Sports heroes come in all shapes and sizes, but we're willing to guarantee your local bobsleigh team doesn't spring to mind when rattling off your top fitness inspirations. Well, perhaps they should. Bobsleigh athletes are absolute weapons, and the upcoming winter months could provide the perfect opportunity for you to build some summer muscle by getting involved.
As it turns out, the demands of the sport and it's training are incredible for muscle building, explosive power, and muscular endurance. Besides, it looks like one helluva ride!
For those unfamiliar with the sport, a team of bobsleddists (ok... we made up that term) push the bobsleigh in a sprint across the ice, gaining speed before they hurl their bodies into the speeding sled. “Once the crew is loaded, the pilot steers the sled through twisting, high speed turns and straightaways where top speeds can reach over 130km/h,” states the official AOC sport description. “The success of a team hinges on the initial pushing phase.”
Still in doubt over the power of the sled? Look no further than Steve Langton, of Team USA, a clear demonstration of exactly how athletic participants need to be in order to medal in their sport. The explosive nature of the ‘launch’ phase means a lot of strength and power training, and the functional benefits that follow are extreme.
“Bobsledding is all about lower-body power,” says Langton when talking to Men's Health.
“In college I did track and ran the 100-meter dash. But at 6-foot-2, 100kg, I was just too big to be seriously competitive.” It was at this point that Langdon seemingly wanted to boost his athletic career, identifying bobsleigh as a route towards international competition. “I basically walked on to the U.S. team,” he says. Turns out he was the perfect size to push a 200kg bobsled.
The specific nature of the sport, and the level that he was competing, meant Langton had to drastically alter his training.
“I was focused on my upper body,” says Langton. “That wasn’t helping me push a sled down a sheet of ice.” In a move that may have also furthered his sprinting career, Langton swapped upper body workouts for lower body, explosive strength movements. Nowadays, his program consists largely of squats, cleans, and plyometric jumps.
“I stayed the same weight, but as my muscle mass moved to my lower body, I saw my performance improve,” he adds.
“The key to building the type of lower body explosive power that can jump 70 inches and win championships comes from training strength, power, and jumping efficiency,” says Jason Hartman, trainer for the U.S. Bobsled team.
Take inspiration from one of the USA's fittest units, and hit the below lower-body movements to carve some serious Lagnton-inspired muscle over the winter period. There's surprisingly little sled work in there!
Based on his posts, it seems that Langton finds his power in sets of 3 reps at around the 220kg mark. When he wants to add ‘volume’, he hits sets of 8 reps at around 190kg.
For the mere mortal, we recommend starting at body weight for a set of 8 squats, focussing on form.
Langton completes sets of 3 reps at 150kg. We recommended working towards a heavy 1RM, and then aiming for 3 reps at 80 per cent of that weight.
Squat Jumps / Box Jumps
While Langton can jump to head height with ease, we recommend pulling back on these plyometric exercises. Try a set of 10 box jumps up to a 24 inch high box, stepping down between reps. Repeat for 5 sets, with only 60 seconds rest between each set.
For conditioning, Langdon turns to cycling and track sprints. Incorporate some sprint intervals with your strength building movements to add conditioning into your session.