T Nation

Deadlifting and Overhead Pressing--Athletes


I'm relatively new to weight training; however, I am continuously studying, reading, practicing physical training (working out 3-5 times a week, reading/studying nightly). Through my study's and practices I've came to believe the two best weight training exercises for athletes are, 1. Deadlifts and 2. Military presses (standing). I do acknowledge that every athlete is different; therefore, this may not be true for every athlete.

I play basketball and I want to be able to compete throughout the week while I strength train, that being said I have to factor in CNS fatigue(140lb ectomorph). I have a tendency to train too hard. I've realized in my own training that I should use less exercises because I cannot train light weight with any interest; therefore, I prefer to use the standing military press and the deadlift. The two most primitive movements, lifting heavy shit over your head and lifting heavy shit off the ground.

I do recognize that basketball players are notorious for having awful posture and painfully weak posterior muscles. If you look at the great athletes in the NBA, the athletes have extremely broad shoulders and large glutes. I've declared the shoulders and gluteus muscles as the most essential muscles for athletes, besides the core muscles of course. There are studies that reveal the deltoids have a greater influence on your vertical jump than you gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.

Obviously, the gluteus muscles, hamstrings, and spinal erectors are most important, other than core muscles. I include the gluteus muscles and deltoids as core muscles. If you only utilize the deadlift and the standing military press you activate nearly all of your muscles, not to mention the importance of hip extension in athletic movements. What I'm asking here is, am I insane to imply that the only two strength exercises athletes need are Military Presses (standing) and deadlifts?


No, you just read too much without the practical knowledge to apply what you've read.


I don't understand what you're referring to?


I sort of understand, are you referring to the fact that you're not constricted to only two exercises? If so, I acknowledge that fact; however, that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking the question, which two exercises activate/work the highest percentage of muscle fibers/muscle groups for athletes, which also encourage athletic performance?


That's because you're a "relative beginner". Get on a few balanced programs, train hard and heavy for a few years and get familiar with your body's response to volume, frequency, different exercises and training stimuli before constructing an absolute set of beliefs.

All you are doing is limiting yourself before you have even started.


Why limit yourself to 2?


Regarding activation:

I would suggest you get on a bodybuilding split for a while and use isolation exercises to get the feel of the various muscle groups contracting. You will know for yourself if the exercises you have listed do indeed activate the most muscle fibers. You will also be surprised at how many people are unable to fully activate all the muscles involved in the deadlift.


I think you'd be hard pushed to find the muscles NOT worked by a heavy clean and jerk or snatch. Does that make them the best for overall athletic development? Maybe so, maybe not. If you're a relative beginner, as you say, you'd be better off following a tried and tested program by someone experienced at coaching athletes with your goals while you gain some experience of the practical side of weight training.


Getting significantly better at deadlift variations and overhead press variations will do a lot for many people in terms of overall strength and development.

However, depending on the leverages of a person, those lifts can develop different areas on different people. For instance, some people get much bigger legs from deadlifting, but it does very little for their back; with other people it can be the opposite.

It's a mistake to say that the same things work for everyone. Some sports have different needs than others. Different positions (in team sports) have different needs. And individual athletes are also different from each other.

Pavel Tsatsouline wrote a book called Power to the People that contains a routine that involves only deadlifts and presses. You may want to take a look at that for yourself.




Through your practices? Neat. What do you currently deadlift and put overhead?

EDIT: Nevermind, checked your profile. 6', 145 pounds, 245 deadlift, 95 pounds press. No offense, but you need more practice.

I spy with my little eye... two excuses in that sentence. Dude, you're not an ectomorph, you're just tall, skinny, and active. And you don't have to worry about CNS fatigue, you have to worry about smart training and ample nutrition to allow recovery. Overthinking is a progress-killer.

If there's one way to ensure athletic and physical progress, it's to always do things you prefer and not waste time or effort trying to do challenging things that are uncomfortable and no fun. Yep, good call.

For squirts and giggles, what if I made a case for med ball slams and side lunges as being the two most primitive movements? I mean, it's just like smashing a rock down onto prey or ducking out of the way of an enemy's spear. Make sure you actually have valid reasons for doing any exercise.

Information from studies must always be filtered through real world applications. Do 12 sets of laterals and then jump, and do 12 sets of calf raises and then jump, and see which pre-fatigued muscles reduce jumping ability more. Or better, consider jumping with a strained delt muscle vs jumping with a strained calf.

I wouldn't say insane, just slightly off the mark. They're very good exercises, but I can probably think of a half-dozen other exercises where a strong argument could be made for them to be ranked higher (such as the front squat, power clean, swing, or push press). Nevermind the fact that any kind of "only do one or two exercises ever"-situation is mental masturbation at best.

Like dt said, I'm not sure why we have to only pick two anyway. A well-designed program doesn't intentionally limit itself to only two exercises before even being designed. For sure, it can be done, but if we're talking about someone with severely limited time in the gym, "just pick two awesome exercises and do them" is a superficial and inefficient way to design a program. There are several variables to consider.


That was my first reaction as well. Then I read that the guy can name most muscles in his body but can't put his own bodyweight overhead.

I think he should stop reading and start lifting.


As someone who is a good deadlifter and a terrible athlete, I will say I don't think the deadlift is that great of a movement for athletes.

Building a heavy deadlift will help to make you a very strong person, but being strong is just a part of athleticism, and considering the incredibly static nature of the deadlift, it is limited.

I would place a higher value on some form of clean in that regard.


Any sort of strength increase would be good for an athlete.

But being an athlete is usually down to athletic ability, not simply strength. There are many strong guys that are built like refrigerators and move like one too.

The DL doesn't seem to me a good choice of "only 2" exercises for an athlete. Mainly because it's slow-twitch fiber stuff. Power cleans would seem more useful and somewhat similar to the DL.

Anyhow, as has been mentioned; it's mental masturbation. If somebody only has time for 2 exercises in their life? They have bigger problems than weightlifting. Everybody can make time for a proper training regimen. If they don't, it's because they don't want to.


Rate of force development is extremely high in deadlifts, that is athletic related. You're correct though; however, the stronger your muscles and body are, the more potential you have to exert greater force in sprinting and leaping. Box squats are also a great ROFD exercise.


In your reading and research did you learn much about the law of specificity by chance?


If an athlete trains consistently in the sport he/plays the athlete will develop imbalances. The examples I proposed above are examples of what basketball players primarily need to utilize during the year because of the quad dominance the sport of basketball is. The result of never using corrective exercises will negatively effect the athletes' posture, which in turn will decrease performance. The two exercises correct and strengthen what I believe to be the most vital muscles to exert and transfer energy from the ground to the top of your body.

Olympic lifts are also fantastic in the world of sports, because the fact that the exercises are "powerful" in nature, as opposed to power lifts which are more geared on max efforts.

I also love barbell rows.

I emphasize posterior chain exercises primarily in my workouts.
I do this because of how important these muscles are in forward propulsion. The biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus(hamstrings) are the muscle utilized most in the stretching of the leg during sprinting and the gluteus Maximus, minimus, and medius are the activated the most as your foot is in contact with the surface (exerting force) and as you are decelerating. The movement involved in sprinting, hip extension; the movement involved In deadlifting, hip extension. I would like to watch someone attempt to sprint without standing with perfect posture at top speed-- what does your body do at the top of a deadlift, ideally? Perfect posture. The resemblances between sprinting and deadlifting are more than most believe.

Funniest Threads

Single leg deadlifting resembles sprinting more than its bilateral relative(conventional deadlift), because the fact that it is a unilateral hip extension movement like that of sprinting.


By this logic shouldn't overhead press be a bad choice? I'm sure i've read in an article that its not recommended for overhead athletes. How many times do you drill shooting the ball? And you want to add more overhead presses to that to fix imbalances?


Basketball overuses the anterior chain too much, the military press (standing) balances out the deltoids, as opposed to bench pressing further facilitating the dysfunction. The reason why I don't have the barbell row in place of the military press is that the row uses many of the muscles that the deadlift uses.

Basketball isn't as much an overhead sport as you may think, at least from my experience, which is a lot.

The deltoids and gluteus muscles are core muscles In my opinion.

Does this make sense? The deadlift fires the gluteus and hip muscles and the standing military activates the entire deltoid, as well as the rest of your core. These exercises force you stablizers the core, which is essential to every athletic movement.


Aw man, this is still going on...

Ok I'll play.

The most primitive movement of all is suckling off our mother's tits. Go get a pacifier.

"I'd just like to say that most of us begin life suckling on a breast. If we're lucky we end life suckling on a breast. So anybody who's against breasts is against life itself."

  • Denny Crane