You don’t have to be an Olympic-caliber athlete to try out these exercises based on four sports you’ll see at the 2022 Winter Games. Try them out and achieve your personal best
In an effort to capture Olympic gold, athletes who compete in the 2022 Winter Games have been training for years to build strength, endurance, balance and speed. But it turns out that some of the same training moves that helped win Lindsey Vonn a gold medal in alpine ski racing and Shaun White three golds in snowboarding can work for us mere mortals, too. We asked personal trainers and fitness experts to identify key exercises anyone (even beginners) can add to their workouts based on four sports you’ll see in the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Add them to your repertoire and get ready to achieve your personal best.
Train Like a Snowboarder
Inspiring Athlete: Shaun White, a.k.a. “The Flying Tomato,” has won three Olympic gold medals and 18 X Games medals.
Exercise: Swiss ball hamstring curls
Snowboarders need to build glute, quad and core stability while perfecting their balance so they can keep control of their board and navigate those icy bumps. One excellent way to do this is by performing hamstring Swiss ball curls. The Swiss ball (a.k.a. an exercise ball or a stability ball) is a great way to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes while also engaging your core. But Swiss ball exercises aren’t just useful for snowboarders — they help teach the body to move as one unit, which helps when it comes to weightlifting, running and other athletic pursuits. And building increased stability ensures your joints are less prone to injury.
How to do it:
- Lie with your back flat on a mat with the back of your calves on top of the Swiss ball and your legs straight.
- Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips off the floor so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders down to your heels.
- Slowly drag your heels to roll the Swiss ball as close to your buttocks as possible; stop when your knees form 90-degree angles.
- Hold position for a few seconds, then straighten your legs as you roll your feet away from your buttocks.
- Return to the starting position. Once you get accustomed to the move, you can ramp up the difficulty by using just one leg at a time.
Train Like a Cross-Country Skier
Inspiring Athletes: Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall won the United States’ first-ever cross-country skiing gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Exercise: Romanian deadlifts
One of the truest forms of endurance sports, long-distance cross-country skiing is a full-body workout. “Olympians focus on a variety of different types of exercises to build endurance, strength and coordination” to excel in the sport, “but strength training is one of the most crucial,” according to Parry. “You need serious upper-body, lower-body and core strength to be successful.” To help increase leg and core strength, many cross-country skiers employ Romanian deadlifts, a barbell type of training also used by professional weightlifters and bodybuilders. The exercise is used to increase core strength through the growth of muscle tissue. In addition, because it trains muscles in the legs, lower back and core, Romanian deadlifts are an excellent way to help you maintain good posture, as the training will help keep your shoulders, spine and hips all in alignment. They can also enhance joint stability and improve bone density.
How to do it:
- Using a barbell or a pair of kettlebells of equal weight, stand with the bar or kettlebells in your hands as opposed to the floor. Select a weight that will allow you to comfortably do eight to 12 reps.
- Moving slowly, lower the weight with a slight bend in your knees, bending at the hips and keeping your back straight.
- Continue to lower the weight until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings. (This typically happens when the weight has just passed your knees.) Make sure the bar or kettlebells stay close to your legs on the way down.
- Drive your hips forward, using your hamstrings to power back up to the starting position.
- Keep your core tight throughout the entire exercise.
Train Like a Figure Skater
Inspiring Athlete: The most decorated figure skater in U.S. history, Michelle Kwan, is a two-time Olympic medalist and a five-time World champion.
Exercise: Toy soldier stretches
“Figure skating is the game of flexibility of hips and knees, with more focus on core strength and pelvic strength,” says Andrew Fox, a personal trainer and founder of Aim Workout, a fitness website. Dynamic stretching, including toy soldier stretches, uses controlled movements to prepare your muscles for performance and safety while also helping to increase flexibility. While a daily routine that includes toy soldiers is a staple of any figure skater’s warm-up, the exercises are an excellent addition to any fitness routine and are particularly suited for activities that require heavy use of the hamstrings such as running, hurdling and kickboxing.
How to do it:
- Start with your arms straight in front of you and your torso upright.
- While standing tall, lift your right leg straight out to the front and touch your left hand to your toes.
- Return to the starting position and repeat the movement with your left leg and right arm.
- Continue to alternate sides. Maintain good balance between both legs and keep your abdominals tight for the duration of the exercise.
- Fox recommends that beginners start with a half dozen sets (one leg raise on each side) and work up to more over time.
- To add to your warm-up routine, incorporate additional exercises, like skipping, star jumps and jump lunges, Fox suggests. “These simple yet powerful moves can be taken up by anyone who wants to improve their physical fitness,” he adds.
Train Like a Downhill Skier
Inspiring Athlete: U.S. alpine skier Bode Miller won six Olympic medals – more than any other male American skier – and won the men’s World Cup overall championship in 2005 and 2008.
Exercise: Squat jumps
To capture Olympic gold, famed downhill skiers like Miller and Lindsey Vonn “log in thousands of hours in the gym focusing on lower-body strength,” says Jeff Parke, owner of www.topfitnessmag.com, a website for fitness enthusiasts. “For lower-body training, squats and squat jumps are great for building both strength and speed,” he says. Besides being a popular exercise among downhill skiers, squat jumps can help any athlete who participates in activities that require a lot of sprinting (think baseball or soccer), as well as anyone who wants to improve their overall balance and agility. They make use of your core muscles and strengthen your lower body, focusing on your glutes, quadriceps and lower back and can help boost your flexibility, too. As you become older, your tendons, muscles and ligaments become less elastic. Regularly doing squats can help slow down this process and keep you limber. Another bonus: Squat jumps burn calories and help you shed weight.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Start by doing a regular squat by bending your knees and pushing your hips back. Engage your core for the descent, keeping it breached throughout the squat.
- Keeping your core engaged, jump up explosively.
- Attempt to land as softly as possible, which requires control.
- When you land, lower your body back into the squat position with the entire bottom surface of your feet on the ground.
- Beginners should aim to do two sets of 10 reps, eventually working up to three sets.
- One tip: To avoid straining your back, try not to let your shoulders lean out beyond your knees.
- To make the exercise more challenging, Parke suggests adding jump lunges to your squat workout. “You’ll work every major muscle in your legs while improving your cardio fitness,” he says.
A big part of any athlete’s training is making sure you’re fueling your body from start to finish.
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To see athletes at the pinnacle of their sport, tune into the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, Feb. 4-20, 2022. Athletes will compete for a total of 109 gold medals with new additional events taking place, including men’s and women’s big-air freestyle, women’s monobob (bobsled), mixed team competitions in freestyle skiing aerials, ski jumping and snowboard cross as well as mixed relays in short-track speed skating.