Virginia strength and conditioning coaches, from left: Steven Cuccia, Everrett Gathron, director Ed Nordenschild and Jenny Shultis Photo by Andrew Shurtleff

Seven hundred Cavalier student-athletes work out inside UVA’s McCue Center weight room throughout the year, led by the six-member strength and conditioning staff. Since Ed Nordenschild took over the strength and conditioning program in 2007, UVA’s student-athletes have won four Division I national championships and 40 ACC titles. But Nordenschild says it’s the commitment by students that is the root of that success.

“This is a full, four-year commitment,” Nordenschild says. “We email the athletes a workout for the summer and encourage them to stay here to work out. There are very few weeks—maybe a total of three to four—that they have ‘off’ from us.”

Nordenschild’s strength and conditioning team members reveal some of the secrets to their success by highlighting one specific move within six different sports workouts that anyone, from a weekend warrior to a daily exerciser, can do. Combined, the workouts below also provide a good overall routine to follow, with the addition of some cardio work.

Read the instructions and refer to photos for each exercise, then check out the video to see proper form in action.

The Sport: Golf

Key Move: Medicine ball side throw

Muscles Worked: Obliques, abductors, latissimus dorsi (back), shoulders, deltoids, quadriceps, glutes, calves

The Workout: Stand by a wall at a 90-degree angle, so that you are facing perpendicular to it. Holding a medicine ball weighing between 8 and 12 pounds, twist the ball to the side away from the wall and then throw the ball across your body toward the wall, pivoting your hips toward the wall. Look to where you’re throwing. Catch the ball as it returns to you (you may also let it bounce once), set and then repeat. You should feel a weight shift in the hips. This exercise focuses on explosion and speed while also building core and arm strength. Complete 2 to 4 sets of 5 to 8 throws on each side.


The Sport: Cross-Country

Key Move: Overhead step ups

Muscles Worked: Glutes, deltoids, spinal erectors, rectus abdominis (abs), serratus anterior and posterior (around ribcage), quadriceps

The Workout: Holding a 10- or 15-pound plate with arms straight above your head, step onto a raised platform with a single leg. The platform can be anywhere from 1 to 2 feet off the ground. Then bring the other leg up. At the top, pause and then step down with the leg that stepped up. Repeat. If using a heavier plate, complete 6 to 8 repetitions; a lighter plate, 10 to 15 reps, for 2 to 4 sets on each leg. Keep your stomach muscles tight. Holding the plate away from your body makes the exercise more difficult as you work on stability in the upper back, body, arms, legs and shoulders. Cardio is also involved—it’s a total-body workout.


The Sport: Tennis

Key Move: Band face pulls

Muscles Worked: All the rotator cuff muscles, rhomboids (back), trapezius (neck/shoulder/back)

The Workout: Stand at a lateral pull cable or wrap a band around an object above eye level. If using a cable, set the weight between 20 and 30 pounds. Grab the cable or band and slowly pull backward until arms are out on both sides, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly release the band or cable back to your starting point. Repeat. Do 15 to 20 repetitions, 2 to 4 sets. This works your rear deltoids, back and shoulders. Nordenschild says the back is often overlooked in workouts—out of sight, out of mind—leading to rotator cuff and other injuries.


The Sport: Soccer

Key Move: Goblet squat

Muscles Worked: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, abdominals, spinal erectors

The Workout: Hold either a dumbbell or a kettlebell just below your chin, like a goblet, with both hands on the weight, keeping the weight close to your body without overloading your spine. Squat, hold for a few seconds, and come back up. Repeat. Squat so that your upper body remains parallel to the floor. When you squat with a bar on your back, you can get caught at the bottom without being able to lift it back up, thus risking injury. But with the goblet hold, you won’t get stuck. This exercise is great for any sport where you train your legs. Squat 15 to 20 times for 2 to 4 sets.


The Sport: Swimming

Key Move: Straight arm lat pull

Muscles Worked: Deltoids, forearms, latissimus dorsi (back), rectus abdominis, pectorals

The Workout: Set the bar to 20 or 25 pounds of weight. With your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart, your thumbs over the top of the bar and your wrists turned down, grab hold of the weighted bar. The bar should be at eye level. Using your lateral arm muscles and keeping your stomach muscles tight, bring the bar down to your thighs with straight arms. Hold for a second and then slowly lift back up to eye level. Repeat, anywhere from 8 to 15 reps for 3 to 5 sets.


The Sport: Softball

Key Move: Front, back and side lunges

Muscles Worked: Abductors, adductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, rectus abdominis

The Workout: Begin with front and back lunges. Hold a dumbbell weighing 10 to 15 pounds in each hand, at your sides. Step forward, eyes and head straight, lunge down until the front leg is bent at a 90-degree angle and the back leg is bent with the knee an inch or two off the ground. Hold the lunge for a moment, then push off the front leg to swing and step that same leg back behind you for a rear lunge. Try not to move consistently between the front and back lunges. For an added challenge, lift the dumbbells over your head. Complete 6 to 15 reps on each leg.

For side lunges, use a heavier dumbbell, 25 or 30 pounds. The side lunge helps with one-leg stability. Face forward and slide one leg out to the side, bending the knee. The leg you’re sliding away from stays straight. Push off the bent leg and bring it back in. Once again, your head and chest are up so you’re not folding over the leg. Complete between 5 to 10 reps on each leg.