Marta Montenegro: Get the Best From the Athlete’s Physique

Who doesn’t want the abs of a mixed martial art athlete and perhaps the legs of a biker? The standout physiques of elite athletes are hard to ignore. However, you too can develop certain attributes of these athletes by doing the moves that they do.

Specificity is one of the most important principles to incorporate in all training programs. Basically, the term refers to a specific way of training to produce specific results.  So, if your goal is to get stronger or leaner legs, you must do squats, deadlifts and lunges and other moves that target these muscles in particular.

Jeff Plasschaert, MS, CSCS, USAT & USA Coach, explains that “each sport has physiological demands (aerobic vs. anaerobic, strength vs. endurance, speed vs. power) so training is completely different.”

Unfortunately, the body is not quite good at transferring the training effects of a specific program of sports to another. For example, Lance Armstrong, who is beyond amazing in fitness level, did not achieve the same level of results in the New York Marathon as he did winning seven Tour de France yellow jerseys.

Get the best from the athlete’s physique

Let’s look at various strength routines that focus on the specific moves that work on the best body features that the most popular sports tackle.

“If you were just looking at exercises that an athlete does in their respective sports and incorporating them into one workout you could do a variation of a circuit program,” Plasschaert points out.

He suggests this athlete-mimicking routine be completed as three rounds of each exercise. “Time works best when doing interval work, because you can control the work-to-rest ratio better than using reps. I recommend setting a timer to one minute and 20 seconds. Start the exercise when the timer gets to one minute, and stop when it beeps. You then get a 20 second rest period. Start again when the timer reaches the one min mark,” explains Plasschaert.

While this workout won’t make you swim faster than Michael Phelps or sprint as quickly as Carmelita Jeter, you may earn his toned back or her amazing body definition.

1.     The back of a swimmer

Move: Supine dumbbell lateral pullovers on a bench

Do it: Lie on your back on a bench with a dumbbells held at arms length above your chest with a neutral grip (palms facing each other). Lower the weight behind your head under control with your arms slightly bent feeling the stretch in your back. At the end of your range of motion, raise the weights back up above your chest.

2.     The legs of a biker

Move: Single leg squat

Do it: Optimally, you will develop the balance to do this move without holding onto anything, but you can use a TRX device or a Smith machine to help balance yourself. With one foot planted and the other pointing forward (heel facing the wall ahead of your body) sit back and lower your body into a deep squat. Raise up under control. This is a difficult move, but its rewards are great.

Variation (shown): Do a split squat from the lunge position.

3.     The upper body of a gymnast

Move: Body weight pull-ups holding onto towels

Do it: Use two small towels and loop them around the pull-up bar. This works the grip very well, so focus on good form and grasping the two loose of the towels with strength. Perform a pull-up, keeping your body under control.

Variation: If this move is too challenging, you can lessen the load by doing an inclide row using a Smith machine. The set up is the same, loop two towels around the bar, but set the bar on the Smith machine at a height that allows you to pull your chest to the bar with enough challenge to complete multiple reps.

4.      The abs of a mixed martial arts

Move: Seated ball rotations with a chest pass to a partner

Do it: Using a medicine ball, hold the ball out in front of your body. Rotate to the side and back to center. Bring the ball to your chest then push the ball back out and rotate to the opposite side.

5.     The leanness and definition of a sprinter

Move: Split jump squats

Do it:  Go into a lunge position and explode up into a jump. Land softly and go into the next rep, paying attention to your form.

6.     The muscle mass of a defensive lineman (Women, don’t be afraid to try this. We lack of the hormones to build an overly large body mass naturally. You’ll benefit because this exercise will maximize the caloric burn.)

Move: Bermuda Triangles

Do it:  Use three 45-pound plates (or less according to your fitness level) encased in pillow cases to slide along the floor. Place them in a triangle formation. Put your hands on the two bottom plates and push them across floor (20-30 yards) pushing the third plate with the two bottom plates. Change directions and repeat six times, using your legs to push.

Time for only two moves?

If you have to select just two moves that give you the most, chances are that any strength and conditioning coach would say use push-ups for the upper body and squats for the lower body.

For Jack Barnathan, founder of NY Strength Peak Performance Consulting, the push-up, when properly executed, is one of the most effective upper body movements.

“I consider the scapula the ‘pelvis’ of the upper body, and the push-up engages a significant number of muscles while strengthening the stability of the shoulder/scapula girdle for activities,” says Barnathan.

He adds that technique is the way we demonstrate respect for specificity, and with the push-up, “it should only go as low as 90 degrees for optimum form and least stress to the supraspinatus/rotator cuff.”

As per the lower body, the squat is the king. “It engages the largest, most ‘metabolic’ muscles in the body. It enhances pelvic (lower body) stabilization.  It engages ‘control,’ which in my mind is ‘true’ stability training, especially in the eccentric motion. It is functional and mimics an action we need do every day,” says Barnathan.

Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.

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