Our Olympic workout confers gold-medal sports benefits and helps you prepare for your favourite winter sport.
The Olympics have finally reached Canada, and as we settle in front of our televisions to watch, many of us will be cheering on our favourite athletes—and possibly even daydreaming a little, picturing ourselves on that winner’s podium.
Of course, we can all reap the benefits of sport, without qualifying for the Olympics.
Regularly participating in sports can strengthen bones and muscles and help control body weight. It can also build coordination, balance, and flexibility—and add an element of fun to your life.
While you may not be a world-class skier, skater, or boarder, you can certainly use the Olympic Games as inspiration. Pick your favourite Olympic sport, implement the recommended exercises into your workouts, and start training like a champion—or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try them all for an exceptionally complete workout.
For a number of these movements we ask you to “brace your abdominals.” The easiest way to explain that is to pretend that someone is going to sucker punch you in the tummy, and you are contracting your midsection in anticipation. This is “bracing.”
To protect your spine and lower back, remember to brace when performing your exercises—it’s not enough to simply suck in your abs.
Snowboarding Successfully riding a snowboard is all about the lower body muscles, your balance, and your core. I took a lesson a few years ago and was amazed at what a beating my abdominals received. Mind you, if I hadn’t fallen so much and had to use my core to roll back into an upright position, I probably would have been in a lot better shape the next day!
Muscles trained: transverse abdominus (TVA), erector spinae (lower back muscles), obliques, and shoulder stabilizers.
Position your elbows on top of a stability ball and walk your legs out so that your head, your hips, and your ankles are all in line.
Hold this plank position and brace your abdominals.
Using your arms, slowly roll the ball to form the letter “A”. Progress through the entire alphabet, taking a break when needed but working toward performing the whole alphabet in one shot.
Balance board squats
Muscles used: quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, gluteus maximus, and erector spinae (lower back muscles).
If you do not have access to a balance board, you can do this one on the ground. I definitely recommend getting a board, however, as it really challenges your balance (just as snowboarding does), and it will fire up other muscles that wouldn’t necessarily get worked otherwise.
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart on the board.
Flex your knees a little with your head up so you can start balancing.
Squat down to a 90-degree angle, keeping your knees apart and tracking with your second toe.
Maintain a neutral, non-rounded position in your back and brace your abdominals.
Perform 12 to 15 reps, holding the last rep down in squat position for as long as you can.
Aim for two to three sets.
Muscles stretched: abdominals, pectorals (chest), shoulders, and hips.
Roll your body face-up over a ball, making sure that the back of your head is resting on the ball.
To enhance this stretch, extend your arms overhead and drop your fingers to the ground.
Breathe in deeply and steadily while holding the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
Hockey Ice hockey is a unique game. It requires aerobic endurance, strength, stamina, agility, explosive speed and power, and anaerobic conditioning.
During a game, a typical interval will last 30 to 80 seconds. It is during these precious seconds that players have to give their all, with the possibility of little to no recovery time.
If players are not trained to endure this type of stress, the lactic acid buildup in their muscles (a byproduct of this type of intense exertion) will cause a debilitating effect and hamper the ability to play well. However, the body’s tolerance level of lactate can be increased by performing wind sprints on an inclined treadmill.
Wind sprints provide great aerobic and anaerobic training for the body, and also work many muscles, especially the hamstring and gluteus muscles.
Warm up at a moderate speed for 15 minutes with no incline.
Once you feel you are thoroughly warmed up, increase the incline to 10 percent. Run at this incline for 30 seconds and then bring it down to 8 percent.
Run another 30 seconds at 8 percent and then bring it down to 6 percent for the final 30 seconds.
Actively rest for two minutes with an easy jog at a 1 percent incline.
This is one set. Perform three to four sets.
Muscles stretched: adductors (inner thigh) and hamstrings.
Stand with your feet as wide apart as comfortable.
Bend your left knee, coming all the way down to your foot, while keeping your right leg straight.
You should feel a stretch along the inside thigh of your right leg.
To intensify the stretch, reach toward your extended right leg.
Hold 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat, bending right knee.
Figure skating Figure skating requires a great deal of endurance, flexibility, and balance. Ballet, Pilates, and yoga are all great forms of off-ice training, as are the following movements that can easily be added to your workouts.
Muscles trained: quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus (bum and outer hip), and adductors. This exercise will also help increase the range of motion throughout the hip joint.
Start with feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders pulled back and down, and brace your abdominals.
Thinking of a clock face, step forward to the 12 position, lunge straight down and then step together again.
Step sideways to the 3 position, lunge down and then step together.
Step backward to the 6 position, lunge down and then step together.
Perform each clock position for a total of 12 to 16 reps, leading with the same leg.
Switch sides and repeat clock lunges.
Remember to keep the working knee in line with the ankle, tracking with the second toe. As well, be sure to remain upright in the upper body throughout the exercise—never lose your neutral spine!
Muscles trained and stretched: hamstrings, obliques (torso), erector spinae (lower back), adductors (inner thighs), and pectorals (chest). Also develops balance.
Brace your abdominals and position your arms at shoulder height, palms down.
Step forward with your right foot, keeping the leg straight. Raise the left leg behind you.
Find your balance and extend the left leg. Try to get your left leg as parallel to the floor as you can.
Rotate the upper body, bringing your opposite hand down to your right foot.
Pause and slowly come back up. Step forward with your other leg and perform a rotation to the other side, this time balancing on the left leg.
Continue stepping forward for four rotations each side.
For all-around aerobic conditioning, cross-country skiing beats all other Olympic sports. It requires a great deal of heart and lung capacity, as well as core and lower body strength, and if I had to choose which sport my clients should perform, I would choose cross-country skiing. While it does have a slightly steeper learning curve, its low impact and ability to burn a ton of calories make it a winner for everyone.
Lunges on half foam roller
Muscles trained: quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus (bum and outer hip), and adductors (inner thigh). This exercise will also help increase the range of motion throughout the hip joint.
Position a half foam roller length-wise on the ground and position yourself in a lunge stance on top, one foot at each end of the roller.
Slowly come straight down in a lunge while keeping the upper body upright and the front knee in line with the ankle, and tracking with the second toe.
Pause at the down phase for five seconds and then drive back up.
Perform 12 to 15 reps with one leg leading and then 12 to 15 reps with the other leg in front.
This is one set. Aim for two to three sets per training day.
Dead bug on half foam roller
Muscles trained: transverse abdominus (TVA) and obliques.
Lie face up on top of the half foam roller (flat side up).
With your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, activate your abdominal muscles by drawing in your abdominals, while at the same time performing a pelvic tilt (rolling your bum in towards you and pressing your lower back into the roller).
Lift up the left leg, maintaining a 90-degree bend in the knee and hip, and extend both arms up so that they are lined up with shoulders.
Simultaneously lower the left foot to the ground and drop the right arm behind the head. The arm should remain straight and the leg should remain at a 90-degree angle while the abdominals and pelvic tilt stay strong.
Pause, keep your balance on top of the roller and bring the leg and arm back to start, lower the left leg, lift right leg, and perform again.
This can also be performed on the ground without a foam roller.
Aim for 20 repetitions, resting for 30 seconds and then performing again.
Lower body stretch
Muscles stretched: hip flexors, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
Holding onto the back of a chair with your left arm, bring your right foot up toward your bum and hold onto it with your right hand.
Keep the right knee in line with the hip and then tilt your whole body forward, lifting your right knee behind you so that the front thigh is parallel with the floor.
Lengthen the balancing leg’s hamstring so that you feel a stretch along the back of that thigh, as well as along the front of the hip and thigh of the right leg.
Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and then perform with the other leg.
PJ Wren is a personal trainer and regular alive contributor.