2016 Olympics

2016 Olympics

olympic runners

With the 2016 Olympics in full swing, we find ourselves watching with anticipation as our country competes for the top spot in our favorite sports. The enthusiasm and pride exhibited for this much anticipated event is paralleled with the admiration for these elite athlete’s skill, tenacity, and dedication to their extensive training.

During your admiration, have you ever found yourself curious of the most demanding aspect of training for each sport? Some events demand more from certain muscle groups depending on the movements required by their designated activity, while others present challenges of a different nature. With that being said, let’s take a look at the muscles and aspects requiring the most demand from the top Summer 2016 Olympic sports!



Swimming requires the athlete to powerfully propel themselves forward through the water using a combination of both technical kicks and pulls. One muscle swimmers rely heavily on is the latissimus dorsi muscle.


This muscle is contracting during every stroke of every style of swimming. The lats contribute to extension, adduction, and internal rotation at the shoulder. If your therapist has ever included theraband rows in your exercise program, you too have targeted this muscle as well!

beach volleyball

Beach Volleyball

Olympic volleyball players must be extremely agile and quick to cover the large surface area allotted to only two team members during a sand match as well as powerful and explosive during their attacks. Due to the nature of the sport, these athletes are required to utilize both their aerobic and anaerobic metabolism throughout the duration of their event.

In other words, the nonstop, sustained portion of the game operates using the aerobic metabolism (requires oxygen for energy), but the short, intense bouts of activity during a set require the usage of the anaerobic metabolism (requires the breakdown of carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen for energy). These unique demands require the athletes to train in a multitude of ways to develop and acclimate their bodies to each.



While it is no doubt that gymnastics requires a great deal of overall strength from arguably every working muscle, one group of muscles especially stands out amongst gymnasts- the core. Of course, the core muscles collectively work together for stabilization throughout the astounding movements, but for gymnasts these muscles serve a greater purpose than support as well.


As the 2016 Olympic athletes perform their gravity defying routines, it is absolutely paramount their core possesses the ability to adapt to these movements with ease to protect the spinal cord and central nervous system throughout their routines and prevent serious injury.

Without a strong midsection, the athletes would not only have an extremely difficult time executing their sequences, but it would become much more hazardous to their own health and safety as well.


Olympic Lifting

The snatch and clean and jerk are compound movements requiring the lifters to not only recruit several muscles throughout the lifts, but also rely heavily on efficient movement patterns and loading of the joints to safely move the loads overhead. These athletes are extremely explosive and require immense power.

Although there are several key aspects to the lifts, two that stand out are the powerful hip extension necessary in the initial pull and stabilization of the shoulder joint after the weight moves overhead. The action of hip extension is driven by the gluteus maximus and assisted by the hamstrings. Once the weight is overhead, the rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) actively work to stabilize the shoulder.

Proper scapular movement is vital as well and requires a balance between the upper and lower fibers of the trapezius muscle, the rhomboids, and serratus anterior.

hip rtc

Did you learn anything about the athletes in the 2016 Olympics? What are you favorite sports to watch? Comment on our facebook post here!

Active Physical Therapy

Written by Kelsey Kremer, Physical Therapy Tech at Active Physical Therapy and pre-PT student at Capital University

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