Action sports are the adrenaline-soaked way to get fit and find your flow, but the unique demands they place on your body require a tailored approach to conditioning.
Specialist strength and conditioning coach Darren Roberts is responsible for training some of the UK’s top Red Bull extreme sports athletes (including Team GB boulderer Shauna Coxsey) at his Graystone Action Sports facility.
As he tells MF, “You wouldn’t connect action sports with the levels of strength or fitness similar to that of a rugby player, but that’s often the case. The forces that the athletes endure are significant, and the body needs to be able to accommodate those – especially if something goes wrong.”
Together with strength, mobility and movement matter for action sports. It’s no good having off-the-chart strength, or being hyper-flexible, if you then lack either the mobility or the power to use it.
“In action sports you often find yourself in a position you don’t expect, so having the control to get yourself out of that position is key,” says Roberts, who has had to rehab extreme sport athletes back from some horrific crashes.
“I look at mobility as the range of motion you have available that you can actually use,” he says. “Of course some people are super flexible, and that looks great, but there’s no point to it if you can’t use it. Being able to use your body with purpose, through the full range of motion available, is a key building block to performance.”
With that in mind, the following eight-move workout will build the total-body strength, mobility and body control you need to excel in your chosen sport.
The Action Sports Conditioning Workout
1a. Bosu Ball Single-Leg Squat
Reps: 10, 15, 20, 15, 10
Rest: Straight into 1b
- Turn a bosu ball upside down, so the flat side is facing up.
- Stand on the ball on one leg, with the other leg hanging off the side.
- Raise the heel of your trailing foot, brace your core and slowly hinge at the hip to lower your standing leg into a single-leg squat.
- Keep the movement slow and steady to maintain your balance.
- Once you reach as far into the squat as you can go, drive through the heel of your standing leg to return to standing.
1b. Straight-Arm Plank
Reps: 60 secs
Rest: 60 secs, then return to 1a
- This is essentially the ‘top’ of the press-up position.
- Make sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulders, your back is flat and your core is tight.
- Hold for 60 secs.
2a. Weighted Split Squat
Rest: Straight into 2b
- Stand holding a dumbbell, kettlebell or weight plate in both hands.
- With your torso upright, your core braced and your hips straight, step forward with one foot to assume a split stance.
- Your leading foot should be at least 50cm in front of your back foot.
- Lower until your front thigh is horizontal, keeping your knee in line with your foot. Don’t let your front knee travel beyond your toes.
- Push through your front foot to return to the start.
2b. Swiss Ball Core Punch
Rest: 60 secs, then return to 2a
- Assume a plank position on a Swiss ball, with forearms on the ball.
- From here, keep core tight and back flat, then roll your forearms up the ball to ‘punch’ it away from you – this should really light up your abs.
- Roll the ball back to the starting position and repeat.
Reps: 10, 15, 20, 15, 10
Rest: Straight into 3b
- Position your hands underneath your chest – in the press-up position, you should be able to draw a straight line from your nipple to your thumbnail.
- Your body should form a straight line from the top of your head to your heels – think straight-arm plank, with an extra movement.
- Stay ‘tight’ throughout: clench your glutes and tighten your abs, as if you’re about to take a punch to the stomach.
- ‘Screw’ the heels of your hands into the floor. Doing so will stabilise your shoulder joints and give you more strength for each rep.
3b. Swiss Ball Stir the Pot
Rest: 60 secs, then return to 3a
- Assume the same starting position as for the Swiss ball core punch.
- Roll your forearms up the ball again, but instead of reversing the movement straight away, move your arms in a clockwise direction (as if stirring a big pot) for one complete circle.
- That’s one rep.
- Now ‘stir the pot’ in an anti-clockwise direction.
4a. Inverted Row
Rest: Straight into 4b
- Position yourself under a racked barbell.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip and extend your legs out straight – your upper chest should be positioned under the bar.
- From here, squeeze your lats to ‘row’ your torso up to the bar.
- Lower with control, then repeat.
- Keep your body in a neutral alignment when rowing and lowering. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades when lifting, and lower yourself under control.
4b. Swiss Ball Alternate Leg Raise
Rest: 60 secs, then return to 4a
- Adopt a press-up position with your hands on a Swiss ball.
- Now raise one leg behind you, opening up your hip.
- Try to avoid any trunk rotation as you slowly lift, then lower your leg.
- Repeat on the other leg – that’s one rep.
Words: Matt Ray