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Train Like The Olympic Athletes: Exercises Inspired By 3 Winter Events


The Winter Olympic games are here and with it comes some amazing athletes. We have the pleasure of being able to watch them spin, flip, and do all sorts of athletic feats during the games. Many times, this inspires us to try some athletic feats of our own, and while we’re not all Olympic athletes, here are some exercises to make us more like our Olympic role models. I’ve given 3 different exercises of beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels for each area of the body we are trying to strengthen or stretch. Start small and make the movement more difficult if needed. 

The Strong Knees of a Skier

To get those bullet proof, sturdy knees like a skier the first exercise you should start with is a Straight Leg Raise. First, lie on your back, bend your right knee, and place your foot flat on the ground. Keep the other leg straight on the ground. Next, raise the straight leg, bending at the hip, so that your thighs become even with each other. Do 10-20 reps for 3 sets per leg.
The next level exercise is a Step Up. For this exercise we’re going to stand in front of a step, place our right foot on it, and step up and stand on the step with both feet. Then, step down keeping the right foot on the step so as to work the same leg. Then switch legs. Do 10-20 reps for 3 sets on each leg. Focus on firing the glute on the step up and going slow and controlled back to the ground. You want to start on a step in your house or a small step in your gym that’s only about 6-8 inches tall. Increase the height as you get stronger until when you put your foot on the step your thigh is parallel with the ground. After you’ve mastered that you can start adding weight in your hands with dumbbells or kettlebells, starting around 5-10lbs in each hand.
Once you feel ready, let’s take things up a notch and try some Bulgarian Split Squats. What you need to start is a workout bench or a sturdy chair. Stand about 2 feet in front of the bench and turn around so your back is facing the bench. Make sure your feet are about shoulder width apart and pick up your right foot and place it on the bench behind you keeping that width. Your right foot is there to keep you steady, most of the weight, and focus, should be on your left foot and leg. Engage your core, keep your eyes up, and bend your left knee to allow yourself to sink into the squat on your left leg. As you lower downward, bend slightly forward at the hips while also making sure your left knee stays in alignment with your left foot and is not bowing in or out. Lower down until your left thigh is parallel with the ground. Then come up while focusing on keeping the weight even throughout the left foot. Do 10-20 reps then switch to your right leg and repeat for 3 sets. To make this even more difficult you could add weights in your hands.

The Strong Ankles of a Figure Skater

Before we can start turning double axels on the ice, we should start strengthening our ankles with some Ankle ABC’s. Begin by sitting down and slightly raising your foot, so it’s not resting on the ground. Point your toe and draw an “A” with the tip of your toe. You’ll continue to do this through the entire alphabet drawing capital letters. We draw capital letters because it puts our ankle through a wider variety of motions. Focus on rotation around the ankle, and not rotating the leg to get a wider range of motion. Repeat on the other ankle. Do 2 sets on each ankle.
foot motions
The next step would be to start doing the 4-way Exercise Band Strengthening Exercise. First, if your gym doesn’t have light exercise bands you can find some for cheap on Amazon here. Next, you’ll want to sit down on an exercise bench, or chair if you’re at home. Then, wrap the exercise band around the forefoot of your right foot. Now we’re going to do the first directional exercise out of 4, hence the name, 4 way exercise band strengthening exercise.

Eversion: Hold the ends of the bands in your left hand and step on the bands, leaving some band between your feet. Lift you right foot up and outwards so that you feel a decent stretch in the band. Evert your foot, bringing your pinky toe towards the outside of your leg, stretching the band more. Control the motions back to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 reps.

Dorsiflexion: Stay in the same position, except bring your right foot closer to your left so there is less lateral stretch on the band and the pressure is more vertical. In this position, you’ll want to bring your toes towards your shin and then control it back down. Not allowing the band to snap back. Perform 10-15 reps.

Plantarflexion: Take your left foot off the band, and grab the ends with your right hand. Apply moderate stretch to the band. Then holding the bands tight in your right hand, or both hands, point your toes towards the ground, flexing your foot. As with the other directions, be sure to control the snap back motion of the exercise band. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Inversion: For this direction we’ll still have the band around our right forefoot, but this time we’re going to cross our right knee over our left, so that our left foot is on the right side of our right foot. With the ends of the bands in our right hand, we’re going to step on the ends of the bands with our left foot. Make sure there is a decent stretch in the band. From here, invert your foot, bringing the big toe towards the inside of your leg. Control the snap back, and repeat for 10-15 reps.

I realize these instructions may be confusing to follow, so here is a great video explaining the exercise.

single leg calf raise
Finally, we are ready to do some Single Leg Calf Raises. Stand near a wall, or something you can hold onto to help keep your balance, with both feet flat on the ground. Pick up your left leg, so you’re standing on your right foot. Push up through your toes and your forefoot, so your heel comes off the ground. The goal is to lock out at the top of the motion and slowly lower yourself down. Do 10-12 reps and switch legs repeat for 2 sets. To make this exercise harder you can stand on a step and allow your heel to go lower than the step.

The Hip Mobility of a Curler

piriformis stretch
If you’ve ever seen a curler throw a stone, you can see that they have excellent hip mobility. To help get that same hip mobility, a great stretch to start is the piriformis stretch. Lay on your back and cross your right leg over your left, so your knee is crossed over your thigh. Pull your right knee toward your left shoulder. You should feel a stretch deep in your butt. Hold for 15 seconds while taking deep breaths. Then switch legs.
So many of us spend a majority of our time sitting for one reason or another so we really need to stretch our hip flexors. One of my favorite stretches for this area is the Laying Hip flexor Stretch. Lay on the ground on your stomach. Pull one foot towards your butt, bending at the knee. Once you’re feeling a good stretch in your thigh, push your hips into the floor using about 50% power. Then push your foot that you’re grabbing into your hand and hold for 15 seconds. You should feel a good stretch in the front of your hip and thigh. Then switch legs.
pigeon stretch
To really mobilize our hips the Pigeon Stretch is an excellent way to push your limits. Start by sitting down on the ground, and bringing your right leg in front of you. Bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle. Your left leg will be to the side of you with your knee partially bent. It can be as bent or extended as is comfortable for you. Rotate the left hip toward the right heel, and come up on your right knee. Keep the chest up tall, and only bear as much weight as you can comfortably. If you feel comfortable with the left knee bent, you can work on straightening out the left leg into the full pigeon pose. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds, slowly lower out of the position, and switch legs.

I know watching these Winter Olympics has inspired me to add a few exercises to my workout routine. Hopefully this has helped you on your journey to become more like your Olympic athlete role model, or at least inspired you to add something new to your workout routine. If you’re looking for more exercises and a chiropractor in the North Denver area, give Enhance Life Chiropractic a call at 720-328-3088.

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