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How To Exercise Like an Olympian

It takes years of intense training for Olympic athletes to get their bodies strong and ready for competition, but they have to start somewhere. Our fitness contributor Minna Lessig shows us some of the very basics strengthening and stretching exercises used by Olympians.

These are fitness exercises and also fundamentals in all the sports we'll be watching in the Olympics. To us who sit on the couch watching the games, they are challenging exercises, to these elite level athletes they don't even think twice about them.

  1. "T" pose / scale:
    This is done in yoga (called T pose) and it is absolutely done in gymnastics. It is one of the first things little gymnasts learn on the balance beam. Besides being an exercise that increases balance and coordination, it strengthens your butt, and core (abs and lower back) muscles and also increases flexibility in you leg muscles, especially the hamstrings or back of the thighs. When doing this exercise or posture, take your time getting into it by using a chair at first for balance.

  2. Plyometric jump squats:
    How it pertains to basketball. The jump squat is a plyometric exercise, so it helps increase power or quickness in the muscles. It helps the athlete improve on his/her ability to jump up and throw the basketball, and rebound.

  3. Modified hurdeler stretch:
    Pertaining to Track and Field. Imagine the move that these athletes do when they jump over the hurdles, a lot of us cannot even touch our toes in this stretch let alone be able to do it while sprinting over a hurdle! It is a flexibility exercise that stretches the lower back, hamstrings, inner thighs, and calves. It is called modified because the leg that is bent is turned inward with the sole of the foot against the inner thigh, instead of outward to the side. People always used to do it knee turned out, until exercise safety organizations decided the torque on the knee presented too much strain to the ligaments in the knee joint, so they modified it. This exact stretch is also done in yoga.

  4. Hyperextensions:
Get a sense for the incredible amount of strength swimmers must have in their lower and upper backs to be able to do the butterfly stroke. We lie face down on the floor for this one and lift our upper torso off the ground. Its main focus is increasing strength in the lower back.

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