Swimming Canada trainer and manager of paramedical services Johnny Fuller lets us in on the exercises that keep Canadian record-holder Penny Oleksiak strong.
After years of working with swimmers on the Canadian Senior National Teams, I’ve seen more cases of lower-back dysfunction than anything else. In many of these cases, the root cause is the same: muscle weakness through the lower body posterior chain, but more specifically, glute and hamstring insufficiency.
Working on glute and hamstring strengthening will significantly improve this common anterior/posterior chain imbalance and reduce the risk of training injuries.
The good news: glutes and hamstrings are easy to activate and are keen to work. The human body prefers to be balanced and aligned. It is far more efficient, and generally less stressed, when it’s enjoying a sense of equilibrium. As such, some simple exercises, employed correctly and consistently around your current training program, can ‘switch on’ these muscle groups and encourage them to begin working for—rather than against—your body.
Here are four simple exercise to build glute and hamstring strength. I generally integrate these four particular exercises to Penny’s pre-pool or pre-gym routine.
Banded Squats – 5 reps x 3 rounds
With a resistance band placed just under the knees, perform a slow, deep bodyweight squat. Focus on maintaining outward pressure on the band throughout the entire movement, particularly in the final 20% of your downward motion and the first 25% of your upward motion.
Banded Lateral Walks – 30 seconds x 3 rounds
Place a resistance band just under the knees and stand upright with a wide stance and slight knee bend. Then move laterally for 15 seconds and reverse direction for a further 15 seconds. Focus on maintaining a wide stance (taking micro-side steps) and outward pressure on the band throughout this lateral movement.
Glute Medius Activation – 3 reps x 3 rounds
Lie down in prone position with a mini resistance band placed around ankles. Raise one leg off the ground, externally rotate this leg (turn foot outwards) and then abduct the leg (move leg outwards). Repeat with opposite limb. Focus on achieving the maximum available range for each stage of movement (hip extension, external rotation, and abduction).
Proprioceptive Bridge Raise – 5 reps x 3 rounds
Lie down in supine position and slowly place your active leg on a medicine ball. Place direct downwards pressure onto the med ball and slowly raise hips until a linear body position is achieved. Once you’re stable, slowly return hips to rest position. Focus on maintaining direct downwards pressure on med ball and a slow pace.