If you’ve ever seen an Olympic beach volleyball player, it’s probably pretty clear that they work hard at getting fit — you just might not realize how hard. For April Ross, silver medalist at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and a contender for the gold in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, it’s all about building strength.
“I used to hate putting on muscle — I thought it just made me look bulky. But the stronger I’ve gotten, the more I’ve seen it transfer to the court and to performance,” Ross, age 33, says. “I feel like I’m close to being in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked and I’m really excited to see how that pays off.”
RELATED: 3 HIIT Workouts to Take to the Beach
Here’s a peek inside Ross’ intense gym schedule — plus, a beach workout you can try for yourself.
April Ross: Insider Her Training Routine
So what does a typical week of training look like for Ross? The 6’1” California native spends plenty of time in the gym — and on the court. “We’re on the sand practicing two-and-half hours a day, six days a week and our coach specifically runs a really high-cardio practice, so you’re dead tired afterwards,” she says. But that’s just the morning workout. Afterwards, she’ll drive an hour to make it to her weightlifting session, which lasts another two-and-half hours, four times a week.
“I used to subscribe to the higher reps, lower weight type of workout, but now leading up to this Olympics, I’ve been doing less reps with higher weights, and I really like that for explosiveness [it gives me],” Ross says. Some of her favorite strength moves include power cleans and single-leg Romanian deadlifts with dumbbells. “I feel like I can do those anywhere, if I’m stuck in a hotel or something,” she says. Ross admits there’s also nothing better than good old push-ups and lunges. “I can’t do lunges — no matter how good of shape I’m in — without my butt getting sore,” Ross says. (We feel your pain.)
Work Out Like a Beach Volleyball Star
When she’s not working out with her Olympic coaches, Ross hits the beach to do sand workouts she’s devised herself. “We just officially started practice [for the Olympics], but leading up through December and first two weeks of January I was running myself through my own beach workouts, just circuits on the sand,” Ross says. “I loved it and thought it was really, really effective.”
Want a taste of this Olympian’s training routine? Start with a 10-minute sand run and stretch. (Or, try this mobility warm-up, if you need ideas.) Then, Ross picks three or four of the exercises demo-ed in the video above, and does two reps of each sprint, 5 reps of burpees and 15 reps of mountain climbers for 10 circuits total. Give it a try (or, you know, just do what you can) — you’ll feel the payoff either way. “After it’s done…you’re proud you were able to go out and make yourself do it and feel good about yourself,” Ross says.
Originally published February 2016. Updated July 2016.