Jacob Ross always has high hopes for the Olympics. The Highland Park-based trainer has been working with Aja Evans, the 25-year-old Chicago native who made her Olympic debut on the U.S. bobsled team in the Sochi Games, for two and a half years.
Evans took bronze this week, so it's clear the work has paid dividends.
Getting to that point physically, however, was no easy feat. While the average gym-goer might hit the treadmill a few times a week, for the elite athletes who compete at an Olympic level, training is a full-time job.
So just how do these competitors get to the top of their game? We talked to Chicago trainers and athletes to find out how to build an Olympic body.
Glutes of a bobsledder
Evans didn't grow up bobsledding, but when Team USA started recruiting college sprinters, the former University of Illinois star and Ross started studying the sport.
"The thing that we always focused on was getting her as fast and as powerful as possible because if we could do that, then it's that much easier to learn the skill," said Ross, who works with Evans at EFT Sports Performance.
That power, in Evans' case, comes from her hamstrings, quads and glutes. As a brakeman, or "pusher," Evans is responsible for giving the sled the fastest start possible before hopping in herself.
A typical workout targets the lower body and might consist of track exercises and plyometric drills that incorporate "explosive" movements such as jumping, several hours a day, five to six days a week.
The hard work has paid off.
"To see my name as 'Aja, the Olympian' or 'the Olympian, Aja Evans,' that's what's exciting," she said. "It was 'future Olympian' or 'Olympic hopeful,' so now that it's 'Olympian,' it has a nice little ring to it."
Arms of a curler
Curling, Tate Tobkin said, is a lot harder than it looks.
"It's a total body workout," the Rogers Park resident said.
While balance on the ice, cardiovascular endurance and leg strength are important in the sport, Tobkin said arms and shoulders get a workout as well, particularly if you're "sweeping"—the position that's responsible for clearing a path and often steering the 44-pound stones to the right place on the ice.
Tobkin, a personal trainer in Winnetka when he's not playing at the Chicago Curling Club in Northbrook, said he prepares for matches with exercises that improve range of motion and balance, which might include using a balance pad, lunges and working on opposing muscle groups.
Core of a hockey player
Ten Blackhawks will compete in Sochi, but as the Olympics fall within NHL season, Hawks strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman said there's little difference in their approach.
To gear up for both Olympic competition and the regular season, players engage in training such as a barbell complex circuit, which takes them through six to eight movements with a barbell and other exercises to strengthen their cores, upper bodies and legs.
"It's playing at such a high level," Goodman said of Olympic preparations. "There's nothing greater for those guys than being able to do that for themselves and for their country."