Improve athletic performance by training "movements" rather than "muscles"

Everyday movements occur by using more than one muscle group at a time.  Think about the next time you open your car door and get in the car.  Muscles do not work in isolation, so why train that way.  The human body works to produce movement. 

Our bodies try to use as many muscles as possible to create action as effectively and efficiently as possible.  And for athletes, this translates to moving powerfully and quickly through several different planes of motion, so it’s critical to train movements rather than muscle groups.


Performing movement-based exercises enhances coordination and motor control (ie:  balance and stability).    Training muscle groups will lead to imbalances and deficiencies. 

There are three planes of motion: 

1) Sagittal (forward and backward movements) 

2) Frontal (side to side movements) 

3) Transverse (rotational movements) 

If an athlete neglects any of these then he/she will become deficient in that movement and it will lead to poorly developed firing patterns.  As a result, coordination will not be as good and the risk of injury can be much higher.

The only “sport” that will benefit from training muscle groups and see an improvement in performance is Bodybuilding.  Getting each muscle as pumped as possible to display on stage is the goal.  However, for a baseball/obstacle course/soccer/lacrosse player this concept will not make you a better athlete, nor will it make you more powerful.

When I build an exercise program for a client, rather than thinking about chest and back day, or legs and shoulder day, I think in terms of  ”Push” or “Pull” days, or a combination of both, and always include some rotational movements as well.  Emphasizing movements that utilize multiple joints (ie: squats) instead of single joint (ie: bicep curl) movements will lead to better athletic performance outside the gym.

Gordon Johansen running tires.jpg

Here are some movements, and examples of exercises, that should be incorporated into every strength workout if you want to improve your athletic performance.

 Upper Body Push

  • Alternating DB Bench Press
  • 1-Arm DB/KB Overhead Press

 Upper Body Pull

  • Chinups/Pullups
  • TRX Inverted Rows

 Lower Body Push

  • KB Goblet Squat
  • TRX Rear Foot Susended Lunge

 Lower Body Pull

  • Romanian Deadlift (aka: RDL) 
  • 1-Leg TRX Hamstring Curl


  • Med Ball Rotational Wall Slams
  • 1-Arm Cable Rotational Row