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17th Dec 2016

The alternative fitness methods that helped get Michael Phelps in shape for Olympic gold

His record-breaking achievements speak for themselves


Becoming a multiple Olympic champion isn’t the sort of thing that just happens overnight.

It takes years of preparation to even approach the top level, and things get even more intense when the time comes to take that extra step to stand out from other elite athletes.

Michael Phelps isn’t just the best in the world, he’s the best in the world several times over. And he didn’t achieve that purely by heading to the pool early every morning and eating more calories in a two days than most of us put away in a week.

The 23-time Olympic gold medal winner – who was honoured at this weekend’s Sports Personality of the Year ceremony – endures a strict and specifically tailored workout regime, which is detailed in this montage from Under Armour.

You can see Phelps working his way through a variety of exercises to get in shape for the rigours of the Rio Olympics, where he ended the games with two individual golds and three more as part of the US relay teams over 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle and 100m medley.

The video below shows the kind of strain the swimming legend puts his body through whenever he is chasing gold, and he is committed to giving 100% whether it is a smaller competition or the public glory of an Olympic gold medal on the line.

And it’s not just about lifting weights or nailing cardio exercises within a heavy training regime. We also see Phelps’ ‘cupping’ therapy, the technique for improving blood flow and easing recovery which several Olympians added to their repertoire before and during the Rio games.

Cupping was the explanation for the red suction marks on Phelps’ and others bodies during the Olympics, caused by placing heated cups on the skin to draw blood closer to the surface. It is a form of acupuncture, originating thousands of years ago, but Phelps has recently seen the benefits, while others have described it as being better than anything else when it comes to helping the body recover from the rigours of exercise.

Screen Shot 2016-12-16 at 16.06.38Cupping therapy in action (photo credit: Under Armour)

It demonstrates how elite sportsmen and women can always find new ways to make aspects of their preparation more comfortable, and after the hard work leading up to any major meet it is important to be as physically and mentally at ease as possible.

You can’t take it easy when you’re striving to be the best, and he has shown that even after becoming the best in the world you can still always go that extra mile to improve.

New techniques are always presenting themselves, and as an athlete’s body develops and adapts to the rigours of elite training it is important not to stay still while competitors are finding ways to push forward.

Phelps would not be the athlete he is without that adaptability and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the most out of his undeniable talents, and what he does outside the pool is just as crucial as what happens when he hits the water. That’s why he has outlasted so many of his peers and delivered time and time again.