Training for multiple sports

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When competing across multiple sporting disciplines, careful consideration is required to design an effective exercise programme.

Shannon O’Donnell, a University of Waikato Hillary Scholar for both barefoot water skiing and netball, shares how she uses exercise to help excel on both the water and the court.

Currently studying towards her PhD, which involves working with the Waikato/BOP Magic netball team as their performance analyst, the focus of Shannon’s research is sports physiology, sleep and hormones.

Shannon is also a Hillary Scholar for barefoot water skiing and netball. A member of the New Zealand Barefoot Water Skiing team, she has represented New Zealand at the World Championships (2010), winning a bronze medal. Shannon also plays for the New World Rototuna Suburbs Premier netball team.

What are the most important physical requirements for your sports?
There’s quite a lot of cross-over between barefoot water skiing and netball – both require a great deal of core strength and stability. Therefore, my gym routine consists of a mix of upper and lower body strength sessions which engage the core and require balance.
I also have to be conscious of injuries (which are common place among water skiers). Knee and shoulder injuries are particularly prominent, so it’s important to include stability exercises which help to strengthen these areas in order to minimise the risk of injury and compliment my water-based skill training.

From your experience with strength and conditioning, which specific exercises have been most useful for your sports?
I would say single leg squats because they incorporate each of the important physical requirements – strength, balance and stability via the core – and are a movement which translate well to the netball court (single leg take-off and landing) and to specific events on the water (such as the jump event). I also like cable wood chops as they strengthen the core using a movement which is similar to that used within some of the skills on the water. Finally, dumbbell chest press using a Swiss ball is another favourite for increasing upper body strength while requiring a great deal of balance to make sure you don’t fall over.

To try these exercises, follow the instructions below. Remember to always warm-up thoroughly prior to strength training and always ask a gym instructor or personal trainer for advice if you’re unsure about technique.

1. Single Leg Squats – Standing in front of a bench on one leg, engage your core and planted leg muscles whilst squeezing your glutes. Slowly lower your hips to the bench, maintaining alignment of the knee over the second toe (keeping the trunk upright and your hips square).

2. Cable Wood Chop – Begin standing to the side of the cable machine with your feet apart as pictured. Engage the core and move the cable across the body to the opposite knee in a squat movement whilst the upper body rotates. Return to the start position, ensuring you maintain complete control of the cable.

3. Chest Press (Swiss ball) – Begin by sitting on the Swiss ball with your chosen dumbbells. Slowly walk out and lay on the Swiss ball ensuring that your upper back and neck are on the ball (your neck should be flat and supported). Engage the core and glutes, lift the hips and press the dumbbells above your chest straightening the elbows. Slowly return to the start position keeping your elbows at 90 degrees (keeping the dumbbells above your elbows in the start position).

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