The Best Exercises for High School and College Athletes: Build Strength, Power, and Muscle

When it comes to maximizing your athletic performance, not all exercises are created equal. Whether you’re looking to build strength, enhance your power, or get lean and ripped, here are the best exercises to help you reach your goals.

1. Best Exercise to Make You Look “Yoked”

To achieve that powerful, intimidating “yoked” look, you need to build the muscles around your shoulders, traps, and mid-back. The snatch-grip high pull from the hang or blocks is the ultimate exercise for this. It can transform your physique in just a few workouts.

How to Do It:

  • Focus on exploding upwards with your lower body and hips.
  • Pull the barbell violently towards your neck, aiming for the area between your nipple line and neck.
  • Keep the bar close to your body with your elbows high.

Reps and Sets:

  • For massive size: Do sets of 3 to 5 reps.

2. Best Exercise to Get You Ripped

While the Prowler push is great, the farmer’s walk with a trap bar is even better for fat loss and muscle building.

Why It Works:

  1. Metabolic Demands: Unlike the Prowler, the farmer’s walk allows you to breathe properly, so you can carry heavy weights longer and recover faster.
  2. Muscle Involvement: The farmer’s walk works your traps, arms, abs, and legs, giving you more bang for your buck.

Reps and Sets:

  • For fat loss: Bouts of 2 minutes with 1 minute of rest.
  • For muscle building and fat loss: Go heavier for 1 minute with 1 minute of rest.
  • For size/strength while keeping fat gain at bay: Go very heavy for 20-30 seconds with up to 2 minutes of rest between sets.

3. Best Exercise to Be a Solid Power Athlete

For sports requiring speed and explosiveness, the power snatch from the hang is unparalleled.

Why It Works:

  • It has the highest power production level among lifting exercises.
  • It requires good coordination and full shoulder mobility.

Reps and Sets:

  • For maximum power and explosiveness: Use 70-80% of your 1RM and perform sets of 2-3 reps.

4. Best Exercise to Build a Big Chest

Contrary to popular belief, the dip is superior to the bench press for building your chest.

Why It Works:

  • Proper dips engage the pecs more effectively than the bench press.
  • Strong dippers tend to have well-developed chests.

Form Tips:

  • Avoid body swing and keep your torso and legs stable.
  • Flare your lats and open up your chest as you dip down.

Reps and Sets:

  • For a big chest: Do full-range dips with an additional load of 50% bodyweight for 6-8 reps.

5. Best Exercise to Get Strong

The deadlift is the king of strength-building exercises. It’s fundamental for overall strength development and carries over to many athletic movements.

Why It Works:

  • Lifting heavy from the floor engages more muscle groups than almost any other exercise.
  • It strengthens the nervous system, increasing overall strength potential.

Reps and Sets:

  • For maximum strength: Max out on rack deadlifts and then do 6 sets of 3 reps from the floor.

6. Best Exercise for the Time-Constrained

If you’re short on time, the clean and press (power clean from the hang followed by a push press) is your go-to.

Why It Works:

  • It involves most major muscle groups.
  • It has a high-energy demand, helping you build muscle and burn fat.

Reps and Sets:

  • For size and fat loss: Do 5 sets of 3-5 reps with 60-75 seconds of rest between sets.

7. Best Exercise to Test Athleticism

The underhand forward medicine ball throw is a great test for power, speed, and explosiveness, surpassing even the 40-yard dash and vertical jump.

How to Do It:

  • Swing the ball between your legs and throw it forward as far as possible.
  • Use a 10-12 pound medicine ball.

What to Aim For:

  • A throw of 15 meters (16.4 yards) is decent, while 19 meters (20.7 yards) is excellent.

These exercises are tried and true methods to enhance your athletic performance, build muscle, and get stronger. Remember, proper form is crucial to get the most out of these movements and avoid injury. Incorporate these exercises into your training routine, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your athletic goals. Stay strong, Hardbody Athletes!