To be a great luger, you need speed and power and, for that, you need a very strong core. Most people think we do a lot of our training on the ice track but that’s not always possible. Sometimes, we only get a few minutes a day on the track so we have to use other areas of our training to develop these skills. Cross-training is fantastic – it’s a lot of fun and you can do it anywhere - but we also do a lot of weightlifting and core strength training in the gym, along with ice drills in the ice-hockey arenas.
Some of the best gym exercises to develop a strong core, speed and power are…
1. CORE STRENGTH TRAINING
This makes a massive difference. It enhances athletic technique, sculpture and affects the health of your whole body, not to mention its ability to prevent (and recover from) injury. I’ve always done a lot of core work but since my back injury, I’ve done a lot more and have really noticed the difference. The stronger my core became, the better I became at almost every other exercise I did. I could lift more weight, I was faster in other sports…
EXERCISES: Pull-ups are fantastic for developing both core and upper body strength. That’s very important for our ‘start’ on the sled so we do a lot of pull-ups in many different variations. Traditional pull-ups; weighted pull ups with Swiss balls, medicine balls or weight belts; pull-ups on gymnastics rings; pull ups on thick rotating trapeze bar; commando pull-ups, L-sit pull-ups; rope pull-ups… the list is endless.
Pilates develops strength, flexibility, core stability, coordination, posture, body awareness and positioning and more. Small variations in weight-bearing movements can completely affect how your body holds itself – and even if it holds itself at all! It’s very similar to what happens on the sled. We use small variations in our body weight and positioning to alter the speed, manoeuvre corners, off-set and re-set balance on the sled according to minute ridges and bumps on the ice, which, although small, if not judged properly, can send you soaring up the icy walls and into the sky.
Complimenting core strength training with Pilates can dramatically improve your luge technique. It’s helped to align my whole body… bones, posture, muscles… and ensures that my core remains extremely strong.
3. SHAKE IT UP
Avoid doing specific exercises for a long time. As you become more proficient at an exercise, it stops challenging your body. You might think ‘Oh great, this is easy’ but what that means is that you’re not developing. Keep them for a while to ensure to master them but remember: your body is continually evolving so your workout should too. If you like an exercise, you can always use a variation or bring it back later.
AND IN THE ICE-HOCKEY ARENA…
4. HAND SPIKE RACES
It sounds strange but training in the hockey arenas can really help. We used to do a lot of ice arena drills but trust me they aren’t for the faint-hearted.
THE DRILL: You’ll need special gloves with hundreds of tiny spikes/needles all over them. Take your sled and equipment to the rink. Wearing the gloves, lie on your sled and paddle across the ice using your hands to generate the entire motion. It’s similar to how other athletes perform sprinting drills back and forth in the gym. We do exactly the same thing, except with our fingers and arms across the ice arena. It’s just as hard as doing sprints back and forth but we only use our upper body.
(P.S. I’m not going to lie. This drill is so horrible and so cold – the hardest workout we ever did - but it really works so, if you’re brave (and crazy!) enough, I definitely recommend it. The more you do it, the easier it will become. I remember, we’d leave training and our fingers would be frozen from being on the ice for so long; we were exhausted. One time, after showering, my fingers were so sore that I couldn’t even tie my hair in a ponytail. I was trying to but my fingers wouldn’t work properly to take the elastic off of my hand to put my hair up. My teammate had to do it because I couldn’t even lift my arms above my head; they were so tired and my fingers weren’t even working anymore. Thinking about it now, it was pretty comical, thinking ‘Right, I think I pushed it to the end here’ but I’m sure people used to look at us and think ‘What are these people doing in here?!’)