What's the best exercise for sports development?

Eric Beard
Sports Medicine
Selecting the best exercise for sports development depends on the individual, their sport and the type training program that they are currently following.
That being said a cable squat to row has many benefits that apply to a wide array of sports. Most humans have a relatively weak posterior chain (the hips, shoulders and back) and this exercise challenges the backside of the body quite well. It develops total body strength and core stability. The exercise can be done slowly with a light weight or in a split stance or single leg stance to challenge stability. You can also alternate arms or use one arm at a time to develop the core and shoulder stabilizers. Heavier weights can be used to improve total body strength and light weight can be used to move explosively to develop power.
I use this with all of my athletes to teach them to differentiate between spinal stability and hip mobility. Many people move too much from the spine limiting their power and putting their low back at risk for injury. We want to move from the powerful hips while holding still at the spine which applies to many sports. It also incorporates the upper body while using the lower body, which also has significant carry over to athletics.
There are many exercises to help improve sports performance such as the barbell clean, squat, deadlift, lunge, and bench press. But it would be difficult to quantify one exercise as the absolute best. There are many variables to consider such as the sport in question, the position of the athlete, and the athlete's current fitness level and movement capabilities. Some athletes, such as a football lineman, may need to increase size and strength, while other athletes, such as a tennis player, may need to improve agility and quickness. Sports performance programs that address the current needs and abilities of the athlete are the best solution. Because most sports require athlete's to possess many skills such as flexibility, strength, speed, power, and coordination, the most successful sports performance exercise programs address all of these needs with a variety of exercises including stretching, strength training, core training, and cardiovascular exercise.
All exercises are good if executed with proper technique, progressed properly, and incorporated appropriately to yield the desired change. However, to choose one, the ultimate exercise to address the entire body for its all-around sport development potential is the barbell clean. This exercise incorporates nearly every major muscle group and joint in the body. In this exercise, the coordination and skill acquisition demand is high; however, the athlete can gain strength and power from its incorporation. Sets, repetitions, and resistance can be varied to achieve multiple advancements in work capacity, strength, power, stability, and joint resiliency.

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