Ask the Coaches: What Are Your Favorite Exercises?

By Corey Beasley

What exercises are the best?

Choosing the right exercise for each athlete, is like finding the right tool for the job. Every athlete has different needs, goals, ability levels, body shape, etc. That being said, we wanted to ask some of our coaches and see what some of their 'pillar' exercises were for most athletes.

Here's what they had to say...

Deadlifts, batwings, shoulder hyper-flexion, pull-ups (for boxers), and for the squat pattern I like contra-lateral RFE (rear foot elevated) squats (dumbbell in left hand, left leg elevated).

Ben Creamer

I'll second the deadlift

Naveed Shan 


Robert Deets

Proper Dragon Squat - There is a lot of changing levels, ground engagement, forward pressure, (anti) rotation, a need for stable hips that can also be as articulate as possible, as well as non gunked up ankles and feet (all from a non-bilateral stance). Any drills to help prep/condition the connective tissue, nervous system , and structure for those are worth taking a peek at.

Jim Romig

Deadlifts, chin ups , neutral and overhand grip pull-ups. Double kb reverse lunges, kb swing variations.

Mike Perry

Deadlift, back squat, hip thrusters

Sabina Skala

Most movements depend on the fighter, we'll perform some fashion of squat, hinge, push, pull and brace but this will vary based on the athlete I suppose these are conveniently vague staples. The commonality is often the postural and upper back work we do, just about everyone does, pull a parts, face pulls and chest supported rowing.

William Wayland

One of my favorite for fighters is the rear foot elevated split squat. Easy to load heavy for strength or program higher reps for endurance, and very low learning curve to the movement. This is a staple of most of my fighters programs. And don't forget the neck! Isometrics, manual resistance, proprioceptive, it's all good! Huge for these guys from an injury/concussion prevention standpoint and also for performance in wrestling and grappling sports.

PJ Nestler

I think compound, full body exercises are best. Especially for mma and bjj fighters. Various burpee variations, kb swing variations and dead cleans and presses. 

Joey Alvarado

Carrying loads. Rucking, Farmers, especially one sided suitcase. When fighter/grapplers live in the fetal position, you have to address the outcome. Consider Rickson has many discs herniated. Matt Brown trained with Louie Simmons and blew a disc. Rickson had over 400 fights. In bjj and mma, people are punching you kicking you slamming you and squashing you. Injuries are inevitable. Not sure if anyone exercise can prevent that :).

Tom Furman

Deadlift, Zercher squat, NGP pullups, and KB swings.

Jake Bonacci

Throw in some explosive power exercises and I think we can agree that many of us are training in the weight room the way we would train various field sport athletes.

Matt Gifford

Olympic lifts and squats....

Maryn Ciarelli

With my grapplers we keep things simple. Hip power exercises (cleans and jump squats) and we cycle low and high velocity core drills.

Ryan Miskiman

General and specific mobility work, ground rolls, push, weighted bridges,pull , squat, hinge, flexion, rotation in the general phase. Switching more to multiplane, rotational moves in later phases, like rotational muscle ups, Greg's clean and press, 360 squat shin roll, pull overs, rotational get ups and others. And of course, sprints.

Greg Mihovich

Indian clubs no matter what. Renegade rows of db or KB variety. Ring push-ups. Front squats. Variations based on injuries.

Marcus Martinez

Goblet squats, chin ups, Low DB incline press, bench press, trap bar deadlift, sled pushes, more sled pushes. I forgot BB hip lifts. Oh and more sleds

Kyle Holland

If I wrote a list of staples that each and every one of our fighters uses, it would still be quite large. I believe in simplicity but if we think of exercises as "tools" to accomplish the "job" of strength & conditioning, it would seem foolish to me if we did not use good tools when we have them available.

ishii sledEvery fighter does at least some variation of an explosive power exercise, ballistic med ball work, plyometrics, pushing, pulling, and 1 & 2 leg variations of squatting, bending, lunging, plus core work including anti-extension, anti-rotation, and a little bit of flexion.

A much smaller list could be written of stuff we often choose NOT to include. The biggest ones that might surprise you: barbell deadlift, barbell back squat, and barbell bench press. You also aren't likely to see much isolation work like curls, arm extensions, shoulder raises, in our athletes programs. All the exercises above aren't necessarily crossed off the list entirely but again, they are purposely left out of our programs much more than they are put in.

Some of our staples you'll see most often: Trap bar deadlifts, Landmine, ring push-ups, chin ups, pull-ups, inverted rows (suspension trainer), Rear foot elevated split squats, Single leg deadlift, Single leg squat, SHELC, sled pushing/dragging, Airdyne (or Assault) bike, and lately we've had everyone doing a lot of work on a new machine that most people haven't seen called Surge 360.

All of our athletes keep getting stronger and they're not getting hurt training. I'll take that all day every day.

Chris Ranes

I've always been a big fan of how Dan John categorizes different lifts.  Hinge, Squat, Carry, Push and Pull.  Some of my favorite exercises from these categories are front loaded squats (kettlebell, sandbag, barbell, etc), barbell hip hinge or hex bar deadlifts, farmer or suitcase carries, push ups, handstands, pull ups and rows.  Each of these drills has progressions and regressions that should be used and are appropriate for the athlete standing in front of you. In addition to these lifts, we typically add appropriate jumps, throws, sprints, shuffles, etc to develop power and speed in all directions.

Corey Beasley

So there you have it.  If you're wondering what to do this week, these coaches have have provided a ton of great suggestions.

Did we miss anything?  

What is your favorite exercise?

Leave a comment below...