For the most part, the science of biomechanics has guided the stability series. I waxed poetic about gluteal muscles, argued for the importance of isometric holds, helped you bombproof your shoulders, and championed heavy carries as the ultimate expression of rock solidness. And while I have tried to keep things light but informative, more than one individual has commented on technicalities in each article. Luckily for those haters, the conclusion is a departure from this model. Instead, this installment provides guidance on how to include stability building exercises, such as deadbugs and glute bridges, into a well-rounded off-season training program.
Following the season, it is a good idea to slow things down, establish proper biomechanics, and tend to any nagging injuries before ratcheting up the intensity. Ultimate is a demanding high impact sport that places an unnatural amount of asymmetrical stress on the body, and it is important to give the body time to recover after a gruelling season. In my experience, the easiest way to do this is by including exercises that encourage stability in conjunction with typical compound lifts.
In my opinion, athletes should train full body compound movements each day and should split their training into push (squat and press) and pull (hang cleans/deadlifts and pull ups) days. A well-rounded training program will also include accessory days, recovery days and sport-specific conditioning days. However, push and pull movements are the most essential to increasing athletic performance and reducing the risk of injury. So, for the purpose of brevity, I am going to break down a typical squat day and a typical pull day, demonstrating how to incorporate stability exercises into a traditional strength program.
First up, squat day. Developing a proper squat should be the basis of any off-season program and essential to long-term injury prevention. For some, this may be a challenging endeavour that takes months while others may pick the movement up quickly. Taking a look at a typical squat day, there should be aspects that are familiar from previous installments of the stability series, including static trunk holds, glute activation drills, and exercises for shoulder health.
Squat and Press Day
|1: Posture & Position||3 Sets:|
30s of Ipsilateral Straight Leg Deadbug
30s Static Pillar
|4: Strength||A: Tempo Back Squat
2s Down; 1s Pause; 1s Up
Warm up before 3 sets of 5
B: Dumbbell Strict Press
6 Heavy Sets of 5
|2: Movement Prep A||3 Sets|
10 PVC Dislocate
10 Face Pull Y Rotate Press
10 Overhead Barbell Shrug
|5: Accessory||Conditioning Test
Max Cals on Airdyne in 7 Minutes
|3: Movement Prep B||3 Sets|
6 Steps Each direction of Lateral Plane Monster Walk
3 Goblet Squat w/ 10s Active Hold at bottom
|6: Cool Down||3 Rounds
30s Right side + 30s Left Side Rear Elevated Squat Hold with Lateral Raise
Following a squat and press day, I like to have my athletes pull. Pulls can consist of deadlift variations, hang cleans, and for advanced athletes, snatches. I also incorporate upper body pulling, such as pull ups, chin ups, and TRX exercises. While a developed squat pattern is critical to injury prevention, explosive pulling is tantamount to athletic performance. Movements, such as hang power clean, train the hip hinge pattern. The hip hinge refers to sitting back into the hips while maintaining a neutral spine before contracting the butt to return upright. The most common hip hinge pattern is a two foot jump.
|1: Posture & Position||2 Rounds|
20s RS Static Side Pillar
8 RS Glute Bridge
20 LS Static Side Pillar
8 LS Glute Bridge
|4: Strength||A: Hang Power Clean
3 Rep Max
3x1 @ 90% of 3 rep max
B: Romanian Deadlift
5x7 @ a moderate weight
|2: Movement Prep A||4 Rounds|
20m Sled March
8 RS + 8 LS Contralateral Single Arm / Single Leg Deadlift
12 Banded Pull Through
8 Hanging Scap Retraction
|5: Accessory||Complete in as few sets as possible:
50 Strict Pull Up
50 Evil Wheels
|3: Movement Prep B||Clean Warm Up|
|6: Cool Down||3x12 Right Side + 12 Left Side Unilateral Hamstring Curl|
The majority of athletes I see struggle with some aspect of the hip hinge due to quad dominance and poor core stability. As such, warm ups for pull day revolve around glute activation and trunk stability. The sample day begins with a quick set of static side pillars and unilateral glute bridges followed by a challenging circuit of sled marches, farmers walks, single leg deadlifts and banded pull throughs. I have found it is important to incorporate single leg exercises in conjunction with hip hinge exercises such as pull throughs and kettlebell swings as athletes from asymmetrical sport backgrounds tend to favour one side over the other when moving dynamically. This is especially true with athletes who jump off of one foot.
Exercises designed to elicit stability are wonderful tools. Intelligent warm up routines focused on stability will improve performance on compound movements such as the squat, deadlift, hang power clean, and press variations, which are the bread and butter of an off-season strength program. When paired with compound movements, corrective exercises, such as the deadbug and pull through, increase performance while reducing the risk of injury. I have personally seen the benefit of this combination, increasing my standing vertical jump last year from a measly 24 inches to a slightly less embarrassing 31 inches.