Olympic Workouts

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The power, speed and technique of the best athletes in the world exceed even the most avid athletes. You might assume that Olympians’ training programs are too tough to even attempt, but there are ways that you can incorporate elements of their workouts into your own. Olympic athletes’ regimens offer ideas for improving your fitness and performance levels. “Regardless of how athletic you think you are, some of the things that elites do can be very beneficial,” says Jason Koop, a multisport coach with Carmichael Training Systems, an online coaching company. U.S. News surveyed former and current athletes across a range of sports for their favorite workouts, then asked trainers and coaches for ways to translate Olympian principles into lessons for mere mortals. Here are a few ways to raise the bar:

Olympic athletes’ favorite workouts:

David Oliver, 26
Event: 110-meter hurdles
Home: Kissimmee, Fla.
Favorite workout: Four repeats of 10 hurdles,
some set lower than in competition, then some sprints.

Mark Warkentin, 28
Event: Open-water swimming
Home: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Favorite workout: For aerobic fitness and endurance, ten repeats of swimming 1,000 meters, pulling without kicking.

Todd Rogers, 34
Event: Beach volleyball
Home: Solvang, Calif.
Favorite workout: The back squat, with the weight bar
resting on his upper back, for strength.

Melanie Roach, 33
Event: Weightlifting
Home: Bonney Lake, Wash.
Favorite workout: Practicing the “clean and jerk” (lifting the barbell to the shoulders,
then overhead) and the “snatch” (from the ground to above the head).

Anna Goodale, 25
Event: Rowing (eight-woman boat)
Home: Camden, Maine
Favorite workout: With teammates, four to 10 intervals of hard rowing for
250 meters followed by easy rowing for 250 meters.

Julie Ertel, 35
Event: Triathlon
Home: Irvine, Calif.
Favorite workout: Practice transitioning from one sport to the next. Swim hard for about five minutes, then take a 1.2-mile bike ride and run 0.6 miles—four times.

Deena Kastor, 35
Event: Marathon
Home: Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
Favorite workout: Three times around a 2-mile loop at Lake Mary at a fast pace,
with recovery in between, so her race-day pace feels easy.

Mike Day, 23
Event: BMX (bicycle motocross)
Home: Santa Clarita, Calif.
Favorite workout: Plyometrics—exercises designed to produce fast, powerful movements— to improve his power and leg speed for fast accelerations on the track.

Skiers, soccer players, and cyclists can benefit from Todd Rogers two-legged back squat, in which he balances a barbell on his upper back as he bends his knees into the position of someone sitting in a chair. “It’s one of the best, if not the best, movement for producing lower-body strength,” says his strength coach, Bob Alejo. The bonus is working the larger muscle groups burns more calories. Alejo recommends using an unloaded bar (no weights) until you master the technique.

Squats and other exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time are a boon for anyone’s workout, says Alwyn Cosgrove, a coach and coauthor of The New Rules of Lifting for Women, “You don’t need to do bicep curls and work just one muscle,” he says. Two great total body exercises are the “clean and jerk” and the “snatch”. The two lifts Roach did in Beijing involves two different methods of getting a barbell from the floor to above her head. “You can achieve the same effect with less complex exercises, like using a medicine ball and touching it first to the floor and then pressing it overhead,” says Cosgrove.

If you are training for a specific event, like a race, speed and interval training would be your best workout. Sprinting as fast as you can for 200 meters, followed by a recovery pace for 200 meters will get you prepared to last longer in your race. Studies have shown that this kind of interval training can burn more fat and boost the metabolism more effectively than working out at a slower pace.

Don’t forget to be explosive in your workouts. I am a huge fan of plyometrics. These exercises are helpful for any kind of sport in which you change direction quickly or require bursts of power, including basketball and tennis. Mike Day says he does this workout to get himself prepared for his events: the box jump (he jumps, tucking knees to chest, and lands on a box as tall as 50 inches), the jump squat (he squats and does the kind of vertical leap you’d see in a basketball game), and the step-off (with one foot on a curb or platform, knee bent, he pushes off into a jump and lands on either the same foot or both feet). Romero says beginners should focus on two-legged exercises and try low platforms at first. Jumping rope is a great way to get your muscles and joints primed for these exercises, too. These exercises will burn more calories in less time than any other workouts.

Do not forget to track your progress. Make sure you have a day during the week where you write down how many reps and what weight you was doing each exercise. Keeping a log of your exercises help keep an accurate calculation of the progress you make each week. Make sure you have a goal in mind, be consistent, and even you can achieve Olympic levels of fitness.

By Shannon Flanagan – CPT

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