Beyond a good warmup or mobility routine, the program itself should build injury resilience. We alway want to utilize our warmups as times to correct our posture and position, but a good program can really help to cement these things with exercise selection and rotation.
Specificity is the king, not only in the strength world, but in every world. At the end of the day, no matter what your sport, when you are close to competition, the vast majority of your training should be comprised of your competition lifts. However, when we are far out from a competition, you are well served to include a variety of exercises that will help to create/sustain balance in your body, are well as prevent the overuse from movements that are too similar.
One thing that strong people have in common is that they do a ton of work. Keeping away from injuries, or common nagging aches / pains is paramount in this endeavor. For athletes in field sports or strength sports, the initial phases of a strength program are a great time to include an array of exercises because the intensity of the main strength exercises is low. The goal of the initial phase/phases should be to build work capacity.
These are my 3 Favorite Lower Body Phase 1 Movements
1- Lateral Lunge
The lateral lunge is a fantastic movement for building single leg strength and hip mobility. When doing them, I love to use the DB/KB held 8-10 inches out in front of me to counterbalance so that I can get deep. I am also okay with letting that trailing foot come up, so long as we are focused on maintaining 3 points of contact with the same side foot. I don’t worry too much about the shin angle so long as I am maintaining a good food position. Use that counterbalance and GET DEEP!
Another pretty cool variation of the lateral lunge is the Pitcher’s Lunge. They are a little different, so I think it can be beneficial to include them both in a program at the same time. One of your first lower body day, and one on the second.
2- Single Leg RDL
Some sort of unilateral pull should be a staple in an early phase of training. It will help cement the work that we are doing in our warmup and will be a tremendous benefit to your squat down the road. Truth is, the single leg RDL is probably not where I would start most people. I like a single arm RDL a little more to start. You still get the benefit of the unilateral pull, but it is much easier. Most people screw up single leg RDL’s real bad. If you had someone who was very basic beginner level then I would suggest skipping both of those options and going with a unilateral suitcase deadlift.
The main thing to remember when doing unilateral pulls is that we are fighting the rotation. I like to allow both arms to hang so that I am not rotating through my shoulders, and with the single leg variation we always cue level hips. In the other variations the main cue should be NOT to allow yourself to drift to one side or the other.
3- Split Squat
Doing some half kneeling work is a pretty good idea daily and should stick with you throughout your program. However, the first phase of a new training program is a time that you should get a ton of reps in the half kneeling position. The focus of this list is lower body movements, but you should be doing upper body and ab work in the half kneeling as well.
The basic offset split squat is a great place to start. For many people, it is plenty challenging. For myself, I usually will not add the more difficult variations until a second phase. However, I know that many people get bored with the basics. For them, we can easily advance the movement. You can add difficulty by elevating the front foot, or by utilizing implements that will allow you to increase the load (barbells). The Safety Squat Bar (yoke bar) is really great for split squats and the camber bar make them pretty interesting as well…. but if you want to get really gnarlyAF then you go with the Front Rack Front Foot Elevated Split Squat. It sounds like something out of a game of horse, but it can be a nice variation if you are advanced. For the most part, I like a front foot elevated position over a rear foot elevated position for advancing these single leg variations.