The way we work out changes slightly every year. Some exercises spike in popularity, maybe because a new study or an expert trainer points to its effectiveness. Others fall out of favor. Here are 14 of the best exercises that we saw in 2014.
1. Dead Bug
In the battle to rid Sit-Ups and Crunches from core workouts, the Dead Bug may have finally come out victorious. It works your abs in a way that protects your lower back—something flexion exercises cannot claim—and adds additional sports performance benefits. Plus, it lights your abs on fire, reaffirming its ability to work these muscles and help you develop a six pack if that's your goal. Check out the video player above to learn more about the Dead Bug.
2. Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Press
We've talked about how some athletes lack the mobility or strength to correctly perform overhead lifts. Holding the kettlebell upside-down engages your shoulder muscles, keeping them safe and stable as you press overhead.
3. Rollout Variations
Once thought dangerous, Rollouts are favored among elite strength coaches to build core strength. The move teaches your abs to resist extension—the way the muscle group was designed to function—rather than bringing your torso to your knees. It may not produce a serious burn while you perform reps, but you'll feel a deep soreness the next day. Check out the video player above for a demonstration of Barbell Rollouts.
4. Trap Bar Deadlift
The Trap Bar Deadlift is not a new move by any means. But its popularity appears to be rising among STACK Experts. Specifically, Mike Boyle, one of the godfathers of strength and conditioning, has his athletes perform the Trap Bar Deadlift when training their lower body on both legs. Why? It combines the benefits of the Squat and Deadlift in one exercise.
5. Rip Pitchfork
Quite simply, this is a cool move. Using the TRX Rip Trainer, you simulate driving a pitchfork into hay and heaving it over your shoulder. For athletes, this works the muscles on the backside of your body, which are the most important for on-field performance. At the same time, it challenges your core muscles and improves your conditioning.
6. Sled Presses and Rows
Bench Presses and Rows do a great job of building upper-body strength and size. However, sports are played mostly horizontally, whereas you only lift weight vertically. Doing explosive Sled Rows and Presses with a sled allows you to drive through your lower body before finishing with an upper-body press or pull, just like how you move on the field.
7. RKC Plank
Are you getting the sense that core drills were a big deal this year? Of course, core exercises are popular, but there's a concerted movement to change how we train the core. The RKC Plank fits the bill. It simply takes a regular Plank and makes it ridiculously challenging so you don't have to sit there and hold it for five minutes.
8. Bear Crawls
Need to improve your endurance? Look no further. Bear Crawls—when done right—improve conditioning and full-body strength, plus they correct faulty movement patterns. Check out the video player above to see MLB All-Star Adrian Gonzalez's Weighted Bear Crawl.
9. Goblet Squat
The Goblet Squat was everywhere this year. It's hard to identify why this exercise came into favor with so many experts. Regardless, it's one of the simplest ways to learn or fix Squat technique.
10. Box Drills
There might not be a more versatile speed and quickness drill. You can sprint around the box, improving acceleration and change of direction. Or you can sprint, shuffle and backpedal around the box to improve multi-directional movement. To improve your reaction time, you can stand in the middle of the box and sprint to cones designated by a partner.
We've heard it a million times. The hip hinge is a fundamental movement that athletes must learn to maximize power and get the most out of lower-body exercises like Squats and Deadlifts. The Pull-Through strengthens your glutes and teaches you how to correctly hinge your hips.
12. Landmine Drop Squat With Rotation
This exercise combine a Squat, Row and Press in one move, strengthening your entire body. The load is only on one side of your body, so your core must brace to keep it from rotating, and the multiple moves and muscles involved increase the conditioning element. In the video player above, strength and conditioning coach Todd Durkin shows you how to do this Landmind Exercise.
13. Hip Thrust
The Hip Thrust is one of the best exercises to train the glutes. As more people realize that the glutes are critical for sports performance, the Hip Thrust has grown in popularity.
Although not an exercise per se, breathing techniques are getting more emphasis among trainers. Proper breathing patterns maximize oxygen uptake, reduce stress, improve recovery and even fix your posture. But to master your breathing, you need to practice.
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