Posted by: 4pack | August 10, 2008

Swimmers And Sprinters: It Starts With The Core

Olympic multi-medalist Michael Phelps carries a classic swimmer’s frame: broad shoulders, narrow hips, and paddle-like size 14 feet. He also has built his shoulders into muscled machines that propel him through the water.

Olympic swimming champ Michael Phelps shows off his six-pack abs for TRL host Vanessa Minnillo during an appearance on the MTV show Wednesday. After winning multiple gold medals in Athens, Phelps will jump back in the water for the "Swim with the Stars" tour, in which he and other Olympians travel around the country to promote swimming to elementary schools

Olympic swimming champ Michael Phelps shows off his six-pack abs for TRL host Vanessa Minnillo during an appearance on the MTV show Wednesday. After winning multiple gold medals in Athens, Phelps will jump back in the water for the "Swim with the Stars" tour, in which he and other Olympians travel around the country to promote swimming to elementary schools

No one else has Phelps’ genetics – and few are going to put in the time and work it takes to become an Olympic swimmer.

But even a couch potato can exercise the same areas that make Olympic athletes recognizable by their sport: swimmer’s shoulders, gymnast’s abs, sprinter’s legs.

While many Olympic sports depend on body weight training – using one’s body as resistance, as in a push-up – it takes thousands of repetitions to develop an athlete’s physique that way.

Short of spending the next four years training full time, weekend athletes can use weight training and other shortcuts to approach the Olympic physique, if not the skills.

With that goal in mind, local coaches and trainers offered their best suggestions for getting into Olympic shape. Their exercises depend less on repetitions and more on targeting the desired area. Each sport requires its own approach.

And for those who want to work out on Olympic-quality equipment, Multiform Fitness in Hoffman Estates features TechnoGym, the same equipment line that’s used at official U.S. Olympic training centers.

Swimmer’s shoulders

Traditionally, swimmers don’t lift heavy weights. They do most of their training in the water, and develop their muscles through repetition, which can lead to overuse injuries.

That has begun to change. More swimmers, according to Phil Pfeifer, director of fitness and performance for AthletiCo, are starting to see the benefits of weight training to protect their shoulders.

As with all workout regimens, Pfeifer emphasizes first strengthening the core of abs, lower back and upper legs.

Then comes pliometrics, with lifts like squats to develop explosive power, and light weights to stabilize the rotator cuff.

After that, a swimmer – or someone wanting to look like a swimmer – can move onto shoulder exercises, such as dumbbell raises, shoulder presses and push-ups or bench presses, to develop the deltoids.

To perform a lateral dumbbell raise:

1. Start with a light weight in each hand, hanging straight down at each side.

2. Using a slow, controlled movement, and keeping the elbows slightly bent and above the wrists, raise the weights directly out from each side to shoulder level.

3. Slowly lower each weight back to the side.

Gymnast’s abs

Almost every gymnastic skill involves the abdomen to some degree. For both men and women, curling up for a back flip or holding the body straight for a spinning layout requires stomach muscles to lock into place to fight strong G-forces.

So no gymnastic workout is complete without blasting those abs.

“We do a ton of stuff for the abs,” says Kacey Kronforst, coach at the U.S. Gymnastic Training Center in Lake Zurich. “We work every muscle in the body, but focus a lot on abs.”

The most popular health club exercise for the stomach, the crunch, only works part of the muscle. The key is to work the length of the abdomen by involving the whole body through leg lifts; V-ups, which are like sit-ups in which the legs come up to meet outstretched fingertips, and the dreaded hollow body holds.

Despite groans from her gymnasts, Kronforst tells them “This particular exercise is very important, because they hold this position in a lot of the skills they do.”

The result of all those burning abs is good form during a routine and flat, ripped abs outside the gym.

To perform a hollow body hold:

1. Lay on your back with legs and body straight.

2. Lift your legs and shoulders off the floor.

3. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

4. Rock back and forth from the heels to the shoulders.

Sprinter’s legs

Sprinters try all sorts of ways to increase their speed.

The current trend is for explosive speed – training muscles to fire quickly by practicing fast movements, such as jumps onto a box.

Ken Jakalski is heading in the other direction. He thinks sprinters should be slowly dead-lifting almost as much as they can.

The dead lift – where the lifter squats and simply stands up? It conjures pictures of former Soviet weightlifter Vasiliy Alekseyev’s gut protruding over his belt as he hoists ridiculous amounts of weights into the air.

The key difference for sprinters is that they have to get as strong as they can without increasing their body weight. Physics dictates that a greater force applied to the same weight will produce faster acceleration.

In contrast to traditional theories that emphasized the frequency or length of stride, Jakalski puts stock in locomotion research that found that the force applied to the ground by the runner’s foot determines speed.

Since the average time of contact between foot and ground for fleet sprinters is only 4 hundredths of a second, there’s no way to approximate that with explosive training. Therefore, Jakalski believes it’s more important to develop pure strength, regardless of speed, then apply it through bursts of sprint training.

His partner, Barry Ross, who coached Olympic hurdle medalist Allyson Felix in high school, has written a book on the subject, “Underground Secrets of Running Faster.”

This workout, with only two or three sets of two to three repetitions, at 85 percent of the maximum weight one can lift, will develop a sprinter’s toned legs without getting muscle-bound.

“The dead lift is appealing for girls,” Jakalski said, “because they say, ‘I don’t want to look like I’m ready for the World Wrestling Federation.’ They want to be strong but not giant.”

To perform a dead lift:

1. Grasp a weighted iron bar with both hands. There are two grip positions: the standard and the sumo. In the standard grip, feet are shoulder length apart, and the arms are outside the knees, while the feet face forward. In the sumo grip the feet are wider apart and turned out to a 45-degree angle and the arms are inside the knees. The difference: the sumo grip is easier in that the athlete gets lower to the ground and the bar doesn’t go as high.

Ultimately, the athlete chooses the grip he or she likes the best

2. Bend knees and sit back as if you’re sitting in a chair. Roll the bar backward to shins. Make sure elbows are locked. Your eyes are either straight ahead of you or slightly up. Stay back on your heels; make sure your weight is more on the heels than the front part of your foot.

3. Keeping the back and arms straight, shoulders back and face forward, stand up to erect position, raising the bar to just above the knees. The lift begins with the legs. The key is to keep the bar and the legs moving. The athlete does not want to “lock out” the legs before standing upright.

3. Again, with back and arms straight, lower the bar to the floor or release it.



  1. Is it good to cross train between gymnastics and sprinting. Will the muscle build in different training cause problem?

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