Olympic medalists Mike Day and Jill Kintner’s favorite workouts:
With his personal trainer Greg Romero
When I was training and preparing Mike and Jill together for the 12 months leading up to the games, we just had fun every day. Either way, my goal with their training was to keep it interesting and make them feel good about it. This month I am going to mention some protocols that both Jill and Mike liked and that led them to win medals at the Olympics!
I will play one off the bike and one on the bike training protocol for each athlete!
Jill Kintner off-bike exercises: dynamic warm-up.
If any of you have had a chance to see Jill at a race, you may have seen her in the parking lot doing a lot of fun calisthenics near the pits or rental car. What she’s doing is what we like to call a dynamic warm-up. First of all, she will need some normal sports shoes. The first thing we like to do is open up our hips, so we start with a knee walk to her chest. You step forward and with both hands grab below the knee and bring it to your chest and then immediately repeat on the next step.
This opens up the hip extensors and lower back. The forward lunge is the next exercise that targets the antagonist muscles of the hip. This time it’s the hip flexors. Simply take a good step (about 5 shoe lengths in front of you) and while keeping your upper torso vertically straight, bend your back knee and follow with your front knee, doing this move slowly. This is a good dynamic hip flexor stretch that will allow you to pedal efficiently! Jill says, “If I can only do 2 warm-ups, I’d focus on my hip muscles so I can ride uninhibited.”
Mike Day off the bike exercises: plyometric exercises
Let’s face it, BMX is power and if you can pick one exercise that can affect all components of power then it would be plyometrics. Plyometric exercises basically consist of jumping on your feet using only your body weight. The best exercises for children are simply jumping rope or skipping and jumping. This is perfectly fine and safe and they do this kind of thing all day during recess at school. As long as they don’t jump off 4-foot boxes or ladders, their joints and tendons will be fine. They can start by jumping rope 10 to 20 quick jumps first. Mike’s favorite is jumping rope because it warms him up, hitting the ankle joints, knee joints, and warming up the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Then once he’s ready, he likes to move on to Jump Squats.
Simply place both feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your upper torso vertically straight, push your hips back followed by a bend in your knees, lower yourself to about 45 degrees, and simply counter with an explosive jump as high as you can. . The key is to take off on the balls of your feet and land on the balls of your feet with a slight bend in your knees and hips. You can do this one at a time or quickly. Mike likes to do them one at a time, reset and focus on height. Mike says, “I’ll do 3 sets of 20 jump rope jumps and then 3 sets of 5 squat jumps and then I’ll be ready to hit the gym or ride my bike.”
Jill Kintner on the bike: Stand Start, easy sprints with equipment.
In the last 5 years while racing mountain bikes, Jill has never worked on explosive sprint power from a standstill. In BMX she realized that it was necessary to give yourself a chance on the first straight in order to have a chance of winning a medal. Her favorite sprint session was doing easy walk sprints with a standing start. I designed this drill with an emphasis on programming pure sprint acceleration from the gate. We used flat pedals so she was 100% focused on the downstroke and used a soft gear so she was forced to accelerate fast. “I love them so much that I installed a dedicated flat-pedal easy-shifter bike at the Olympics that I would use as a warm-up between qualifying rounds,” says Jill.
What you do is drop 1 or 2 teeth easier than race gearing and change the pedals to flats. In an open flat parking lot with no cars, grab 2 cones, one for the starting point and one for the need point. You can mark the distance by putting one down and then pedaling from the start cone to the finish cone. Jill liked to do this with about 7 full cranks. How to do the sprint: Standing in the gate start position with cranks level, approach the start cone slowly, then explode keeping the front wheel down and straight.
Be sure to minimize flexion at the hips and try to stay upright, concentrating on the extension of each pedal stroke through your feet. “It’s not hard training, it’s quality training, and I love it because when I get on the court I feel explosive from the start,” says Jill. Do 1 set of 8-10 efforts and rest 3-4 minutes between them to recover the ATP energy system. This speed training is about neurological programming, not muscle breakdown. In fact, we hardly ever do any training that has an emphasis on muscle breakdown because BMX is all about quality power.
Mike Day on the bike: full laps.
If you don’t have gas to go around a full lap without getting tired, then you’re not specifically suited to BMX. “There seems to be an impression that you need a lot of endurance work on a road bike to be fit for BMX, and I haven’t touched a road bike all year, I do full laps,” says Mike. I say why not? It’s very specific, you get the dynamic power component of the jump and the lactic build up towards the end. This is the perfect training protocol for those struggling to make it to the finish line.
The key to this exercise is to keep the intensity just below “full.” What makes this workout work is that you are training your ability to repeat motos to your full physical capacity. “Greg always talks about how repeatability is the limiting factor to a good day of racing,” Mike laughs, “At first I hated them, but then I started to see my races get better towards the finals and at the Olympics, I never I felt better.” says the silver medalist. The key is intensity, rest between efforts and how many. Mike likes to go out and do 5 full laps at 90% intensity with 10 minutes rest in between. For children under 16, I would recommend a shorter rest interval of 6-8 minutes, as they do not produce lactate acid like older people.