Big Rocks

I subscribe to the Big Rocks concept when designing athletic development programs.  Today’s Performance Coach is inundated with information, technology, exercises, and training tools. As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to prioritize the exercises and training methods that provide the biggest return on investment.

Here is one of best coaches I know, Rett Larson from Velocity Sports Performance and Performance Corps, describing the Big Rocks approach as adapted from the Stephen Covey book, First Things First.

Expanding on the Covey-Larson (perhaps the first time Rett has ever been hyphenated with Stephen Covey) description of the Big Rocks concept, this is my working definition relative to the training of athleticism;

Big Rocks are exercises related to critical and fundamental biomotor abilities that provide the biggest bang for the buck.  Placing the highest priority on the Big Rocks will ensure a strong foundation of relevant athleticism upon which secondary exercises serve to compliment and provide additional stimulus.  The nature of Big Rocks implies that the majority of each training session should be spent performing them.

Additionally, when it comes to creating my list of Big Rocks, I have two rules;

  1. If two exercises are similar in movement, muscle group, AND muscle action, then one of them must be deleted from the list.
  2. If a limiting factor for performing a given exercise is skill-related, then it is omitted.

So when it comes to my Big Rocks of athletic development for nearly all sporting demands, here are the modalities and exercises I believe athletes just can’t live without;

  • Back Squat or Front Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Split Squat – Rear Foot Elevated
  • Press
  • Pull-Up
  • Push-Up
  • Squat Jump
  • KB Swing
  • Turkish Get Up
  • Sprint Interval (20m – 400m)
  • Walking Knee Hug
  • Walking Quadriceps Stretch
  • Elbow to Instep w/ Hamstring Stretch

If your Big Rock list is different, let me know in the comment field below.

– Coach Hall


  1. Hi, so I think I’m familiar with some of the exercises you’ve listed but I few I’m not. Do u have a site I can go to for a demonstration?

    1. Hi Liz,

      I am working on getting some demo vids uploading to my vimeo site. Until then, I recommend checking youtube. The quality of exercise demonstration is sometimes questionable on youtube, but it should be pretty safe to check on these exercises.

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