Build a gold-medal body with the sports you’ll see during this summer’s Olympic GamesBy: Danielle Kosecki
Riding a bike is the perfect low-impact way to get back in shape, says Kevin Dessart, coaching education and athlete development director for USA Cycling. Besides the obvious cardiovascular benefits, cycling helps sculpt a lean lower body, from your calves up to your glutes. Your core and arms may also feel the burn as they help balance and stabilize your body across the bike.
Get started: It’s as easy as, well, riding a bike. If you’ve been off two wheels for a while, begin on a bike path, instead of a busy road, and just get used to pedaling again, suggests Dussart. Once you’re comfortable, considering following a structured training plan and signing up for an organized ride, such as a gran fondo. Traditionally, these “big rides” stretch 100 miles or more and tend to fall somewhere between a competitive race and a charity ride on the suffer scale. “Typically they’re supported so there’s food and beverage and lots of people to ride with,” says Dessart. Search for events near you on bikereg.com and coaches on usacycling.com.
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Don’t let this racquet game fool you: It’s not all about the upper body. If you swing the racquet correctly it’s actually a total-body workout, says Mark Kovacs, PhD, FACSM, CSCS, executive director of the International Tennis Performance Association and senior manager of coaching education and sport science for United States Tennis Association Player Development. “Tennis is great for toning and muscular endurance because you do hundreds of repetitions a day of very light weight,” says Kovacs. Plus, it’s a fun way to get in some intense interval work. “You’re moving for 20 seconds or so and resting for 20 or 30 seconds and you’re doing that over and over and over again,” says Kovacs. “It’s more beneficial for losing body fat and increasing muscular power than long, slow distance work like running on a treadmill.”
Get Started: Before you hit the court with your friends, Kovacs recommends visiting your local tennis club to learn proper technique from a pro. Usta.com also has a wealth of resources, including visual explanations of tennis basics and databases to help you find courts, partners, and programs near you.
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What you may consider child’s play, NASA researchers call “the most efficient, effective form of exercise yet devised by man." In fact they found bouncing on a trampoline to be 68 percent more effective than running on a treadmill. (Search: Trampoline Safety Rules) The magic may lie in the trampoline bed. Although it’s forgiving, when you use major muscle groups—like your core, back, quads, and glutes—to push off of it, you’re working against three to six times your body weight, says Susan Jacobson, program director for USA Gymnastics Trampoline and Tumbling. Done repeatedly, bouncing up and down like Tigger causes your heart rate to surge, while developing motor control and body awareness.
Get started: Trampoline gyms, such as Sky High Sports, have started popping up around the country. If there isn’t one near you, your local gym may offer an Urban Rebounding class, which uses mini-trampolines. The bed is different than the ones used in the Olympics (you won’t be able to jump as high), but you’ll get many of the same benefits, says Jacobson. Many gymnastics centers also offer adult fitness classes programs. Search for one by zip code here.
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There’s a reason aquatics are often used in therapy—water provides a gentle form of resistance that can tone and strengthen your entire body. Swimming engages a wide range of muscles. The legs are used when kicking and pushing off walls, arms propel your stroke, and the core stabilizes your body while swimming and during flip turns. Plus, swimming laps torches major calories—up to 680 an hour (for a 150-pound person).
Get started: Still stuck doing the doggy paddle? Swimming lessons can help you master basic skills. Check your local pool or your city’s parks and recreation department to see if classes are offered. If you’re already an experienced swimmer and want to participate in coached training sessions, you can find a US Masters Swimming club near you at usms.org.
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If you really want to make your back, pectoral, and triceps muscles burn, try pulling back the string of a bow. A competitive male shooter draws back the equivalent of 35 pounds or more, while female archers work against at least 28 pounds of resistance, says Teresa Iaconi, USA Archery spokesperson and regional coach.
Get started: Determined to hit the bullseye? USA Archery’s Adult Archery Achievement program will teach you proper shooting technique and prepare you for competitions if you choose to pursue the sport. For more information and to find a club near you, click here.
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Rowing a 2,000-meter race—1.25 miles—is equal to playing back-to-back basketball games, according to US Rowing. But physiologically the sport may be more similar to cross-country skiing due to the strength and endurance it requires. The key to maximizing your workout is mastering the stroke.
(Video: Perfect Your Rowing Form)
To start, rowers must be compact with their knees bent and their chests butting against them. They then use their legs to push their bodies back on sliding seats (as if doing a leg press). As their bodies begins to uncoil, they pull their arms towards their chests, pushing the oarblades forward against the resistance of the water. At the midpoint of the stroke, a rower’s upper body will be leaning back and supported by the abdominal muscles. To finish the stroke, rowers push their arms back away from their bodies (feathering the oarblades horizontally over the water) and past their bending knees. Do this vigorously for an hour and you can torch more than 800 calories.
Get started: The easiest way to row is on a stationary ergometer, which you can find at most gyms. Ask a trainer to help you with your form, or watch instructional videos online. To join a team and hit the open water, find a club near you at usrowing.org.
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“Basketball is a start-and-stop sport that develops aerobic and anaerobic fitness,” says Edward J. Ryan III, athletic trainer for USA Basketball Women’s National Team. "The short bursts of sprinting develop the anaerobic system and the repeated nature of the game, requiring sprints up and down the court, work the aerobic system.” Frequently changing direction, shooting, jumping, and squatting to play defense also helps develop muscular strength.
Get started: Sign up to play at your local YMCA or in a rec league. “Playing basketball in pickup games or as a member of a team is most useful since it requires response and reaction offensively and defensively and the intensity is greater in competition” says Ryan. However, you can also just go to the nearest court and practice drills, such as running, jumping, shooting, and rebounding, to build skills on your own.
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