How to Get the Body of an Olympian

Learn how to get the body fat of a triathlete, the glutes of a volleyball player, and the abs of a gymnast.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #103

How to Get the Body of an Olympian

Recently, I did a 2-part series on my favorite Olympic training secrets. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 for all the details. Hopefully, these tips helped to inspire you and keep you fit as you watched the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

But just because the Olympics are over, does not mean you can’t still learn a few more lessons from these amazing athletes. So in today’s episode, you’re going to learn how to get the body of an Olympian, with the body fat of a triathlete, the butt of a volleyball player, and the abs of a gymnast.

How to Get the Body Fat of a Triathlete

So do you need to actually go out and swim, bike, and run those long distances to get the body fat of a triathlete?

Not necessarily!

If you just want the physical experience of working your upper body, lower body and cardiovascular system in the same way as a triathlete, you can simply do a triathlon-style workout at your gym:

Begin by warming up for 5-10 minutes. I’d recommend beginning with a quick dynamic stretching protocol.

Next, head to the lat pulldown machine, where you’re going to replicate the upper back and arm burn of the triathlon swim. Do 15-20 lat pulldowns with a wide front grip (fingernails facing away from you), then 15-20 lat pulldowns with a more narrow reverse grip (fingernails facing you).

Next, with minimal rest, go to the leg press machine, and do 10 leg presses in a very slow controlled fashion with about 10 seconds forward and 10 seconds back. The slow, controlled motion will create a lactic acid burn in the legs very similar to riding a bicycle very hard.

Finally, grab a jump rope and jump as hard as you can for 2 minutes. If you don’t have a jump rope or don’t like jump roping, then do jumping jacks or step-ups instead.

Your goal is to get through that entire circuit three times, with minimal rest between rounds. If you do this work out just once or twice a week, you’ll burn lots of body fat, and get a nicely defined back, arms, and legs in the process.

You can print out some sample workouts designed just for your body type at getfitguy.com/workout-samples.

How to Get the Butt of a Volleyball Player

It’s hard not to notice the butts of those beach volleyball players at the Olympics. One of the reasons they have such well-formed glutes is because they jump a lot, and the glutes (your butt) are the primary muscle used for jumping. So what kind of exercises can you do to develop a better jumping butt? Here are 3 quick tips:

1. Do Plyos. Plyometrics can include skipping, hopping, bounding, single leg jumps, double leg jumps, and anything which involves you landing on the ground and then reversing direction as quickly as possible. Try starting with one of my favorite plyo exercises: a box jump. Simply step off a box, land, and jump as high as you can. Here’s a video that shows a box jump, along with some of my other favorite plyometric exercises.

2. Extend Your Hips. The action of “hip extension” is the scientific term given to the motion that turns on your glute muscles—and squats, lunges and step-ups are a great place to start. You can read more about these exercises in my episode How to Get a Better Butt.

3. Get Low. Volleyball players spend lots of time in a squat position with their butt pushed out behind them, waiting for the ball to come over the net. You can get the same butt activation with isometric squats, in which you drop into a seated position (as if you were sitting in an imaginary chair), with your knees behind your toes and your butt pushed as far behind you as possible. If you can stay in this position for 60 seconds, you’re well on your way to an Olympian butt!

How to Get the Abs of a Gymnast

Just about every gymnastics move at the Olympics requires extremely strong abs. Some of the most core-demanding apparatus are the pommel horse, the rings, and the parallel bars.

A pommel horse routine involves single leg and double leg swings, scissors, and other intense moves, all performed while supporting the body with the arms. The amount of core strength and skill required for this routine is incredible, but you can build pommel horse-ready abs by beginning with a more simple exercise: lying scissors. Try kicking in and out for 25 repetitions, then rest 30 seconds, and repeat for 3-5 sets.

Rings are suspended on cables from the ceiling, and the gymnast perform flips and balances on them, while preventing the rings from swinging. This requires extremely well-balanced shoulder muscles, combined with lower abdominal strength. A hanging leg raise is a great exercise to simulate the strain of the rings. If you’re just getting started, try a single hanging leg raise (in which you raise one leg instead of two), or if your legs and abs need more a challenge, try a double. Be sure not to let your shoulders “slouch” as you do this exercise. If you can do 10 controlled hanging double leg raises, you’re well on your way to trying out the rings.

For the parallel bars, the gymnast must suspend himself with his hands slightly farther than a shoulder's width apart on each bar, and then execute a series of swings, balances, and releases that also require large amounts of shoulder and core strength. To get a feel for the kind of ab and arm burn a gymnast will experience during this routine, try performing as many body weight dips as you can in 60 seconds, getting your elbows down to a 90 degree angle with each dip and keeping your pelvis muscles as tight as possible so that your core stays activated. If you can get to 15, you’re off to a great start!

These are just a few ways that you can develop an impressive Olympian body. And for even more body transformation tips, check out my new book Get-Fit Guy’s Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body for the ultimate resource to get your dream body fast!

If you have more questions about how to get the body of an Olympian, then join the conversation at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy

Triathlete, Volleyball Players and Gymnast images from Shutterstock

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.