We may not be gunning for gold medals (this year), but we can still look to Olympians for everyday exercise inspiration. We've rounded up 15 new moves anyone can add to their workout based on five Olympic sports. Try ‘em out. (Don’t worry: They're designed for any fitness levels.)
1. The Hollow Hold: Lie with your lower back firmly pressed onto a mat. Lift your legs straight out in front of you and extend your arms straight above your head. Chelsea Piers’ Boys Gymnastic Team Head Coach Hector Salazar says this move, known as “the hollow hold, helps train gymnasts to maintain tight and rigid positions required in competition.” (Let the increased ab strength and core stability suffice for non-Olympians). Salazar recommends holding this move for 10 to 20 seconds, or more (if you can!) Good for: Abs, abs abs! Strength, endurance, stamina. You name it.
2. Arch: Balance out that hollow pose with an arch by lying flat on your stomach and extending the arms and legs straight away from the torso. Bring two of each into your routine, of course. Good for: Strengthening that often-neglected lower back, stabilizing the smaller spinal muscles.
3. (Supported) Handstand Push-Ups: If you’ve already mastered the ability to support your own body weight in a clean 10 to 15 pushups, try placing your toes on a raised platform and angling your hips at a 90 degree angle. This mimics the handstand pushups gymnasts must be able to perform in order to rock their competitions. Start easy with about 3 to 5 reps and work your way up to a full overhead handstand push-up. Good for: Core strength and stability, serious trapezius, shoulder, tricep, and forearm strength.
4. Over Under: Set up 10 hurdles of alternating height, from low to very high. Facing forward, walk over the first (low) one, then lunge under the second (high) one. Keep going until you reach the end, then return. Next, move laterally through the hurdles: stepping over the low hurdle with your right foot into a wide lunge, bringing your left leg to meet the right as you push off the ground. Next up, same step (right leg leading) but this time, crouch down low to scoot yourself under the top of the high hurdle. Good for: Increasing hip mobility and range of motion, strengthening quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, abductors and adductors.
5. Swing-Overs: Set up 10 relatively high hurdles at the same height, (depending on how your own height, flexibility and range of hip motion). Stand facing the side of the first hurdle. Balance on your left leg as you raise your right leg and swing it over the top of the hurdle to land on the ground on the hurdle’s other side. Follow with your left leg. (As you get more advanced, add a bounce to your step and speed up. But be sure to start slow so as to master this movement before getting fancy.) Repeat on the other side. Good for: Increasing hip mobility and range of motion, strengthening quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, abductors and adductors. Plus: core stability and balance!
6. Alphabet Legs: Plant your right leg firmly on the ground, left your left straight out in front of you. Trace the (entire) alphabet with your free leg. It’s okay if you need to slightly bend the knee of your standing leg to keep balance, says Christopher Newport University Cross Country/Distance Head Coach Matthew Barreau but keep that free leg as straight as possible as you progress from A to Z. Once you’re through, repeat on the opposite leg! No hurdles required. Just stamina and some basic kindergarten skills. Good for: core strength and stability, balance; calf, quad, and stabilizer muscle endurance and strength.
7. Stair Sprints: Next time you walk past that Stairmaster at the gym, hop on. Spacing 10 to 40 second high-intensity stair sprints between slower steps every other minute is a great way to boost vertical stamina. Length and frequency of sprints depend on your current fitness levels. If your quads and glutes are already strong, try leaping up two steps at a time. (All of this can be down on a normal staircase, of course.) Good for: Explosive power in quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Stamina and endurance.
8. Incline Sprints: Jog uphill or on an inclined treadmill to build the type of endurance and strength that’ll keep you fresh and fast on the court, on the sand, or anywhere else! Good for: Calves and anterior tibialis (a.k.a. shin muscles). Building strength and stamina in glutes, quads…and pretty much every part of your leg.
9. Pull-Ups and Dips: See that supported pull-up and dip machine? Master it for max hitting power. Alternate between sets of lower reps (think: 3 to 6) at little-to-no support and sets of higher reps (about 15) with more support. Resist the urge to spike a medicine ball when you step off. Good for: Lats, biceps, deltoids; triceps, chest, forearms.
10. Plank to Sit-and-Twist: Crouching over the handlebars on a bike can take a toll on the spine. Especially the lumbar region. Certified cycling coach and veteran cyclist Adam Zimmerman works his whole core by alternating between 60 second planks and sit-and-twists using a medicine ball. He recommends lifting and extending your legs in front of you on a mat, keeping you torso straight, and passing a light weight (no more than 8 lb) medicine ball over and under your legs in both directions 5 to 10 times. Good for: Abdominal and low back strength and stability, hip flexor strength.
11. Interval Cycle Sprints: In winter months, Zimmerman hops on his nearest indoor bike, warms up for about 20 minutes and segues into intervals of 20 minutes cycling at moderate intensity speeds he can maintain for an hour, slowing for 5, then going another 20 minutes and moderate intensity. Zimmerman advises working with a heart rate zone for those interested in training at shorter, more intense intervals that push them to their VO2 Max. Good for: Cardiovascular endurance, calve, quad, hamstring, and glute strength and stamina.
12. Free Weights: Zimmerman targets biceps, triceps, rear delts, and traps during his free weight routine. These muscle groups assist cyclists of all levels with steering and effectively grasping the handle bars. Even if you don’t plan to maneuver a bike, standard bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, overhead presses, and flies at low weights with high reps can strengthen those endurance muscle fibers that provide lasting power for all occasions. Good for: Building strength, stamina, and endurance in those arm muscles.
Photo by IntelGuy
13. Bosu Ball Twists: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart on a Bosu Ball or two inflatable discs. (A narrower stance makes this harder; a wider stance works best for beginners.) Hold a short foam roller, very light medicine ball, or specially designed tube (like a Flexor) in between your hands. Rotate 5 seconds to the right, hold for 5, rotate 5 seconds to the center, hold for 5, rotate 5 seconds to the left, hold. Repeat for one to two minutes. (Advanced balancers: try this while standing on one leg.) Good for: Developing balance, posture, stability by training stabilizing muscles from your ankles to your shoulders. Especially around that spine.
14. Lat Pulls: The right way to release an arrow is to “tighten the back muscles and relax the hand holding the string of a bow,” says Regional coordinator of Kentucky’s National Archery in Schools program and archery coach Kyle McKune. This is better than letting the shoulder, lat, and trapezius muscles go slack and keeps the shot steady. Lat pull-downs , external rotations with low weights, and seated rows (bonus points for the endurance build up via rowing machines) strengthens and stabilizes this muscle group, even for those who don’t plan to take out a target anytime soon. Good for: Stabilizing and strengthening rotator cuff muscles, deltoids, lats and biceps.
15. Tricep Pull-Backs: Hold a resistance band straight out in front of you with your left hand, extending your arm at approximately shoulder height. Grasp a free portion of the resistance band with your right hand and pull the band back, reaching your elbow in a slightly diagonal line above shoulder level. Once your right hand reaches your right ear, hold for 5 to 15 seconds. Slowly guide the right hand back to starting position. 5 to 10 times. (Resist the urge to fling the band across the gym.) You’ll either handle a bow in no time… or be the most hardcore door-holder at the office. Good for: Strengthening deltoid, bicep, and tricep strength; stabilizing rotator cuff muscles.
Have you tried any of these moves? Tell us how it went in the comments section below!