by Wina Sturgeon
Most athletes who are contenders to make the U. S. Olympic team already know who they are. There’s just the final detail of doing well enough to be selected. That’s where the right kind of training comes in.
Bobsledder Chris Fogt already knows he’ll be going to Sochi. He’s a ‘brakeman,’ or push athlete, for Steve Holcomb, the current Olympic champion. The Holcomb team, whose sled is known as ‘Night Train,’ has already qualified for the upcoming Games.
Train like Fogt, Holcomb and other elite bobsledders, and you’ll excel at any sport you do.
“We jump high in the air, because that makes you explosive. That’s power. Power is very different than mere strength. Strength is just moving weight, slowly. But power is moving weight fast. So our guys do a lot of jumps and other plyometrics to get the power and explosiveness,” he says.
During their off season, bobsledders lift weights to build strength, but they also push a bobsled on wheels to build speed. The sled weighs 450 pounds. The athletes practice pushing it from zero to as fast as they can run, doing it as fast as possible.
Fogt explains, “You need the speed, but you also need the power and the strength. The heavy sled helps; it works your quads, glutes, hamstrings and your core. Strength alone won’t help you as much as power will when it comes to sports like football, soccer, baseball, track, tennis—those all require speed, which is where power comes from—strength with speed.
While you may not have a bobsled to push around (or teammates to help you push it), you can get the same effect by putting a 100 pound sack of concrete in a shopping cart or wagon, and pushing it in an empty parking lot.
The push effort should be short; not more than five or six seconds. Try to accelerate faster with each rep. Mark the time period by saying ‘a-thousand-and-one, a-thousand-and-two, and so on. It takes one second to say it with a single digit number.
But unlike bobsledders, you’ll get a double workout, because you won’t be jumping into a sled—you’ll be pulling your cart or wagon to a stop. The stopping motion will work your abs and chest hard. The quicker you stop, the more physical power you’ll build.
When a top team pushes off the starting block of the icy bobsled track, they are instantly running so fast that their feet are just blurs, too quick to be seen by the naked eye. As you push your heavy sack of concrete, think about making your feet move faster.
It’s an education to watch bobsled athletes just before a race. They run short sprints on the road leading up to the start of the track. They run for ten seconds, then leap into the air as high as they can. That’s a plyometric move that also increases power.
The elite athletes of every Olympic sport do similar training. Hockey players, who need to skate fast, cut and change direction, all while handling their stick, practice running and jumping. So do skiers and snowboarders. The same is also true for summer Olympic sports like track and volleyball.
Training like an Olympian means amping up the speed of your workout. Sluggishly jogging on a treadmill, or slowly doing sets of lat pulls may build some strength and endurance, but it won’t build your athletic skills.