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A woman lifting a barbell at a fitness club.

“Impressed” seems inadequate when describing the reaction of watching professional athletes from all over the world performing in their respective sports. Seeing the best of the best compete, their talent and dedication on full display, is awe-inspiring.

It might also provide a newfound appreciation for the sports themselves — and motivate you to want to give them a try. With that in mind, we’ve asked a few experts to share workouts inspired by four popular sports that you might watch during the Summer Games.

Whether you like gymnastics, track and field, swimming, or weightlifting, there’s a sweat session to awaken your inner athlete. 

Gymnastics

Expert source: Benjamin Schermerhorn, Master Trainer at Life Time In Chanhassen, Minn. He is a Junior Olympic Development Coach and has been coaching gymnasts for seven years.

Gymnastics demands an athlete’s full-body strength. As gymnasts hold their bodyweight on uneven bars and a pommel horse, they remain controlled on a balance beam, and they use momentum and body awareness to execute a floor or vault routine — each event requires muscle and skill in different areas that need to be conditioned.

“How do gymnasts get so strong? They put in the training — often anywhere from 12 to 20 (or more!) hours a week for elite gymnasts — to build muscle in specific and focused areas,” says Schermerhorn. “They need to ensure their body has the ability to support the variety of movements they execute at their events.”

These three exercises were chosen as they help to strengthen the muscles needed most for certain events. For the uneven bars, for example, you can benefit from the hollow hold — you’ll notice when swinging on the bar, a gymnast’s body will be in almost this exact position. For the rings or beam, the candlestick exercise is often used to improve strength and stability. The planche pushup helps shifts your center of gravity, requiring other muscle groups to be activated, which are useful for the bars, floor, pommel horse, and rings.

You can complete these moves in front of your daily workout, or simply practice them five times a week to increase strength and skill.

Hollow Hold

  • Lay on your back with your arms extended overhead and your legs stretch long so your body forms a straight line.
  • Brace your core by lifting your rib cage to your hip (this should keep your back flat on the ground), lift your arms, head, shoulder blades, and legs off the floor. Tuck your chin. Some athletes choose to put a tennis ball under their chin to hold throughout the exercise to train their neck, chin, and head to stay tucked.
  • Make sure there is not an arch in your lower back.
  • Hold this position for 20 seconds. Lower back to the starting position.
  • Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat three to five times.

Candlestick 

  • From a standing position, squat down and then roll backward onto the floor. Keep your shoulders rested on the ground and your arms either flat at your sides or above your head as you lift your feet and legs straight into the air. Engage your core by squeezing your abdominals and glute muscles. Your torso will also raise as you do this. Push your arms on the floor if needed to assist with support and balance.
  • Hold for 20 seconds. Bring your legs back down to the mat and return to the starting position.
  • Rest for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat three to five times.

Planche Pushup

  • Lie on your stomach with your arms extended alongside your body and your palms facing down by your hips. With your legs extended straight behind you, rest the tops of your feet on the ground and point your toes. This is the starting position.
  • Rotate your wrists so your fingers face outward to the side.
  • Press into your hands and press your legs together as you raise your feet and legs. Engage your core to lift your body into a pushup position. Straighten your elbows.
  • Bear your weight forward into your chest and shoulders. Pause for a moment.
  • Bend your elbows to lower your chest back to the ground, returning to the starting position.

For an easier, alternative option: Complete the first three steps, then hold the pushup position for 10 to 15 seconds before returning to the starting position.

Track and Field

Expert source: Mechelle Lewis Freeman, 2008 track and field Olympian and 2021 USA Track and Field Olympic Team Relays Coach. She is also the founder of TrackGirlz.

In the sport of track and field, there are three main skills you’ll witness across the events: running, jumping, and throwing. This workout is designed to improve your abilities in those areas, building speed, strength, balance, and explosive power.

“Always be willing to do the work, push your limits, and be motivated by your why,” says Lewis Freeman. “The key to this workout is finding a sustainable rhythm. Pick a pace that will allow for continuous movement and progression.”

This 10-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) workout is also great to support general fitness routines or other athletic pursuits.

Set a timer for 10 minutes. Do the prescribed number of reps for each exercise, completing as many rounds as you can within the set time. Log your number of completed rounds and/or number of completed reps to track your progress.

30 High Knees

  • Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Lift your left knee up to hip height while engaging your core and keeping your upper body over your hips (rather than leaning back). Hinge your arms from your shoulders, lifting your right elbow with your left knee, then driving your right elbow down and back as you return your foot to the ground. Keep your foot flexed at the ankle during the lift to help you land on the balls of your feet and not on your heels.
  • Switch to lift your right knee to hip height, this time raising your left elbow with it.
  • Continue to alternate legs moving at a running pace. Every other toe touch counts as a rep.

20 Reverse Lunges + Knee Drive

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Take a step backward with your right foot, bending your right knee 90-degrees to reach a lunge position.
  • Initiate the return to standing by pushing into from the ground with your left foot; drive drive your right knee forward and up to hip height, then place your foot on the ground.
  • Alternate legs. Each time you complete both legs counts as one rep.

10 Plank Taps + Pushup

  • Start in a high plank position with your hands placed just outside your shoulders.
  • Tap each shoulder with the opposite hand once.
  • After the shoulder taps, complete a pushup, bringing your chest down to the ground.
  • Push up through your hands while engaging your core to return to a high plank position.

Five 1/4 Squat Jumps

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your shoulders drawn down and back.
  • Engage your core and bend your knees and hips to squat down until you reach one-quarter of the distance you’d go for a typical squat.
  • Pushing through the balls of your feet, jump up into the air.
  • Immediately upon landing, squat back down. Make sure to absorb the landing of the jump in order to take you directly into the next 1/4 squat.

Swimming

Expert source: Tyler Fox, a senior swim coach at Life Time in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Swimming is a full-body workout that requires endurance, strength, and technique. The more efficient your strokes, the faster you’ll be in the water.

“Swimming is one of the healthiest ways to work your body,” says Fox. “Exercise in the pool has a low impact on your joints, a high impact on your cardio, and is a great way to unload the stress of other more rigorous workout routines.”

This 200-meter freestyle workout is based on individual effort output, making it a good way to ease yourself into swimming if you’re new or returning to the sport, or if you’re already a consistent swimmer, to take your technique and speed to the next level. It is slated in sets of 50 meters, but can be swam in sets of 25 meters, 50 meters, or 100 meters to modify the effort required. Swim in rounds of 25 meters for a lighter challenge, in rounds of 50 meters for a moderate challenge, and in rounds of 100 meters for a significant challenge.

Fox recommends swimming the freestyle stroke for this workout, but you could switch to the backstroke, breaststroke, or the butterfly as well if desired.

Warm-Up

Swim 50 meters a total of six times, taking 30 to 40 seconds for rest between each round. Increase your effort gradually as you go through sets one through three, then repeat that sequence to reach six total sets.

  • Set 1: 50 meters at 50 to 60 percent effort. Your breathing should become heavier, and only require pausing to catch your breath now and then. You’ll likely start sweating after a short amount of time.
  • Set 2: 50 meters at 60 to 70 percent effort. Your breathing will become even heavier.
  • Set 3: 50 meters at 70 to 80 percent effort. You will start to feel less comfortable at this pace.
  • Rest for 30 to 40 seconds.
  • Repeat sets 1 through 3 one additional time, making this workout 6 sets of 50 meters. 

200 Freestyle Pace Set

Swim 50 meters a total of six times, varying degrees of effort and rest with each set. (You’ll notice you’re actually swimming a total of 300 — not 200 — meters here. The reason for that is to train you for pace, so if you were in a race, you would’ve trained to have the ability to propel yourself beyond the actual race distance.) Keep all of your 50 meters strong and smooth as you increase your effort level this way:

  • Set 1: 50 meters at 60 percent effort. Your breathing will become heavier and you will likely start sweating after a short period of time.
  • Rest for 40 seconds.
  • Set 2: 50 meters at 70 percent effort. Your breathing will become heavier, and you will start to feel less comfortable.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • Set 3: 50 meters again at 70 percent effort.
  • Rest for 20 seconds.
  • Set 4: 50 meters at 80 percent effort. You’ll likely notice that you’ll feel the need to start breathing through your mouth when you raise your head for air.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • Set 5: 50 meters again at 80 percent effort.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • Set 6: 50 meters at best effort. This effort is only done in shorter periods of time with the purpose of increasing VO2.
  • Rest for 20 seconds.

200 Freestyle for Time

  • Set 1: Swim 50 meters strong and smooth at a pace that feels easy to you.
  • Rest for 40 seconds.
  • Set 2: Swim 50 meters, increasing your effort level by 50 percent from the first set.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • Set 3: Swim 50 meters at the same effort level you completed for set two.
  • Rest for 20 seconds.
  • Set 4: Go all out, swimming 50 meters with your best effort.
  • Rest for 40 seconds.

Cool Down

Swim 50 meters a total of six times with 50 to 60 percent effort for every set. In between each set, allow 30 to 40 seconds for rest. Your goal is to relax your stroke, release the tension placed on your body, and be proud of the workout you just completed.

Weightlifting

Expert source: Zachary Powell, USAW Level 1 and personal training assistant manager at Life Time in Allen, Texas.

The concept behind weightlifting at the Summer Games is pretty simple: Who can lift the most weight over their head? It requires a culmination of strength, power, skill, coordination, and mobility, with athletes competing against one another to see who is the strongest, fastest, and smoothest at moving through ranges of motion.

“When you begin a highly skilled endeavor like this type of weightlifting, it can be incredibly frustrating at first,” says Powell. “You likely aren’t going to be good at any of it. But this is the best spot to be at — you only move up from there!”

While these moves — the push-press, muscle snatch, and power clean — may seem intimidating if you’re a novice, they’re broken down step-by-step so that even a beginner can learn how to do these weightlifting staples. If you don’t have access to a barbell, a broomstick can be used for an at-home, nonweighted option.

The Push-Press

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and begin with a barbell at your shoulders in the front-rack position, where the bar sits at the front of your shoulders and your hands are gripped on the bar.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and bend your knees to a quarter-squat position. (This is typically around 25 percent of your height.)
  • As soon as you reach the position, explosively straighten your legs and hips, giving momentum to the bar to drive it directly over your head. Once the bar leaves your shoulders and your legs are straight, use your arms to aggressively punch the bar straight up, with your arms reaching a locked position. You want your legs to be doing the majority of the work. Do this in one fluid motion.

The Power Clean

  • Grip your hands on a barbell or broomstick so they’re placed just outside your thighs.
  • When beginning with low weight or broomstick, we need to mimic the position of a barbell with weights the best we can. Typically with weights, the bar would sit roughly eight inches off the ground. With the bar in your hands and at this height, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Slide the bar down the front of your legs until it reaches the middle of your shins, keeping your back in a neutral position and knees bent in a squat.
  • Straighten your legs explosively to bring the bar in line with your upper thigh, at about arm’s length (the point on your leg where your arm naturally falls is your arm’s length), letting your hips and shoulders rise at the same rate and keeping your arms straight throughout the movement. You want your legs to be doing the majority of the work, giving momentum to the bar.
  • Pull the bar into the front-rack position. Initiate by driving your elbows straight up, then rotate the elbows forward under the bar while also pulling your shoulders under the bar. You will bend your knees into a partial squat, which is typically done with a small jump. Do this in one fluid motion. Stand straight up.

The Muscle Snatch

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. ​To find your grip width, use an overhand grip where your hands are wide enough that the bar or broomstick sits naturally in your hip crease. This may be wider than you’re used to — that is OK. You should stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. ​
  • Bending your knees as you lower into a squat, slide the bar down the front of your legs until it reaches the middle of your shins; keep your back in a neutral position.
  • Straighten your legs explosively to bring the bar in line with your hips on the hip crease, letting your hips and shoulders rise at the same rate and keeping your arms straight throughout the movement. You want your legs to be doing the majority of the work, giving momentum to the bar.
  • Keeping your legs and hips straight, pull the bar into an overhead position. Initiate by driving your elbows straight up, then rotate your arms and shoulders around the bar, punching straight up with the bar over your shoulder girdle in line with your ears. Then push the bar straight up, overhead. Do this in one fluid motion.

Turn these moves into a workout:

  • Muscle snatch: Complete three sets of five reps.
  • Power clean: Complete four sets of two reps.
  • Push-press: Complete three sets of six reps.
Callie
Callie Chase

Callie Chase is a content editor at Life Time.

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