Working out like an elite wrestler

Stewart: ‘Each little step’ fuels Olympic goal

— By Casey Jones

Balancing her time as a master’s in education student at the University of New Brunswick, and training often twice daily, Samantha Stewart is working diligently toward a spot on the Canadian Olympic team at Tokyo 2020.

Before she recently captured a bronze medal for Team New Brunswick-Canada at the Francophone Games on the Ivory Coast, we were lucky enough to catch up with her about her training and nutrition.

Samantha Stewart

Samantha Stewart

Our last feature on Stewart dove into how her diet is on point, while today we’ll be looking into the workouts that she’s fueling.

Train like an elite wrestler

At least three days a week, Stewart trains twice daily. On these days a morning session will involve a 1 to 2 hour weightlifting session at Synergy Training in Fredericton, with wrestling practice in the evening at the gym on the UNB campus.

Mondays involve upper body strength training, Wednesday is lower-body focused, while Friday is an intense anaerobic weightlifting circuit. For Stewart, Wednesdays are her favorite.

“Since wrestling doesn’t really have an off-season, we have to plan our lifting schedules around big competitions,” Stewart says. “After nationals we undergo several weeks of heavy lifting.”

Sample Wednesday Training plan — Pre-competition:

  • Superset:

— Dumbbell Jump Squat (15-20 lbs): 4 x 10 seconds/set

— Double hurdle-box jump: 4 sets x 5 reps

  • Squat or Deadlift: Varied weight/repetitions depending on week in cycle

  • Banded Kettlebell Swings: 3 sets x 15 seconds/set

  • Core Superset:

— Reverse hypers: 4 sets x 15 reps

— Side lying hip raise: 2 sets x 10/side

After each week of weight training, Stewart adds 5 to 10 pounds to the previous week’s weight, and does the movement for 2 to 4 less total reps. On the final weeks of a strength-training cycle, she squats or deadlifts at a low total rep range, but with heavy weights. On the last week of the cycle, she shoots for the most amount of weight that she can lift for one repetition, or a one rep max.

As a power athlete, most of Stewart’s training revolves around weightlifting and intense sprint work at practice, however she still focuses on her aerobic performance by doing a 5-kilometre run on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Maintain Mobility

In addition to her already hectic workout schedule, Stewart makes sure that she attends yoga class at least once a week. She says the Deep Flow class at YogaGrow, which is a more strength-based practice, has been making a significant improvement to how her body feels.

“I love working myself into a more challenging pose each week. Movements like the side crow have really helped my flexibility and strength.”



Tips for an aspiring athlete

When asked about tips for those beginning a weightlifting program, Stewart points to proper bracing and breathing during exercise.

“When I started lifting, I wish I realized the importance of proper breathing and bracing of the core muscles during any movement — I didn’t know that before at all.”

To stay motivated for Tokyo, I think setting little goals everyday to make small improvements is vital.
— Samantha Stewart

For those doing sprint movements and plyometrics, she also suggests seeing a coach to properly assess movement patterns to make sure you are moving efficiently, bracing, and engaging your muscles properly.

As for keeping her mindset in check, Stewart says that daily goal setting is key for her.

“To stay motivated for Tokyo, I think setting little goals everyday to make small improvements is vital. It’s too much to look at the four-year Olympic window; each little step, tournament, and achieved goal along the way is just as important to stay focused on the end-goal.”

With the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics just under three years away, Stewart is definitely on the right track.

You can follow Stewart's journey at her blog.

Casey Jones is a master's in science student at Dalhousie University, where he studies the link between the human microbiome and pediatric Crohn’s disease in Nova Scotians.