29, SWIM­MER ,184 CM ,84 KG

Men's Health (South Africa) - - DESIGN YOUR BODY -

He bangs out two reps of 120kg squats, and then im­me­di­ately moves to an­other bar – racked with half that – and fires off an­other six.

“I like to over­load my ner­vous sys­tem,” says Van der Burgh. “That way, when you lower the weight, your mus­cles are over­com­pen­sat­ing and the last reps feel like noth­ing.”

For the Olympic swim­mer, who has dom­i­nated the pool ever since win­ning gold and set­ting a new world record in the 100m breast­stroke at the 2012 Sum­mer Games, find­ing new ways to “hack” his rou­tine is part of the rea­son he keeps com­ing back to the gym.

Sure, he’s still lift­ing heavy: “But I’m trick­ing my mind. I’m keep­ing that ex­plo­sive move­ment, and I’m get­ting more out of it.”

Van der Burgh thrives on com­pe­ti­tion. He ropes in a train­ing part­ner when he’s at the gym, and turns ev­ery move into a gru­elling face-off. And when there’s no-one else around?

“I’m rac­ing against my­self. I’m keep­ing track of the stats, and try­ing to go one set, one rep or one kilo­gram fur­ther than I did last time.”

Gym time is a cru­cial part of the swim­mer’s rou­tine. While he builds en­durance and re­fines his move­ments in the pool, the real ex­plo­sive power – you know, the kind that takes you to the front of the pack – is built un­der the iron.

When it comes to swim­ming, your legs are your en­gine, ex­plains Van der Burgh.

“Think of your body as a speed­boat. All the power comes from the mo­tor at the back.”

Be­ing able to tap into pure ex­plo­sive energy al­lows you jump into the lead straight off the block; and add to that lead, or set­tle the dif­fer­ence, with a ni­trous boost push against the wall on the turn.

Van der Burgh rattles off the moves he’ll com­plete in his av­er­age ses­sion: squats, back­wards lunges, squat jumps, ver­ti­cal jumps, and even high-jump-re­lated moves. And this ex­plo­sive energy isn’t just use­ful in the wa­ter.

“Any guy can ben­e­fit from this,” he says. “These limbs carry you around, and you’ll reap the re­wards of strength­en­ing them.”

Ex­am­ple: the guy who leads the charge in the weekly parkrun isn’t just train­ing for dis­tance. Hav­ing ex­plo­sive energy on tap means he’s pow­er­ing up ev­ery in­cline eas­ily.

Or, on an even shal­lower level: a bar­relled chest loses its charm when you’re sneak­ing around on a pair of chicken legs. “Pro­por­tions, man,” laughs Van der Burgh. But get­ting the edge on your work­outs isn’t just about men­tal­ity and phys­i­cal­ity. There’s a fair amount of maths go­ing on there too. Van der Burgh likes to crunch num­bers. On the one hand, these dig­its help fuel his natural com­pet­i­tive spirit, let­ting him square off against old stats. On the other, they also show him that the hard work in the gym is pay­ing div­i­dends in the form of small in­creases.

“That’s the sort of thing that keeps you mo­ti­vated even on the bad days,” he says.

And there are plenty of those, for pro ath­letes and week­end war­riors alike. It’s at times like those that it’s im­por­tant to fo­cus on the big pic­ture, the rea­son you’re there.

“I try not sweat the small stuff,” he says. “For so many guys, they go in with big goals; and then have a cou­ple of rough days in a row, and feel like call­ing it quits. Just re­mem­ber, that first month is the hard­est, be­cause the re­sults don’t come easy. But af­ter that, it’s ex­po­nen­tial. Whether you’re look­ing to gain strength or just im­prove your physique.”


Most fit­ness bands will track your steps and heart­beat, but the PUSH sen­sor uses a tri-axis ac­celerom­e­ter and gy­ro­scope to mea­sure the ve­loc­ity of your move­ments, giv­ing you a pre­cise num­ber on ex­actly how fast your lift­ing is. For Cameron van der Burgh, who’s aim­ing for max ex­plo­sive­ness ev­ery rep, this info is cru­cial. R2 600 quan­

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