension – no holds just smooth coordinated eccentric/concentric movements.
Notes: If you
thought you had to go light in the strength variation of this movement,
you'll be humbled even more when programming for metabolic stress and
finishing off a training day. Use constant tension, working smoothly up
and down with great scapular retraction on every rep. Even at the
lightest weights, 50 reps will catch up with you quickly. Instead of
cheating the movement and losing tension, continue to knock back reps
with constant tension with partial range reps. Focus on keeping the
weights moving until you get to 50, then enjoy that 30 second rest
period because you'll have a few more rounds to go.

Final Tips

You're not limited to these exercises. They simply show how you can manipulate any
movement that targets the upper back with three different training
mechanisms: iso-holds, constant tension, and straight loaded strength

Bodybuilding-style execution and the mind-muscle connection are keys
to reaching your postural and performance goals. As a movement becomes
more compound, the need for clean and crisp movement with intention
becomes that much more important.

Start slow with more isolated movements and work your way up to big
rowing variations and other more metabolically demanding movements.

The options are endless, but don't be the guy super-setting bench
with lat pulldown three times per week and bitching when your shoulders
hurt and your upper back is about to explode. You've been warned.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nomura, icône du judo japonais, met fin à sa carrière

Le triple champion olympique a tiré sa révérence ce vendredi

Ce 29 août, l'événement judo sur les chaînes japonaises n'était pas à
Astana avec la fin de la razzia nippone lors des championnats du monde,
mais à Hyogo pour la compétition nationale « Entreprise ». La raison ?
La « der » de Tadahiro Nomura qui avait annoncé sa retraite sportive à
l'issue de ce championnat. L'une des rares vraies stars du judo au
Japon, avec Yasuhiro Yamashita, Kosei Inoue ou Ryoko Tamura-Tani, arrête
une carrière avec un palmarès unique : 3 titres de champion olympique
(1996, 2000 et 2004) et un titre de champion du monde (1997).

Il avait coché cette date depuis un bon moment car lorsque nous
l'avions rencontré en mars sur les tatamis de Tenri (voir l'interview
par ailleurs), Tadahiro Nomura nous l'avait annoncé : sa retraite
sportive était très proche. A 40 ans, ce judoka, unique de par le
palmarès, s'est donc décidé à arrêter de fouler les tatamis de
compétition, 19 ans après son 1er titre olympique en expliquant lors
d'une conférence de presse : « je commençais à atteindre mes limites
physiques avec des douleurs récurrentes à l'épaule et au genou. J'ai
fait tout ce que je pouvais. Je n'ai pas de regrets. »

Retour sur le parcours d'un monstre sacré de la discipline.

Tenri, là où tout commence

Né à Nara, capitale d'une préfecture situé dans la région du Kansai,
Nomura grandit dans une famille où le judo règle les vies. Son oncle,
Toyokazu, est champion olympique (1972) et champion du monde (1973) (cf
portfolio réalisé par Patrick Vial disponible ici).
Son père est le Kantoku (entraîneur en chef) du lycée de Tenri, l'un
des plus réputés du Japon. Le judo, Tadahiro Nomura l'a donc dans le

Un sport qu'il débutera à 3 ans dans un dojo construit par...son grand-père.

Fils cadet, il associera ses 1ères années judo à des souvenirs
douloureux, se faisant systématiquement battre sur le tatami par son
grand frère et même par des filles.

De ces humiliations, Nomura en fera une force pour se forger un caractère d'acier.

Entrés au lycée de Tenri, les deux frères, d'un an d'écart, verront leur
père se retirer de son poste pour ne pas donner prise aux critiques de
favoritisme envers les « fistons ». Ce même moment où, d'ailleurs,
Tadahiro commence à révéler un potentiel exceptionnel.

Après ses trois années de lycée, il intègre l'université. C'est là que
naîtra le début de la légende où il sera couvé par Shinji Hosokawa
(champion olympique en 1984, champion du monde en 1985), professeur,
mentor et son coach à Atlanta et Sydney.

Au détour d'une conversation, Hosokawa Sensei nous révéla un jour que
« s'il lui arrivait de faire encore randori avec Nomura lorsqu'il était
1ère année, j'ai arrêté ensuite car il devenait vraiment trop fort ».
Pile l'année (1994) où ce dernier finit vice-champion du monde juniors
au Caire. Fin 1995, il finit 3ème à la Kano Cup (l'ancêtre du Grand
Chelem de Tokyo). En 1996, il est en balance avec Ryuji Sonoda pour la
place de titulaire à Atlanta mais est finalement titularisé après deux
victoires début 1996 à Budapest et Prague.

Dans la ville de Coca-Cola et CNN, Nomura s'impose à seulement 21 ans
face à l'Italien Giovinazzo, notamment avec ce qui fera sa marque de
fabrique (comme celle de son oncle) : un morote à droite dévastateur.
L'année suivante, le combattant de Tenri vient conquérir son seul et
unique titre mondial à Paris.

Tadahiro Nomura à 21 ans (Crédit : Patrick Vial)
En 2000, à Sydney, Tadahiro Nomura remporte l'une des finales les
plus rapides de l'histoire du judo face au Coréen Jung. 2ème titre
olympique dans la poche.

La volonté de couper avec le judo le fait s'installer pendant 2 ans
aux Etats-Unis. Faisant parfois du judo dans des dojos de quartier
américains, il se rend compte que l'envie est toujours là. C'est donc
avec les crocs qu'il revient au Japon pour un ultime challenge : être le
1er judoka à conquérir trois titres olympiques. Il ne reprend la
compétition qu'en 2003 (!). A Osaka, lors des championnats du monde qui
se déroulaient « à domicile » (il n'y a que 30 kilomètres entre Nara et
Osaka) il finit 3ème. En 2004, quelques mois avant les Jeux, Nomura
monte en régime et remporte le Tournoi de Paris et le championnat
national. De quoi faire le plein de confiance avant le rendez-vous grec.

Le 14 août 2004 à Athènes, en remportant sa finale contre le Géorgien
Khergiani, Nomura rentre définitivement dans le Panthéon du judo

11 ans suivront jusqu'à ce 29 août 2015, marqués par quelques
résultats probants (vainqueur de la World Cup de Prague en 2006, 1er et
3ème aux championnats du Japon en 2007 et 2008, un résultat qui
l'élimine définitivement de la course à Pékin au profit de Hiroaki
Hiraoka), des blessures, des opérations et des tentatives de retour dans
le circuit international, notamment lors du Swiss Open de 2013 où nous
l'avions suivi.

Samedi dernier, Nomura bouclait donc une carrière hors-norme. Sa
prestation du jour, aux couleurs de son sponsor de toujours, Miki House
(une marque de vêtements pour enfants), restera anecdotique (il gagne
ses deux 1ers combats par ippon puis perd contre le futur 2ème sur
tsuri-komi-goshi), ne faisant que confirmer certains propos entendus
dans le monde du judo japonais et qui regrettaient cette volonté
farouche de continuer mordicus, au risque de le voir sortir par
la petite porte lors d'une compétition d'une envergure indigne d'un tel
champion à la personnalité simple et respectueuse.

Nomura, judo félin et caractère discret

Il se plie chaque fois au rituel, sans visiblement être lassé.
Toujours souriant, d'une gentillesse toute japonaise, Tadahiro Nomura
accepte toujours de bonne grâce les demandes de photos ou selfies des
judokas étrangers venus s'éprouver sur les rudes tatamis de Tenri.

Parlant anglais, le triple champion olympique est un judoka abordable et
cordial dès l'entraînement fini. Une attitude aux antipodes de ce qu'il
laisse paraître lors de ses entraînements : froid, le visage dur et
fermé, ses seuls mots sont pour ses « kohai » qui subissent bien
volontiers ses nombreux uchi-komi et nage-komi sur morote. Un mouvement
dont il aura fait une arme absolue dans une palette technique pourtant
incroyablement riche et variée. En 2000 à Sydney, il gagne chaque combat
avec une technique différente. Judoka opportuniste et fin tacticien,
Nomura possédait un art consommé pour s'engouffrer dans la moindre
faille laissée par son adversaire. Réputé pour l'impact de ses
mouvements d'épaule, le triple champion olympique a laissé l'image, pour
certains français venus à Tenri, d'un chat se promenant sur les tatamis
en paille de riz tressés : pied de velours et déplacement félin, pour
des attaques qui explosaient la défense adverse. Autre caractéristique
du bonhomme, une propension à ne pas se laisser bercer par la
nonchalance en combat, travers agaçant de ces judokas trop doués et qui
peut parfois leur jouer de bien mauvais tours.

Très respecté des universitaires (deux d'entre eux lui servent
systématiquement de partenaires), il lui arrive souvent de les
remercier en leur donnant gourdes, ceintures ou tout autre équipement.
Parfois aussi, en leur payant un coup à boire comme cet été : alors que
d'énormes genouillères remplis de glace entourent ses deux
genoux meurtris par des milliers (des millions?) d'uchi-komi et de
nage-komi, Nomura, sort de sa voiture et demande à ses deux « kohai » de
le suivre, direction les distributeurs de boissons.

Arrivés devant, il régale les deux jeunes universitaires. Un geste
normal, voire banal dans la société nipponne, la relation sempai/kohai
avec ses interactions et obligations constituant l'un des piliers du
corps social japonais. Mais il suffisait de voir le sourire accroché aux
lèvres des deux jeunes judokas, même après le départ du champion et la
surprise passée, pour se rendre compte que le respect que suscitait
Nomura, au moins pour ces deux étudiants, dépassait les simples

Depuis son combat perdu samedi, sous les yeux de Saburo Tosa, l'un des
entraîneurs de Tenri, et de son kohai, Tadahiro Nomura enchaîne les
conférences de presse et autres sollicitations médiatiques.

Sur les réseaux sociaux de nombreux judokas, célèbres, en devenir
(comme Hifumi Abe) ou anonymes, rendent hommage à l'un des immenses
champions de la discipline et à propos duquel beaucoup de monde se
posait la question de savoir de quoi son avenir serait fait.

Ainsi, alors que son partenaire des JO de Sydney, Shinichi Shinohara,
issu lui aussi de Tenri, est devenu une star de la télé en faisant le
bonheur des émissions de divertissement de 1ère partie de soirée,

Tadahiro Nomura n'a fait que confirmer lors de sa conférence de presse,
hier, ce qu'il nous avait dit en mars : «Je peux dire avec fierté que le
judo est ma vie et j'aimerais désormais aider les jeunes générations à
apprendre et à progresser ». Expert ? Entraîneur ? Professeur ? Rien
n'est encore décidé.

Peu importe au fond. Le judo y gagnera à coup sûr.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

6 Best Exercises for Strength


Here's what you need to know...

  1. Use power cleans to increase explosiveness on the field and court.
  2. Do front squats to strengthen your quads and improve your vertical jump, help you decelerate, plant, and cut.
  3. Use the trap bar deadlift instead of the conventional deadlift which requires more mobility. Strengthen your posterior chain.
  4. Do close-grip bench pressing. Keeping your arms in tight translates better to the strength an athlete will need on the field.
  5. Use resisted push-ups. They're similar to sporting movements that require you to control the upper back.
  6. Chin-ups balance out all the pushing and pressing athletes do when they train.

Strength + Athleticism

Football Team
Everyone can benefit from getting stronger. But for an athlete, there's a lot more to physical success than being strong in the weight room.
If you're a powerlifter, then squat, bench, and deadlift until the cows come home. If you're an Olympic lifter, snatch and clean and jerk repeatedly.

Related:  5/3/1 and Athletes

But if you're an athlete who wants to get strong while maintaining other critical qualities like power, speed, mobility, and general athleticism, these are your exercises.

#1  The Power Clean

Power Clean
Olympic lifts are fantastic for developing power and explosiveness. Can you develop it with med ball throws or jumping exercises? To a certain extent, sure. But these exercises belong more on the "speed-strength" side of the continuum.
The power clean is a great way for an athlete to improve or maintain explosiveness and power. If you're comfortable with it, make it a staple.

#2  The Front Squat

Front Squat
If you're an athlete, you need strong quads. Quads are critical not only for improving your vertical jump, but your ability to decelerate, plant, and cut as well.
However, quads are just the starting point. The front squat is an amazing anterior core exercise. You know how you can get totally caved over and still manage to finish a back squat? You can't do that with a front squat.
If your abs are weak, do a 2-3 month front squat cycle and you should walk away impressed with how much stronger and more stable your core and trunk are as a result.
The front squat also helps mobility. Front squatting ensures that you maintain ankle, knee, hip, and thoracic spine mobility. Make it a mainstay in your programs.

#3  The Trap Bar Deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift
There's no way to downplay the deadlift's importance. For athletes, though, mobility could be a concern. Or they may not have adequate strength in the posterior chain to do conventional deadlifts safely and effectively.
The sumo deadlift doesn't work either as it doesn't get you into a very athletic position. This is why the trap bar deadlift is perfect.
When you use the high handles you can get into a very vertical tibia/inclined trunk position. This combo gives the trap bar or Dead-Squat™ Bar deadlift the potential to be very posterior chain dominant.

Related:  The Best Damn Posterior Chain Exercises

Trust me, if you work with enough athletes, you know they often have the posterior chain strength of Gwenyth Paltrow. They need stronger backsides, period.
Also, if you're an athlete who lacks mobility, the trap bar deadlift is a great starting point. It allows you to load your hips while addressing other mobility needs.

#4  The Close-Grip Bench Press

Close Grip Bench Press
If your hands (or elbows) are out really far from your body and someone is coming to push you off your spot, you're going to lose.
But if you have your elbows and arms in tight to the body, you can maximize leverage, as well as effectively tying together the legs, trunk, and upper body.
The close-grip bench is an ideal exercise for building upper-body strength. I know the bench gets a bad rap, but there's something to be said for being flat-out stronger than your competition.

#5  Push-ups

As awesome as the close-grip bench press is for developing the upper body, it does have limitations. The biggest issue when benching is that even if your core and lower body are tight, they're rarely the limiting factor in your performance.
While close-grip benching is great for developing upper body strength, it doesn't tie that strength together by unifying the upper and lower body. Heavy, resisted push-ups do.
A well-executed push-up with the core stable and in neutral spinal alignment will absolutely crush your anterior core.
Try this little trick to get even more core development:
  • Set up in the top position of a push-up and before you start moving.
  • Exhale hard.
  • Pull your head and neck back to get into a more "neutral neck" position.
Getting into a more ideal position through the neck and core will crank up the intensity.
The other huge benefit you get from performing a push-up versus a bench press is scapular stability. When you're doing a bench press, the goal is to "pin" your shoulder blades back and down. The scapulae are stable, but it's a very static kind of stability.
But a push-up is similar to actual sporting movements since you're forced to actively control the position of the scapulae.
Instead of simply pinning them back and down behind you, make sure they're moving appropriately and in the right place at the right time.
Finally, the push-up is a closed-chain pressing variation, meaning it's awesome for developing rotator cuff strength and stability.
Next time, instead of doing 3x15 shoulder external rotations with a Theratube to crush your rotator cuff, bang out 2-3 sets of high-quality push-ups.
You'll get more out of the exercise, and look infinitely more awesome to boot.

#6  Chin-ups

In most sports (and strength training programs), there's a ton of emphasis on pushing. All you have to do is observe the posture of someone who "presses" all the time, without balancing it out with upper back work, to see why this is an issue.
These athletes are a disaster waiting to happen. Chin-ups, however, will help balance out the equation.
Chin-ups also develop the lower trapezius. The lower trap is not only a key shoulder stabilizer, but (along with the upper trap and serratus anterior) constitutes one-third of the upward rotation force couple.

Related:  The Chin-Up Project

The key with chin-ups is that you need to focus on getting your chest to the bar and actively depressing your scapulae down.
Bottom line, if you only have a limited amount of time to strength train, at least some of that needs to be geared towards strengthening the upper back.
The chin-up will give you a ton of benefits and should be a staple in your athletic strength program.