Workouts Inspired by Top Athletes

by acac Aquatic Personal Trainer, Karen Alexander

August 2016 is an exciting time to be an admirer of sports. The world’s most elite athletes are gathered together to compete and show their physical strength. As a competitive swimmer, I especially look forward to watching swimmers like Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky break records and win gold. It gets my blood pumping! 

For most of us, the dream of winning gold is a bit far off. Elite athletes train hours a day for years to achieve the type of peak physical condition it takes to compete. But, as a personal trainer, I’m always studying the fitness routines of top athletes to get ideas and develop programs that I can share on a smaller scale with my clients. Below are some of my favorite athlete-inspired exercises that may not guarantee you a spot on Team USA, but will certainly help you develop the strength and stamina to be a hero in your everyday life.


If you want to … SWIM like Michael Phelps:

To propel yourself through the water with the ease and strength of an athlete like Michael Phelps, you’ll need to work on toning your entire body. Swimmers rely on leg, arm and core strength to improve their stroke and shave seconds off their swim time. The key muscle groups to focus on are: quads, glutes, hamstrings, biceps, triceps and core.

Try the leg press, a machine that helps develop your quads and glutes. This can be done on a sled machine at your acac club.

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How To Use the Leg Press: While seated, place your feet just outside of shoulder width apart with your feet flat on the sled. Contract your abdomen to stabilize your lower back. Press back by using your quadriceps until knees are slightly flexed. Pause for a one second count and slowly return to starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 12.

While the Leg Press might not help you beat Phelps’ records, this exercise can help you with activities of daily living, such as walking longer distances, gardening, and moving the lawn.


If you want to … TUMBLE like Simone Biles:

Though the gymnasts you see on TV may make tumbling look easy, I assure you it is not. Executing floor routines with the precision of an athlete like Simone Biles takes incredible upper and lower body strength. The key muscle groups that gymnasts use for this sport are: quads, glutes, and shoulders (upper body).

Try Single Foot Bicep Curls, an exercise that will work double-time to improve upper body strength and also balance and core.

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How to execute the Single Foot Bicep Curl: Choose a weight that’s appropriate for you. In neutral spine, with your abdomen contracted, lift one foot off the floor.  Once your shoulders and back are stabilized, perform a set of 10 bicep curls. Repeat for 3 sets of 10, switching legs for the second set.

While these bicep curls may not give you the balance beam scores of a gymnast, they can make carrying your groceries into the house easier and help you prevent injuries.


If you want to … RUN like Usain Bolt:

The title “Fastest Man in the World” certainly doesn’t come easy, and not without an incredible amount of practice and strength. The key muscle groups that are used by runners competing in the Track and Field competitions are those such as: calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

Try calf raises. These can be up and down on the stairs at your home or on an actual calf machine at your acac club.

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How to do Calf Raises: Stand on the edge of a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Place feet hip width apart. Start with heels lowered, close to the step below, and slowly raise up on your toes. Hold for  1- 2 seconds, and slowly return to starting position.

Doing this exercise does not guarantee you’ll be able to run with the speed of an actual cheetah, but it can help you to better walk up stairs at your house or even give you the motivation you need to take the stairs at your local mall instead of relying on the escalator.


For more exercises inspired by top athletes, talk to a personal trainer at an acac club near you:

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