Olympic Fever

( [email protected] ) Aug 06, 2004 03:14 AM EDT

With the Olympics just around the corner, sports enthusiasts around the world are anxiously awaiting the most exciting international sports event in history.

Olympic athletes are great examples of the self-discipline required to achieve your optimal potential. They strive for excellence in all aspects of their health and fitness by following a personal nutrition plan, vitamin and supplementation plan, as well as a sport-specific training program. Athletes with the available resources elect to hire sport psychologists to help them focus on improving their confidence and adopting a positive attitude. All of this is done with the hope of one day becoming the best in the world.

Many of us can recall being glued to the television as hopeful kids aspiring to receive a medal one day while standing on the podium. However, what many of us failed to comprehend was the endless hours of training it took for these athletes to achieve such high standards. I assumed that in order to become a faster runner, all I had to do was run more often at higher speeds. As I got older, I learned that I was only partially correct.

Physical factors for athletic excellence

Depending on what side of the genetic fence you're sitting on, it's unfortunate that genetics plays an enormous role in your potential as a future Olympic athlete. This is illustrated by the extreme height of basketball players, the stockiness of power lifters and the light frames of marathon runners. This is also evidenced in many countries who handpick their athletes at a young age.

Regardless of your genetics, to become the best, you must practice the sport-specific skills over and over again. Skill perfection is a result of motor learning which is a product of repetition. Practice makes perfect and to become a champion, you must train like one. So while the rest of us are still in bed in the early morning or relaxing in front of the television after a long day at work, the elite athletes are out training.

The final piece of the puzzle is your physiological ability. The fortunate part is that this component is trainable and adaptable. Most elite athletes follow a training methodology known as the Periodization of Strength. This technique involves gradually preparing the body to meet the specific physiological requirements of the sport or event. Several phases of training are created, each with a particular goal in mind. The number of sets, repetitions, the rest period between sets and amount of weight lifted is adjusted accordingly. Several phases of training are specifically linked to create a body that is stronger, faster, more agile and endurable.

Since the foundation of all physical skills is strength, I have attached a sample maximum strength program for you to use two to three days per week. Keep in mind that this program simply represents a portion of an entire annual plan. Profile in the sport-specific section to receive an annual plan for your particular sport. As with any program, to obtain the best results and to reduce your risk of injury, make sure you complete a proper warm-up and cool-down that includes stretching exercises for the entire body.

Maximum strength program

Note: For every exercise, make sure you prepare the joints by performing one set of 15 to 20 repetitions with a medium weight prior to performing the suggested sets with the heavy weight.

Exercise Sets Reps Suggested Weight Rest Interval

Chest press 3-4 6-8 Heavy 90-120 seconds

Leg press 3-4 6-8 Very heavy 90-120 seconds

Weighted trunk twists 3-4 15 15-45 pounds 60 seconds

Shoulder press 3-4 6-8 Heavy 90-120 seconds

Deadlift 3-4 6 Heavy 90-120 seconds

Lat pulldown 3-4 30 Very heavy 90-120 seconds

Calf raises 3-4 30 Very heavy 90-120 seconds

Sit-ups 3-4 30 10-15 pounds 60 seconds