5 Essential Unconventional Exercises for Athletes
As unconventional exercises begin to gain popularity in the training world there might be a few misconceptions about the training style. By reading into the name itself; unconventional, may imply the training style as eccentric, irregular, odd and possibly quirky, however, there is much more to this style of training than just being unconventional.
While unconventional exercises are not your run-of-the-mill bench press, suspension trainer or even that fun muscle isolation machine; unconventional exercises may warrant you some sideways stares if you perform them at your favorite commercial gym.
It’s not to imply that these eccentric exercises should be completely pulled out of thin air to make the user seem cool and differentiate themselves from other trainees.
When done correctly they provide an exceptional and different training effect for the athlete who performs them with proper intent.
In this article I am going to give my top five unconventional exercises for athletes. These exercises are based on their training effectiveness as well as their versatility which will help you take your athletic prowess to the next level. Initially, it is important to dispel the main myth associated with unconventional training that the movements are difficult to perform or even downright dangerous.
Now I am not a big fan of this exercise is safe, that exercise is dangerous… I feel it is the technique in which an athlete performs a movement that can either be safe or unsafe especially when adding resistance when one is not ready. Just because an exercise is not commonly seen does not mean it should not be done. It just needs to be done properly. Lastly, to perform unconventional exercises you do not need specialized, fancy equipment to perform them.
In fact many of the exercises can be done with a variety of equipment that an athlete trains with daily. Unconventional exercises regularly require the use of one’s own body weight, bars, dumbbells, sandbags and kettlebells. There really are no excuses as to why anyone cannot learn the exercises and progress at your pace with the different equipment available to you.
If you are still feeling skeptical, there are numerous traits to unconventional exercises that have many positive benefits which can help athletic progress.
THE BENEFITS OF UNCONVENTIONAL EXERCISES
Unconventional exercises stimulate the muscles in new ways which is important for increasing strength and enhancing muscle growth.
Unconventional exercises can help translate strength into power by utilizing full body movements.
Unconventional exercises challenge joint and core stability due to off-set weight distribution.
FUN & CHALLENGING
Unconventional exercises are challenging and fun movements to break up the monotony of traditional strength training.
Exercise #1 | Weighted Burpee
One exercise many love to hate is the burpee, and doing them in an unconventional manner makes them even more enjoyable. Traditionally this exercise is done using only your bodyweight starting with a drop to the floor; push up, pop back up and into a small jump. By adding some resistance this exercise gets supercharged.
Using a sandbag or a two kettlebells increases the demand for leg strength and conditioning both necessary for enhanced athletic performance. I feel an athlete’s legs can never be strong enough because they are constantly called upon for repeated use for speed and power. Movements like running, punching, jumping and kicking all involve legs and they need to be strong and able to work over and over again during and athletic contest.
Weighted Burpee Directions
A) to perform the kettlebell burpee: set two kettlebells just outside your feet.
(B) Grab the handles and shoot both legs back behind you and end up in a low push up position. Perform your push up and at the top pull your feet back together between the kettlebells; you should now be in a deadlift position.
(C) Deadlift the kettlebells up then set them down and repeat the sprawl.
Exercise #2 | Thruster
A Thruster in the strength and conditioning world is simply a squat to overhead press. This full body movement is great for athletes because it trains the body to transfer energy from the legs through the core and ultimately through the upper body.
Yes, this exercise is traditionally done with a barbell; however, unconventionally they can be done with dumbbells, kettlebells or a sandbag.
Thruster Exercise Directions
(A) rack the weight at the chest (dumbbells, kettlebbell, or sandbag). Keep your chest up and eyes forward while dropping down into the squat position.
(B) Drive with your hips out of the squat and begin to press the weight overhead at the top of the movement. Return the weight back to the racked position and repeat the movement.
Exercise #3 | Clean & Press
Similar to a Thruster, the Clean & Press is a dynamic movement that trains the athlete to transfer power from the legs through to the upper body. The main difference between the thruster and clean and press is that you will start with the weight low and dynamically move it into your racked position, then go overhead.
Again, this movement is traditionally done with a barbell in an Olympic lift, however, doing it with a sandbag, dumbbells and one or two kettlebells is a great way to learn this movement and do them unconventionally.
Clean & Press Exercise Directions
(A) The dumbbell version will have them in your hands hanging by your side to start.
(B) Clean them up to the top of the shoulders, rather than in front of your chest. Make sure you are using your legs and not solely your biceps to clean the weight by extending your hips to imitate the movement.
(C) After stabilizing the weight, dip with your hips and dynamically press them overhead.
Exercise #4 | Farmer Walk
The Farmer Walk is one of those exercises that I would describe as easy to learn but challenging to execute; there is a whole lot of strength, coordination, stability and mental focus that goes into performing this movement especially when you are using a single weight.
Farmer Walk Exercise Directions
Select the unconventional tool of your choice (a dumbbell, sandbag, kettlebell, or even a cement brick), choose the side you are going to start on and where you are going to hold your weight. The options for carrying the weight are:
(a) low by your side,
(b) racked at the chest or the always challenging
(c) overhead position.
Each position has its unique challenge from the low (grip strength), racked (core stability and breathing enhancement) to overhead (shoulder stability) variations.
Exercise #5 | Get Up
Traditionally the Get Up is associated with using the kettlebell but this does not always have to be the case. I have had athletes use a dumbbell overhead and some beginners use a sandbag on the shoulder or just their own bodyweight.
The Get Up is a much slower multi-movement that primarily trains the strength endurance of the muscles along with core and shoulder stability.
Get Up Exercise Directions
(A) The sit up is arguably the most difficult part of the movement. If you are new, start by finding your correct position; you will need to be able to push strongly off the foot to get yourself up while keeping the chest up and arms locked overhead while simultaneously keeping your shoulders locked into position.
(B) I prefer a traditional high bridge. When the glutes are engaged the Get Up movement is stabilized and it also gives you a greater ability to move the free leg and get into the next phase of the move.
(C) After the high bridge, sweep the free leg through and get into a stable triangle where you will hinge and get into your lunge position.
(D) Tuck your toes under and stand up out of the lunge. repeat the steps in reverse order to get back to the floor.