Weight Room Movements and Their Transfer to Sport – Simplifying Exercise Selection

When putting together a strength training program – especially as a sport coach with no formal education in human performance – the amount of variables that exist can seem overwhelming. Take, for example, just a couple programming components that must be considered when considering  a training program:

  • Frequency – number of training sessions per cycle/week/phase
  • Training Split – how the training sessions are organized (e.g. 3 total body lifts per week)
  • Volume – sets x reps
  • Intensity – exertion or load used for a given exercise
  • Exercise Selection – the exercises chosen for each workout 
While each one of the variables on this non-exhaustive list poses its own unique question to the coach, exercise selection can be one of the most confounding as the “exercise toolbox” is only limited by the creativity and diversity of the coach and their knowledge-base.It is also one of the components that can make the biggest impact.
This is not to say that exercise selection is the most important part of a training program – but it is to say that a program with the right volumes and intensities but the wrong exercises can not only be deemed ineffective, but possibly dangerous. Likewise a program with the right exercises but wrong loading parameters can still have the potential to carryover to sport in some way.
That’s why today’s post – which is primarily written for the high school sport coach tasked with developing their own training program – aims to simplify the vast array of exercises at your disposal by providing you with a framework of basic movement categories to draw from.
The movement categories are as follows:
  1. Lower-Body Hip Dominant
  2. Lower-Body Knee Dominant
  3. Upper-Body Pull
    • Horizontal Pull
    • Vertical Pull
  4. Upper-Body Push/Reach
    • Horizontal Push
    • Vertical Push
    • Reach
While this isn’t the only way to categorize weight room movements, it is one way that can help you simplify your thought process when selecting exercises in the weight room. Along with the categories themselves, I will give a brief description and explaination, examples of each weight room movement category, and an applicable carryover of that movement to sport. The latter serves to help you explain why you say choose an exercise to an athlete, as education is a great way to achieve buy-in from your players.
 

1. Lower-Body Hip-Dominant

IMG_1077
What is it? 
Any lower-body movement that involves significantly more hip range of motion in comparison to knee range of motion. In other words, the knees (whether bent or straight) remain relatively fixed at a given angle (or move minimally) while the hips do most of the moving and work.
Weight Room Examples:
Romanian Deadlift, Deadlift, Single-Leg Romainian Deadlift, Trap Bar Deadlift (w/ High Hips), Hip Thrust/Glute Bridge, Reverse Hypers, Kettlebell Swings
On-Field Carryover:sprinters-glutes

2. Lower-Body Knee Dominant

IMG_1131
What is it? 
Any lower-body movement that involves significantly more knee range of motion in comparison to hip range of motion, OR simultaneous hip and knee range of motion. In other words, the hips (whether flexed or extended) remain relatively fixed at a given angle while the knees do most of the moving and work, OR both the hip and knee move together to do the moving and work.
Weight Room Examples:
All Squat Variations, Lunge Variations, All Leg Extensions, All Leg Curl Variations
On-Field Example:
IMG_1204

3. Upper-Body Pull:

IMG_1202What is it? 
Any upper-body movement that involves exerting force against a load that results in the load moving closer to the midline or center of mass.
Upper-body pulls can be further subdivided into horizontal and vertical pulls, where a vertical pull involves pulling a load from overhead down toward to body, and horizontal involves rowing movements.
Weight Room Examples:
Horizontal: All Rowing Variations
Vertical: Chin-Up and Pull-Up Variations, Lat Pull-Down
On-Field Example:
Clayton+Kershaw+San+Francisco+Giants+v+Los+xPbiG9ovLGjl

4. Upper-Body Press/Reach

IMG_1162
What is it? 
Any upper-body movement that involves exerting force against a load that results in the load moving further away from the midline or center of mass.
Upper-body presses can be further subdivided into horizontal and vertical presses, where a vertical press involves pushing a load up in an overhead fashion away from the body, and horizontal involves pressing movements away from the body but not overhead.
*Reaches: a reach looks like a push/press but because the scaps are not locked down on a bench or the floor – as is the case with a bench press or floor press – and they protract, it can be deemed as reaching. Reaches are essential for developing the often-neglected Serratus Anterior, and allow for more natural scapular movement, which are the main reasons I tend to utilize more reaches than presses, especially with throwing athletes.
Weight Room Examples:
Horizontal: All “Bench Press” Variations, Push-Up*
Vertical: All “Shoulder Press” Variations, Jerk
*Reach: Push-Up, Serratus Punches, Wall Slides, Half-Kneeling Landmine Press
On-Field Example:
sp-skins10

Exercises That Don’t Fit These Categories…

Of course, these categories certainly don’t cover every type of movement. For example, the Farmers Carry or the the Dead-Bug, Crawling or Rolling. But, all other movements can be further classified however you please (e.g. trunk stability, heavy carries, or accessory/auxiliary).

Eliminating or Adding Categories to Your Program…

The aim of providing only these 4-7 categories/subcategories is to provide you with a basis for understanding what types of movements you have at your disposal, and how you can go about determining a balanced exercise pool. For example, if you work with baseball, you may decide that you want 2-3 “Upper Body Pulls” for every “Press” and that you want to avoid “Vertical Presses”, instead substituting “Reaches” into your program for your overhead work. Now you have grouped exercises (the movement categories) that you can omit or include easily.

Adding Exercises to Each Category; Progressions & Regressions…

Finally, it should be noted that over time, the goal should be to develop your exercise tool box through your search for knowledge and coaching development. As you become more comfortable with new exercises you can easily add them to your movement categories as progressions and regressions for exercises you already know, thus putting your athletes in an even better position to be successful, and more importantly, to stay healthy.

Respectfully,

Ryan J. Faer

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