Wednesday, March 14, 2012

An Inside Look at the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Training Camp

By Chris Herrera

Last weekend, Bow Down Training and US Sailing held a four-day training camp at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. This camp was held for the 2012 US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics and US Developmental Team. Below are some questions and answers that will help give you a perspective on what our teams do to get better both physically and mentally to prepare for elite international competition, including the Olympics.

What was the purpose of this training camp?

Our training camp has a variety of goals. We focus on fitness levels, both testing and improvement. We also work on developing and improving the athlete’s ability to enhance and develop their mindset and focus in order to keep pushing their limits. Our four-day program is comprised of:

General Testing - muscular endurance measures, power measures, and core measures. Visit last week’s blog entry for specific exercise details.

Boat Specific Tests - a variety of resistance, agility, and endurance tests that mimic boat specific techniques and qualities.
  • Exercise Sessions 
    • Muscular endurance sessions - high reps, complimentary muscles and low rest
    • Muscular strength sessions - low reps, high weight and moderate rest
    • Cadio interval sessions - combining a variety of cardio modalities such as treadmill, slide board, spin bike, Jacobs ladder and rowing machines
    • Escalating density sessions - alternating 2 to 3 exercises for 15 minutes until exhaustion
    • Scenarios - sessions focused on training overseas, when a gym is not available
  • Classroom Sessions 
    • Nutritional lectures with Bob Seebohar, US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Sports Nutritionalist
    • Developing periodized workouts with the goal of peaking physically as sailors approach competition.
    • The mindset of an athlete
  • Team Building Programs
Why are fitness tests so important?

Fitness tests are important to develop a baseline for each athlete along with measuring improvement over time. When testing is done consistently both the coach and the athlete are able to track improvement and continue to progress their fitness routine based on this improvement.

How do you determine measurers for success when testing the sailors’ fitness level?

We believe that our job is to make the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics the fittest team in the world. So we take the fittest, strongest, and most determined athletes in the country and base our gold-standard level on that. We consistently raise that bar and challenge our athletes every year.

How do you choose what exercises these sailors do during training? What is the connection between these specific exercises and how they are targeted to improve their physical abilities in the boat they sail.

Our exercise sessions described above are designed in a “Pyramid Format”. Every camp we start at the “Base” of the pyramid and work on fundamentals. Exercises focusing on developing and strengthening the base of an athlete:

•    Lower Body - squats and deadlifts
•    Upper Body - pulling movements: chin ups, lat pull downs, and seated row
•    Power Exercises - Olympic lifts, land mines, and medicine ball slams
•    Core Exercises - variety of crunches, planks, bridges, and suspension drills

After the base we work on boat specific movements or strengths. We will divide the athletes into groups based on their boats and work on muscle groups that directly affect their performance. An example could be exercise sessions that focus on quadriceps, hip flexors, abdominals and lower back muscles to develop hiking strength.

Finally, at the top of the pyramid we focus some time on improving specific weaknesses of individual athletes. We will break down muscle groups or movements that athletes need to improve and develop specific exercise blocks to teach and develop within that athlete.

I hope you were able to utilize some of the exercise tests detailed in last week’s entry to see where you stand with your fitness. If you haven’t yet, do so before the next blog… I will be giving you some of the top scores from the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics so you are able to compare your fitness levels with some of the best in the world!

Photos by Will Ricketson / US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics