Curling Fitness Tip: My 4 Favourite Exercises for Powerful Sweeping

Ever wonder how hardcore competitive curlers train for their sport? Have you thought, “If I tried to sweep like that, I’d face plant!?” Or, “I could never be as strong as them”? You are not alone with these thoughts, but sweeping with strength shouldn’t belong to the elite or youth. A balanced training plan that includes some strength training, cardiovascular training and flexibility training can help improve your overall fitness, and have a positive affect on your curling game (see Top 8 reasons why you and your team need to train for curling). Below I’ve listed my 4 favourite exercises to train for “hardcore sweeping”–and yes! They are simple, accessible, and the variations are for everyone.

Before I get into my favourites, let’s talk about the facts and theories behind why I chose each exercise because of what sweeping does to the ice, and how that affects the rock. Many curlers and researchers have studied how to be the most effective sweeper. There are many ideas out there, but my favourite theory is one that applies Newtons second law; the relationship between an objects mass, acceleration and applied force is:

Force = Mass x Acceleration

In terms of sweeping, this translates into:

Mass (what percentage of your weight you can exert over the brush head)

X  Acceleration (How fast you can sweep back and forth)

 = Force (how much pressure you can exert into the ice over a period of time)

Try this experiment: First, rub your hands together as fast as you possibly can for 10 seconds. Next, try to press your hands together as hard as you can and rub them back and forth for 10 seconds. Which exercise created more “heat” and made your hands warmer? The answer should be that the faster you rubbed your hands together, the warmer they got. The goal of efficient sweeping is to find the sweet spot between maximum speed and pressure onto the ice.

In theory, if you can exert more force onto the ice as you sweep, you will “heat the ice” enough for the rock to “slide further and straighter”. (Yes, I realize there are many theories and scientific discoveries, but I think this one is the simplest explanation/idea, and works for the article).

Now remember, there are two parts to the sweeping action:

The push, and the pull.

Your push is usually quicker, and applies more force downwards onto the ice, whereas your pull is a little slower (if you are trying to lean into your broom), because sometimes you may have to ease off the pressure in order to help pull the broom back fast enough.

The following exercises are designed to train the muscles and the energy systems to maximize your push (and especially) your pull, while helping support your upper body in getting into the proper sweeping position.

*Note: Click on the word of each exercise to find a description video.

1.  Mountain Climbers 

Why: The secret to powerful sweeping lies in your core, and its ability to maintain stability during movement. If your core isn’t strong enough to hold you up as you slide or shuffle down the ice, you won’t be able to get into and hold the proper sweeping position. Mountain climbers combine the plank exercise (honourable mention), while forcing your body to remain stable as your limbs move. Add in a pushup (another honourable mention) or two once and awhile and you’ve got an exercise that mimics sweeping!

Muscles worked: Deltoids, triceps, pectorals, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, transverse abdominals, rectus abdominus, adductors, gluteals, quadriceps and hip flexors.

How:

  • Begin in a pushup plank position, keeping your core tight, glutes tight, legs tight, and your chin tucked.
  • You should be able to rest a glass of water on your back without spilling throughout the exercise.
  • Slowly and one at a time bring your knees to your chest and return that foot to its starting plank position.
  • Keep your body tight, go slow, and resist any rocking movements at the hips.

2. Bent Over Rows 

Why: Think back to the last time you had to sweep, you’ll remember that it’s easier to put pressure downwards because your body helps slide the broom away. Once you try to pull the broom back towards you, you might have to take pressure off of the broomhead, and transfer it to your feet (thus decreasing the amount of force you can exert –and ultimately how effective of a sweeper you are). Now, imagine if you could strengthen the muscles that help pull your arms backwards, and as a result you can maintain almost the same amount of pressure on the broomhead throughout both the push and the pull. With the bent over rowing exercise, you are strengthening and making your “pull” action more powerful. Not only is the push and the pull stronger, but your broomhead speed will increase –in exchange increasing the your force you create! Bonus: it also strengthens your core muscles and mimics the position you sweep in.

Muscles worked: Rear deltoid, latissumus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, erector spinae, bicep brachi.

How:

  • Set up on a bench in a tabletop position with the left knee, foot and hand stabilizing on the bench. Your right leg is straight with the foot stabilizing on the floor. Your back should be horizontal with the bench, and the angle at your left shoulder, hips and knee should be 90 degrees. Keep your chin tucked and your back and core strong and stable.
  • Hold the dumbbell in the right hand with your palm facing inwards. Lift the dumbbell up to the right side of your chest, keeping your elbow “tight”, and return to your starting point.
  • Do not allow your torso to rock during the exercise, and avoid dropping the dumbbell lower than your starting position. Repeat for reps on each side.
  • Other variations and progression can include bent over 2-dumbbell row, cable row, compound row, and bent over barbell row.

3. Lunges 

Why: Sweeping is typically thought of as primarily an upper body and core exercise, but your lower body also needs to gain strength if you want to “get low”, and maintain strong throughout long games and competitions. A lunge in its many variations is a perfect single leg exercise. Not only does it strengthen the bent leg, but also it actively stretches and lengthens the rear leg. For many, getting their weight off of their feet and over the brush head might be impossible, so keeping these muscles strong will also help prevent overuse injuries in the lower body. Bonus: This exercise strengthens and helps fine-tune the lower body weight control muscles thus improving your throwing technique.

Muscles worked: Hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings), hip flexors (quadriceps), transverse abdominus.

How:

Progression:

  • Stationary lunge –Begin with your core tight, chest open (avoid rounding your shoulders) and stand with your feet hip distance apart. Step forward with one leg keeping feet hip distance apart. Avoid the front foot from pointing inwards, and keep your knee tracking towards but not over the middle or baby toe. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and step forward with your back foot to return to your starting position. Repeat on each side for reps.
  • Walking lunge –Using the same starting position and form as the stationary lunge, only pause at the bottom for 1 or 2 seconds before walking forwards and switching the lead foot. Repeat for reps.
  • Side lunges – Begin with the same setup. This time step sideways to the right into a wide squat position, lunge to the right sinking your butt backwards, keeping chest high and core tight, weight in your right heel, and keep your right knee over your right foot and ankle. Return to starting position driving through the right foot, and repeat on left side. Repeat on each side for reps.

4. Interval Training 

Why: Front end players can expect to sweep 6 rocks an end, and nearly 48-60 rocks a game. On quick ice if you have to sweep from start to finish, you will be putting in work for almost 24 seconds, with only about a minute rest before your team throws their next rock. What you don’t want as a sweeper, is to still be recovering from your last sweeping bout during your teams next throw. Anaerobic interval training involves bouts of hard exercise, followed by active rest periods, and repeated a certain number of times. This type of workout trains your heart and lungs to become more efficient at pumping blood and oxygen throughout your body, removing waste products from tired muscles, and promotes quicker recovery times between shots, games, and competitions. Long distance aerobic training helps to train your cardiovascular system, but you need to work anaerobically once a week to prepare your body for rigorous games.

Muscles worked: Various, full body.

Example:

Step 1: Choose one of: running, skipping, biking, rowing machine, pushups, swimming, etc.

Step 2: (Work : Rest ratio is 1:2) After a good warm up, exercise hard for 20-60 seconds (your choice), active rest for 40-90 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.

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It may not be one of your goals to sweep like Kennedy or Courtney, but if nothing else these exercises alongside a balanced training plan will help you get stronger, and help prevent injuries come the beginning of the season. If you can add a foot or two to how far you can drag a rock, that’s a foot or two closer to becoming club champion!

“Work Hard, Hurry Hard, Play Hard”

Stephanie Thompson, CPT, HBA Kin, B.Ed

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In case you missed the youtube links:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist…

Additional Reading:

Interested in learning more about a proper dynamic warm-up? Check out my article: “Am I doing my Pre-Game Warm-up Right?” -A Guide for Curlers

Check out this wonderful article from the Golden Hawks High Performance Centre. The article touches on some key points for proper sweeping form, the theories supporting them and some of the research that is being done through Western University on the mechanics of brushing.

Enjoy this article from Scott Arnold and curling.ca about their results from a study one in 2010.

Check out my original article Top 8 reasons why you and your team need to train for curling.

Stephanie Thompson is a former student-athlete at Western University and is a certified fitness trainer who plays on the WCT Women's tour.  This article, Curling Fitness Tip: My 4 Favourite Exercises for Powerful Sweeping was originally published on on her blog, Personal Training with Stephanie Thompson, and is re-published here with permission.

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