Article by Eliza Cracknell at body+soul. Visit their website for the full article and video demonstration by Jess Fox!
The Swiss ball workout that’s made Jess Fox the best paddler in history
It focuses on stability, core strength and mobility. Translation: hello abs.
Australian canoeist Jessica Fox made history recently, becoming the most successful individual athlete in canoe slalom of all time. Which, I think, we can all agree is no mean feat. And while the 24-year-old has more than proved she can paddle, it’s her off-water training that contributes just as much to her success.
Just before this year’s World Championships (which she won both the C1 and K1 events, bringing her to a total of seven individual world titles and one team one), the Olympian headed to a training session with Nam Baldwin, a performance coach specialising in breath-enhancement training (he’s worked with the likes of Mick Fanning, Steph Gilmore and Pat Rafter).
Baldwin takes a mind over matter approach to training, explaining his workouts focus on “activities that require balance, power, speed” and the idea is to “stay calm under that experience” and challenge “the mental side while under duress”.
For Fox this was exactly what she need to help her up her game. “I’m the sort of person that when I get emotional I just need to do, get back into it and keep going,” she explains. “If I stuff up a move on the course in training, I will do it until I get it – I need to get it. Like Nam said, it’s a work in progress and it’s been so good. And to break mentally, it’s always a win.”
So what can the average punter take away from this type of training? “The really important thing is when we train, you need to look at training the body and the mind collectively,” says Baldwin. “Everyone can have access to a personal trainer and get really fit and healthy in that space, but what really runs the show is in the human is the mind. And you need to ask yourself, are we training that. Anyone can do that, anyone who trains can do an activity that’s mentally challenging whilst doing something physical. That’s going to improve their mind strength as well as their body, and you get those two things coming together, you’ve got a really good formula.”
Click here to see a video of one of Jess’s gruelling training sessions. Not only does this workout keep your mind strong, it will give you pretty impressive abs as a side effect. So find yourself a swiss ball and get balancing…
Exercise 1: kayaking on the ball
- Simulating a kayak movement, sitting on the swiss ball, feet on a medicine ball and then with a broomstick, strokes on each side, making sure to keep you body really stable so it’s only your arms moving
- If it’s too hard, try it with one foot down, or both feet on the ground. If it’s too easy, lift a leg or both legs up – just find where your limit it. Go for 30-60 seconds at a time, trying to improve it each time
Exercise 2: kneeling on the swiss ball
- We do a bit of canoe in the kneeling position, so for this one it’s kneeling on the swiss ball and using the broomstick to open up your shoulders. Holding the broomstick with a wide grip, just rotate your shoulders around, so it stretches through (but know your limits and don’t push too far).
- Another one while you’re on there is to practice your edges – which just means rolling the ball under your knees slightly to test your core stabilizing muscles
Exercise 3: kneeling on the swiss ball, using a resistance band for a shoulder exercise
- Now we’re going to do a bit with the elastics, getting our muscles warmed up
- You can do this kneeling, sitting or with your feet on the ground if it’s more stable. I incorporate them in my gym warm ups or before I get on the water
- I generally do 10 of each rep: 10 x arm at 90 degrees rotating the shoulder back and forth, 10 tricep extensions, 10 pulling backwards and 10 full range of motion up and down
Exercise 4: med ball slams while kneeling on the swiss ball
- This exercise really targets explosive power and core stability. I really need that in my sport, I’m going down the rapids, I need very explosive strokes, in the water to be very efficient
- Adding the swiss ball makes it that little bit harder to stay stable and slam at the same time
- Try for 8-10 slams, and if that’s too heavy, you can use a basketball
Exercise 5: intense sit ups
- Another exercise using the swiss ball is a swiss ball sit up with a med ball, and if you’re feeling it a med ball throw.
- I like doing this exercise as a bit of a superset: start with the L sit-ups, med ball overhead, the move into some ball throws (leaning right back so you’re perpendicular with the floor and ball is being thrown towards the roof), and finish off with a russian twist. Do six of each and that’ll really get your abs, your legs and your arms working
- These are exercises that I do for my sport, but really anyone can do them at home or in the gym
For more exercise inspiration check out, how to skip yourself slim with Michelle Bridges’ killer workout. Plus here’s how to train like a pro, according to Aussie’s top coaches.