While lying on your back on the Total Gym sled, the movement is a circular arm rotation alternating forward and backward. Imagine a gymnast on the rings to visualize this movement. This rotation works the shoulders, pectorals, and the smaller muscles in the upper arm and forearms at the various points in the circle.
With free weights or machines, you would do it in a circuit fashion, alternating opposing muscle groups. An example would be 20 reps on the biceps, then move to 20 on the triceps. Bench presses and fly pulls are more conventional movements.
Push-ups and chair dips are other exercises we mix in when on the road.
This season we have increased the stretch cord sessions in regards to the upper-body focus. The cords are convenient when traveling and serve as a substitute for swim workouts on the days we don't have pool sessions. Exercises include fly and free arm movements concentrating on a high elbow position to simulate swim movements.
The build-up follows a gradual progression based on feel. We aren't trying to bulk up muscle mass, so weight and resistance is low to moderate. The speed of the movement is quick.
A good starting point is to begin with 12 x 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off; progressing up to 20 x 1 minute on, 20 seconds off in the peak of the season.
Lower Body: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
Total Gym exercises: one-legged squats, hamstrings combined with crunches, and calf raises. Sessions 3 x 20 reps building to 3 x 30.
The one-legged squats are done alternating legs (20 right leg, 20 left leg, etc ...) with no rest between sets. The pace is varied. Some days will be slower when concentrating more on the strength emphasis. Other days well use a faster pace with lower resistance to fire the quick-twitch fibers. Either way the negative is always controlled and slower than the positive."
Hamstring exercises combined with the crunches are done on a low level of resistance, concentrating on a quicker pace on the up phase and a slow, controlled pace on the down movement.
For calf raises, the repetitions are slightly less: 2 x 15. This is a slower movement combining a calf and Achilles stretch on the downward phase as the heels move lower than the toes.
Supplemental exercises include split-legged squats 3 x 20 using a chair to rest the back leg on. In this exercise, concentrate on the hip flexor area and work a stretch into the movement.
Walking lunges are a mainstay. They are done on a slight incline at 3 x 30 to 40 steps.
We also will use weights and a slower movement to aid in the stretching. Concentrate on keeping the thigh and knee at a 90-degree angle to prevent knee stress. This is also a great exercise to help balance.
Core Strength: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
Core strengthening creates the foundation for body stability. To be efficient as a multisport athlete, strong abs and back are a must. A rigid core is necessary to promote fluid motion in the swim and run without energy waste. Not to mention it adds comfort for all those bike miles.
There are many options for core strengthening exercises: pilates, ball work, and yoga. We use a variety of these elements combined with four sit-up positions for the core. By implementing a side-twist on the up movement and using a range of motion from 6 to 12 inches off the floor, the upper and lower abs are worked.
Barb does only 30 reps for each of the four different areas, for that six-pack burner workout.
A strength program has additional benefits beyond making one stronger. It helps to reduce the possibilities of injury and helps to keep weight down. The specific types of exercises should be designed to improve the weakest area first.
Build slowly and don't try to overload the muscles with heavy sets. It is important to balance muscle groups between the front and back of the body.
The program I have designed for Barb is simple but specific for her needs. It follows a conservative, consistent approach and has played a key role in Barb's success.