Build strength, endurance and more with these exercise secrets…
Watching Olympic athletes perform their incredible feats can be awe-inspiring…and humbling. But don’t despair.
Even if you’re not an Olympic athlete, you can still perform at your highest potential by adding highly effective Olympic training routines to your own workout.
Helpful: You can add all—or just a few—of the exercises below to your current fitness routine to increase your endurance, gain strength and boost bone density…*
Which Olympic athletes do this? Cyclists and distance runners.
Good for: Anyone who wants to add speed and endurance to a walking, running or cycling routine.
What is it? Short bursts of high-intensity movement—a few seconds to a minute—that take place within a longer aerobic routine. Many people refer to this workout method as Fartlek (which means “speed play” in Swedish), but it is also known as interval training.
How can I do this? Do a 30-minute walk or jog in your neighborhood. Begin with a 10-minute warm-up of a slower-paced run or walk (use a stopwatch to keep track of your time). Once you’re warmed up, sprint (or walk fast) between two mailboxes (or telephone poles or any other regularly spaced marker)…then return to your regular pace for the distance of three mailboxes. Sprint or walk fast again, continuing the same interval pattern for 10 minutes. Afterward, return to your regular pace for 10 minutes. Then cool down for a few minutes with a slower run or walk.
For a 30-minute cycling routine, pedal slowly for a 10-minute warm- up. Then do 30-second sprints pedaling as fast as you can followed by one minute of slow pedaling for a total of 10 minutes. Then cycle for 10 minutes at a comfortable pace and end with a cooldown.
Which Olympic athletes do this? Power lifters and gymnasts.
Good for: Anyone who wants to strengthen his/her calves, Achilles tendons and biceps.
What is it? These exercises, which are the most efficient way to build strength, focus on working the muscle when it lengthens. In this phase, you consciously slow the descent of a weight (or gravity). This means that you use resistance twice—once while lifting the weight and once while lowering it.
How can I do this? Biceps curls and heel drops.
Biceps curl: To begin, choose a light hand weight (about three to five pounds)…or use small soup cans. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, elbows at your sides and forearms at 90-degree angles from your body, with your palms and weights facing up. Hold your left arm steady. Lift your right arm toward your shoulder for a count of two to three seconds, keeping your elbow at your side.
Lower the weight slowly and with control for a count of three to four seconds, keeping your muscles contracted. This is the eccentric phase of the exercise. Alternate arms for a total of 12 to 15 repetitions on each arm. Perform the whole set two to three times. When you can perform 10 reps easily, increase the weight.
Heel drop: Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a stair. Drop your heels as low as you can in a slow, controlled motion, taking about three to four seconds to completely lower them. Then push your heels back up for a count of two to three seconds. Repeat 12 to 15 times. Do two to three sets.
Which Olympic athletes do this? High jumpers, gymnasts, sprinters and basketball players.
Good for: Anyone who wants to build leg strength.
What is it? Also known as “jump training,” these exercises require your muscles to exert maximum force in short intervals.
How can I do this? Box jumps. Most gyms have jump boxes of varying heights (six inches, 18 inches, etc.), or you can buy one at a sporting-goods store or online. Pick a height you can jump onto so that both feet land squarely on the box.
Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees bent. Using your arms to help generate power, jump on the box landing softly on two feet, knees flexed. Keep your hands in front of you for balance. Then jump back down to the starting position. Repeat 10 times for a total of three sets.
*If you have a chronic medical condition or a recent injury, or are at increased risk of falling, consult your doctor before trying these exercises.