How Athletic Trainers Train Their Athletes

Nowadays, athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before. No matter the sport, to stay competitive, athletes need to work with trainers that drill them in specific ways. The primary goal of the athletic trainer is to help athletes increase their power and explosive strength, improve coordination and sport-specific skills, all while helping to prevent injury.

When an athletic trainer assigns their athletes exercises, two of the main goals are building power and explosive ability. Power is improved by the speed of movement - by moving more quickly, power increases. And explosive strength is a result of the speed of muscle contraction. 

Power and explosive strength are both critical for any athlete to get into top shape and perform their best. Having an athletic trainer design and drill exercises specifically for an athlete's body, sport, position, and injury history is priceless.

Aside from gaining more explosive strength and power, the things athletic trainers do to train their athletes have many other crucial benefits.


The Many Benefits of Training with an Athletic Trainer

In the beginning, athletic trainers train their athletes to have a solid base of strength, agility, speed, power, flexibility, and balance. They carefully select a series of exercises and drills that will improve all of the above, enabling the athlete to accelerate, cut, and decelerate with control.

Once this foundation is in place, then sport-specific physical preparedness comes into focus. This is where the athletic trainer works with each athlete individually addressing pre-existing injuries, technique flaws, and any muscular imbalances. The trainer selects exercises that target precisely what each athlete needs. And finally, the athletic trainer works with the athlete to slowly adjust to their new strength, power, and speed.

A few of the main benefits of working with an athletic trainer are:    

  • Increasing strength, power, and speed.        
  • Strengthening balance and muscular coordination.        
  • Improving sport-specific skills.    
  • Preventing injuries and injury rehabilitation.        

Now that we've covered some of the clear benefits of working with an athletic trainer, let's discuss the techniques athletic trainers use to train their athletes.

Five Favorite Athletic Training Methods

Though athletic training methodology is often disputed and techniques can vary, the following five categories of exercises are considered the most crucial by athletic trainers.

Compound Movements with Resistance

Training the body and musculature at explosive speeds is critical for all athletic training. This type of strength training uses accommodating resistance with tools like resistance bands and chains. They allow the athlete to control acceleration and deceleration and help to increase strength very quickly.

Plyometric Exercises

Plyometrics are drills that include jumps to improve explosive movements and speed while building powerful strength in the legs and hips. These exercises are most effective with low repetitions and rest between sets. Plyometrics are vital in producing more powerful and faster athletics.

Medicine Ball Drills

These exercises involve throwing a weighted medicine ball in a large, wide-open area. This enables the athlete to hurl the ball with maximum amounts of power, in every direction, with no repercussion. Not only does throwing a medicine ball build explosive power in the arms and chest, but it also improves hand-eye coordination, balance, and flexibility.

Sprinting Intervals

Brief bursts of sprinting alternating with adequate rest is essential for athletes to prepare them for play on the field. Many sports involve short bouts of high-intensity activity with longer rest breaks on the bench. Athletes need to prepare for the same level of activity and rest that they can expect during a game. High-intensity interval training on hills and tracks are optimal for achieving this.

Now that you know the categories of exercises and drills that trainers will use with their athletes, here are some specific exercises that athletic trainers love to work with.

Push-Pull-Carry Workouts

To gain weight and strength during an athlete's off-season, some athletes train to pick up heavy objects and walk, push, pull, or carry them. This type of weight training forces the body to grow muscle quickly in all the muscle groups. Wrestlers, football, rugby and a few other sports use the push-pull-carry training methods to grow bigger, faster, and stronger players.


The Top Exercises Athletic Trainers Do with Their Athletes


The following plyometric and speed exercises are some of the most popular workouts that athletic trainers use with their athletes. Even if you aren't a competitive athlete, these are the best exercises to tone up and build muscle.

When implementing these in your workout, t's critical to keep your reps low and alignment precise during every set. Not only will precision decrease your risk of injury, but it will ensure you get the most out of each repetition.

Plate Jump

This exercise allows you to jump harder by swinging the weights forward. During the motion, the weights pull the body upward and forward. Therefore, the strength in your body must equal the speed of the weights to stop yourself from falling forward. Be sure to rest between jumps.

To execute:

  • Stand with a 10-pound plate in each hand.
  • Swing the plates backward as you let your body bend downward in a countermovement to prepare for the jump.
  • Then swing the plates forward and up as you begin the jump, to head level or higher.
  • Attempt to throw the plates in front of you and allow the weight to carry you as you land with control.
  • Rest between jumps and repeat for 3 sets of 8-12 jumps.
Frog Squat Jump

The frog squat jump works on making muscular contractions fast and powerful, increasing explosive strength. In other words, this exercise trains the body to create a massive amount of force very quickly.


To execute: Stand upright while holding one end of a dumbbell in both hands and the free end facing downwards. Squat back slowly, keeping your lower back flat and firm. When the dumbbell touches the ground between your feet, it's your immediate trigger to jump. Jump straight up as hard and fast as possible and land softly with control. Repeat for 3 sets of 8-15 reps.

Box Squat Jump

Box squat jumps are critical for athletes because they train the muscles to go from the relaxed, pre-working state and inertia to explode with power and force. This is because the box fully supports the weight at the beginning of the contraction, unlike other exercises where the body supports itself from the start.

To execute:

  • Place one dumbbell across your shoulders with the elbows facing straight ahead with the fingers on top of the dumbbell.
  • With the back of your heels against the box, sit far back onto the box.
  • Maintain a flat and tight lower back.
  • From this position jump straight up as quickly as possible and land softly before sitting back down again.

Another variation of the box squat jump is to jump forward onto a slightly more elevated box instead of vertically straight up.

Rest and reset after each jump. Repeat for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Finger Clean

The Finger Clean has two primary purposes essential for the athlete. It redirects the strength-building from the arms into the hips, building powerful hip strength and improving muscular coordination in the lower body. And it also exercises grip strength invaluable in throwing sports.

To execute:

  • Stand upright and hold a barbell with only your fingers by releasing the thumbs and opening your hands.
  • Slowly bend the knees, letting the bar travel down to the level of the knees and keeping a flat lower back.
  • Then forcefully extend the hips, knees, and ankles, throw your elbows forward and up, catching the bar on your shoulders just above your chest.

The difference between this and the traditional hang clean is that the hands never close. The fingers hold the bar at the start and end with the fingers under the bar. Focus on the hips doing the lifting, not the arms.

Repeat for 3 sets of 3-6 reps.

Dumbbell Jerk

This exercise trains the athlete to get down quickly under the weight before catching it.


To execute: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and point the toes straight ahead. Hold a dumbbell up to each shoulder with the elbows pointing forward. One end of the dumbbell rests on each shoulder.

From the starting position, drop straight down a few inches and forcefully jump up. Then drop down into a lunge position, with one leg forward and the other back, while extending the arms and dumbbells straight up. “Catch” the weight with your arms fully extended in the bottom position. Jump back to the original position with dumbbells on the shoulders. Repeat swiftly, switching the lunge to the other side. Repeat for 2 sets of 8-10 reps.

Concentric Box Jump

Concentric box jumps train you to execute a large amount of force from a static isometric position. The body starts in an isometric state fully supporting your body weight, building the strength and power to overcome the inertia and gravity of the body.

To execute:

  • Place a sturdy box in front of you.
  • Lower into a half squat position with arms in front of you.
  • From this static position, jump up and onto the box. Always jump from a still position, do not allow any counter-movements to help you in the jump as it would defeat the purpose of this exercise.
  • Land in the middle of the box and stand up. Rest and reset after each jump.
  • Repeat for at least 2 sets of 6-10 reps.
Dot Drills

The Dot Drill increases footwork speed and quickness, strengthens the ankles and calves, and improves balance and coordination. It also strengthens cardio endurance.

To execute:

  • Place a dot mat in front of you or mark five spots on the floor like dots on a dice.
  • Begin with your feet on the two corner dots at the front end of the mat. Hop, bringing both your feet together on the middle dot.
  • Then jump lightly and separate your feet, so each foot lands on a corner dot at the far end of the mat. Repeat the same sequence in reverse, returning to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

Another variation begins the same as the first, except once you reach the far end of the mat moving forward, turn around and repeat the movement going forward instead of going backward.

A third variation requires you to hop to each dot on one leg. Begin on the dot in the front right corner. On one leg, hop to the middle dot, then the far right dot, then the far left, then hop backward to the middle dot, then to the front left, and back to the front right. That’s one rep.

Repeat, reversing the starting sides. In other words, if you began going to the right first, start going to the left for the next set of 10 reps. As you become accustomed to the sequences, gradually work on building speed.

Lateral Box Shuffles

Lateral box shuffles strengthen lateral foot speed and quickness. They increase strength in the leg muscles and hip flexors while improving coordination and agility with side-to-side movements.

To execute:

  • Place a plyometric box to the side at approximately the level of your shins.
  • Begin standing with the right foot on the box and the left foot on the floor about 6 inches away from it.
  • Lower into a squat position and bring your left foot up onto the box while simultaneously bringing your right foot on the floor on the other side of the box.
  • Repeat going the opposite direction. Maintain a relatively low torso and chest while gradually building up speed. Repeat for 3 sets of 30 repetitions.

These proven athletic training gems will get you started on building power, speed, and strength, no matter your sport or athletic level.

Getting the Most out of Your Athletic Training

With athletic training, quality is always more important than quantity. Only aim for the number of repetitions you can do while maintaining proper form. These exercises will lose their effectiveness and injury can occur if proper form is sacrificed. 

Be sure your jump landings are smooth and with control. Allow for proper rest and reset time between reps and recovery time between sets. Follow up each workout with some static stretching to help your muscles recover fully. 

By incorporating these athletic training exercises into your routine, you will quickly build the explosive strength, speed, and power of an athlete.

Want to know more things athletic trainers do to train athletes? Visit the Movements and Drills page to learn a variety of workout routines for building the strength and power of professional athletes.