Top 10 Exercises to Achieve an Athletic Build

(Last Updated On: April 1, 2021)

An athletic build is desired by many, it is similar to that of a bodybuilder but they are not the same. While a bodybuilder is built for size and strength an athlete’s body is built for power, speed, quickness, explosiveness and agility. Typically the body of a bodybuilder is more bulky, sometimes VERY bulky. The body of an athlete is usually more slight. Then there is a grey area where some athletes look like bodybuilders. If you want an athletic build you need to train like an athlete does. These are the top 10 exercises athletes do to give you an athletic build.

1) Power Cleans

Power cleans and other types of cleans are a mainstay in most athletic programs. Cleans are a total body exercise that use your quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, deltoids, traps, and forearms, as well as the core muscles that come into play to stabilize your spine throughout the movement. Cleans develop power and explosiveness essential to an athlete. If an athlete could only do one exercise this would probably be it and if you can only do one exercise to achieve an athletic build this should be it as well.

power clean athletic build


Related: Best Sports Supplements For Athletes


2) Squats

Squats are the king of the lower body exercises. Any athlete who needs power in his lower body is doing squats. Don’t be one of those people with a built upper body and chicken legs. Squats target a number of different muscle groups all over the body: the core muscles including the abdominals and lower back, the glutes, and the thigh muscles. Hit the squats hard and hit them often.

Squats for athletic build


3) Bench Press

If the squats are the king of the lower body the bench press is the king of the upper body. Athletes that need upper body power use this as a mainstay of their training. The bench works the chest, shoulders, triceps, and even the abs are used to help generate power and stability. Whether you do it with a barbell or dumbbells, the bench press is a must.

Bench press for athletic build


4) Sprints

Sprints are another biggie in an athlete’s training, athletes not only want power and explosiveness but as the old saying goes “speed kills!”  Speed can be a huge asset to many athletes, whether it is going deep on a  passing route, a fast break in basketball, or stealing second base in baseball, having speed is essential. Not only does sprinting build speed but doing sprints in interval training will burn fat like crazy which we talked about in this article. If you haven’t noticed, pretty much all sprinters have an athletic build.

Athletic build


5) Core Training

Athletes need to have a strong core and I am sure you are looking to have a six-pack with your athletic build so you will need to do core training. You can also look at Three Ways to Work Your Core for an in-depth look at how to get your core stronger and leaner.

Athletic build


6) Pull-ups

Pull-ups are a common exercise for many athletes as part of their training to improve pulling movements, they will also help you get that nice V-shape we all love. If you are unable to a pull-up or can only do a few, check out this article to get yourself doing more pull-ups in a matter of weeks.

pull up guy


Related: Four Training Splits to Build an Athletic Body


7) Shoulder Press

Strong shoulders are a must in many sports for pushing movements. Shoulder presses not only work the deltoids but the triceps, lats and traps as well,  they are also a must for an athletic build.

Shoulder Press


8) Rows

Rows build strength for pulling movements useful in wrestling, football and other sports. They work primarily the lats and traps as well as the biceps and shoulders. Doing rows add thickness to the back muscles.

athlete barbell row


9) Farmer’s Carries

Farmer’s carries are an awesome exercise that builds muscle, endurance and massive grip strength. Carry a set of dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, a trap bar, buckets of sand or anything else heavy. Try and carry your own bodyweight 100 yards, it’s not easy.

Farmers carry



 Related: Farmer’s Carries To Build Muscle and Strength


10) Lunges

Lunges are widely used to build strength in the quads, glutes and hips. They will also help you get a nice round butt we all like.

walking lunge athletic build


Honorable mention- Plyometrics

Plyometrics are very popular with athletes to build explosiveness, quickness and agility. They involve many different jumps and other movements. The most common type of plyometrics you see a conventional gym is usually box jumps. Use caution when doing these as they can lead to injury if you are not in good shape or do them incorrectly.


box jump plyos athletic
There you have the top 10 exercises you need to get you an athletic body. Notice all the exercises on the list are compound movements that use multiple muscles at the same time.  Athletes generally do not do isolated movements like bicep curls or calf raises as part of their everyday training, you can feel free to mix in movements like that if you desire, however.


If you are looking for a complete athletic body workout system to get build strength and athletic muscle then check out Ultimate Athleticism from fitness expert Max Shank. It is an awesome program that has everything you need to build a strong and athletic body.

Ryan Douglas

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