Circuits should form the bedrock of winter strength training. Olympic finalist Eilish McColgan explains why and takes you through some exercises
For most athletes, winter training should bring an increase in volume – not just in terms of mileage but with regards to additional training loads in the form of strength sessions. There’s no better place to increase general stability and strength than with a good circuit regime.
The circuits we’ll be outlining, with exercises demonstrated by the 800m specialist Michael Rimmer, provide the perfect stepping stone toward a more demanding weights programme.
There are a variety of moves and equipment, including some Bosu and medicine ball exercises as well as movements using a pulley system weights machine at a gym. If you don’t have one of these, you can improvise with exercises using a suspension training device.
Check out the videos below and then read on for further explanation.
What is a Bosu?
The Bosu is a dome-shaped piece of balance training equipment consisting of an inflated rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform.
It looks like a stability ball cut in half and requires your core abdominal muscles to work hard in order to stay upright. It’s a really useful item of equipment and you can buy one from argos.co.uk (£105.99).
How many repetitions?
Try a five-station circuit, cutting and changing things to fit within your needs. Ideally you should include one upper body, one core and one lower body exercise within each section. The exercises are to be done in quick succession (no breather) with 10-12 reps each (5-6 reps on each side for single leg exercises).
Place the Bosu’s rounded side on the floor. Carefully place one foot on to the flat surface and, when balanced, stand on top of the platform with your feet shoulder width apart.
Squat down, ensuring that you don’t let your knees go over your toes. Focus on sitting backwards, putting weight evenly through your feet and heels. As you come back up, emphasise thrusting your pelvis forward and engaging your glutes. You’ll need to really engage your abdominals for stability.
Single leg runner (with kettlebell)
Keeping the Bosu in the same position, hold a kettlebell in your right hand and place your left foot on to the middle of the flat platform. Bend your left knee slightly and reach down until you can feel a slight stretch on your hamstring.
At the same time, lean forward from the hips to raise the kettlebell slightly. Be sure to keep the same degree of flexion in your knee throughout the move – don’t force it upwards or downwards.
Sit back into the exercise, working the gluteal muscles and allowing your ‘free’ right leg to rise off the ground as needed.
Once you have a stretch on the hamstring, drive the right leg through into a running position (the higher the knee, the better), bringing the kettlebell up and above your head, with a fully extended arm.
Keep your chest up and core engaged. Return to the start position and repeat the set number of reps on one side before switching.
Bosu push up
With the rounded side of the Bosu on the floor, lay both palms flat on its outer edges with arms fully extended and legs outstretched behind you.
Flex your elbows and bring your body down until your chest touches the flat surface, ensuring your core is continually engaged and your entire body moves as one ‘plank’.
Keep your bottom tucked in and then push your body back up to the original starting position.
Place the Bosu on the floor, flat side down. Standing with the Bosu directly in front you, hold a medicine ball high above your head and lunge forward with one leg onto the middle of the dome surface, engaging your core on impact and sinking deep into a lunge.
Pause at the bottom for 1-2 seconds and then with a diagonal, downwards movement (a woodchopper move) bring the medicine ball down over your front leg and consciously tighten your core muscles. Keep your shoulders forward and as square to the front as possible. The majority of the movement should come from your arms. Keep looking forward throughout the exercise.
Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder width apart with a medicine ball held high directly over your head. In this position, with both hands bring the ball down diagonally to one foot, touch the ball on your toes gently and then immediately begin to bring the ball back up.
As you come back up, the foot you just touched the ball with comes up also and you should finish standing on the one leg in a running position with the medicine ball high above your head, held in both hands.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and the medicine ball held high above your head. Slam the ball hard into the ground.
The first movement should come from your core rather than your arms. Remember to bend your knees slightly as one smooth movement with the rest of your upper body.
STABILITY BALL MOVES
Lie on your back with your right heel on the stability ball. Raise your left leg straight up in the air. Drive your body upwards by pressing hard into the ball and puling your heel towards your bottom – in other words you are rolling the ball towards you using the power of your hamstrings. Roll back out to the start position and repeat.
Press up into runners
Start in a press up position with your shins on the stability ball. Perform a press up, ensuring your body moves as one plank. After returning to the starting position, bring one knee to your chest while keeping your core muscles engaged. Repeat, alternating your knees throughout the move.
Lie with your right hip on the stability ball and with your feet lodged into a wall for stability. Engage your core abdominal muscles and crunch up toward the ceiling. Repeat on the other side.
Stand in a lunge position, with your right knee outside and furthest away from the machine. Make sure you are holding the handle diagonally above your head, away from the knee. Engage your core, then pull the handle diagonally down towards your right knee.
Follow the motion, twisting and rotating your upper body and core until your end position is slightly across the front knee. Ensure your chest is up and forward throughout – the movement should be initiated from the core, not the arms.
Stand with your arms fully extended holding the handle. Pull the cable handle towards your face, engaging your back muscles. Hold for one second and then return to the starting position.
Balance on your right leg with the cable in your left hand. Start reaching forward with the left leg stretched out behind you. Rise up to a strong, perfect running position pulling the cable at the same time. As you pull, twist and rotate over the knee.