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Three exercises in the gym to train as an Olympic diver

By Egle Damini / LUZ
Maria Marconi was born in Rome in 1984, a diver in a family of divers. She started doing sports at the age of 6 because, as she says, "I was an unstoppable child, unable to stay still for a second". Her mother directed her towards all kinds of sports, from figure skating to tennis and gymnastics, but in the end, Maria chose diving. The choice, as previously said, was not casual: Maria Marconi’s older brothers, Nicola and Tommaso, were already going to diving courses as she remembers fondly here:

I could see my older brothers coming home from their always enthusiastic training sessions. So I decided to try it myself and that's where it all started.

After several European and World Under-20 medals that created a noteworthy record of achievements, Maria Marconi's debut among the diving professionals took place during the European Championships in Berlin in 2002 - at 18 years old, together with Tania Cagnotto, with whom she won the bronze medal in synchronized diving from the 3 meters springboard.

Synchronized diving
Four years later, in Budapest, Marconi won another bronze, this time in the one-meter individual diving. In 2008 in Beijing, she took part in the first world championship, winning the 18th place. As Maria Marconi herself tells us: "diving is mainly a mental discipline, the only way to make a good dive is to get on the trampoline and focus it, to be able to imagine it. As a child - Marconi continues - you are not very rational, i.e. you listen to the coach and dive a little unconsciously. As an adult instead you become more aware of your body and the influence that the mind has on our every movement when you are in the air”.
The moment before diving from the trampoline
Even in sports, growing means to acquire more awareness. This is a fundamental moment in every young athlete’s development, which can determine the course of his performance for the rest of his career. Today, for Maria Marconi it is crucial to understand herself as she is about to dive. "The most important question to ask in those moments is "How do I feel today?". To understand that certain things cannot be done at certain times because instead of improving the score they risk causing a serious error. Growing up - Marconi states - I learned that the thing I like most, and also the fundamental moment of diving, is to listen to myself and understand what kind of dive I can do in that exact moment.”
Concentration before the dive
Maria Marconi's growth was possible thanks to the numerous European Championships and Olympic Games she took part in, both in single and in synchronized diving. Among her most important competitions, Marconi mentions Turin 2009, when she gained the silver medal behind her partner Tania Cagnotto, giving Italy a historic double win.

However, that is not the competition Maria remembers as the fundamental one in her career.

A true sportsman in fact finds her true self in the moments of difficulty. That's why Marconi loves to remember the Olympics in Rio, where she arrived on a markedly low position because of strong back pain.

"I had fought hard for those Olympics, so even if I didn't have enough training I would have gone all the way. Thanks to my concentration and the desire I had to be there, I brought out all the strength I had. I came in 19th - as usual, this is one of my usual misfortunes! However - concludes Maria Marconi - that experience has helped me a lot to measure myself against my limits and to understand that even when you're in pieces it does not mean that you can’t make it: it is certainly more difficult, but not necessarily impossible.”

Body and mind united in the execution of the perfect dive
Since 2019, Maria Marconi has decided to participate only in national diving competitions and to live the sport in a more relaxed way: "My priority now is to have fun".

The advantages of dryland training for diving champions like Maria Marconi

Diving is, notwithstanding the low number of athletes that practice it, one of the most popular Olympic sports among spectators. The reason behind its popularity is easy to understand: professional divers possess the same strength and flexibility as gymnasts and dancers with heightened proprioception and air awareness, a necessary feature to execute complex dives with proper landings.

Unsurprisingly, some professional divers either used to be gymnasts or, as in the case of Maria Marconi, had some background in gymnastics prior to diving.

Simple dive carpiato
To develop these characteristics, divers must undertake hard dryland and in-water training schedule, spending roughly 50% of their time diving in the water and the rest either doing diving exercises in specialised gyms or working out in more traditional fitness facilities.

Dryland diving training has acquired more and more popularity over the past decade, thanks to the many benefits it brings to the athlete. Among them some of the advantages are:

  • It creates a safe training environment: dryland training in specialised facilities allow athletes to experiment with more complex acrobatics without the risk of “smacking” into the water, which can in turn result in welts, bruises or, in the worst case scenarios, concussions.
A sport closer to gymnastics than swimming
  • It strengthens the body against water tear down: diving means pounding the body against the water of the swimming pool time and time again. This constant impact can stress the body, gradually tearing it down. Dryland training in turn strengthens body muscles, allowing the diver to sustain high-level physical efforts over a prolonged period.
  • It isolates specific skills and muscles group: if the act of diving affects the whole body, focusing on one muscle group at a time enables a greater strength development. Not to mention that by deconstructing the dive into separate actions, it is possible to work on and improve the technique of a singular diving moment.

Three gym exercises to work out like a diving champion

When it comes to gym training, divers like Maria Marconi need to strengthen their whole body to prevent water tear down, as well as to improve their diving skills. Therefore, the three exercises we suggest in this editorial are:

Squat Jump

This exercise can be done with or without a barbell. However, to obtain the maximum effect from this exercise, we recommend to familiarize with this movement with a mobility stick first, and then performing the exercise with an unloaded barbell.
How to Jump Squat
With the barbell or mobility stick correctly placed on your shoulders and trapezium, keep your back straight and contracted, slowly descending and flexing your knees, pushing your buttocks outside. Descend until your legs are parallel to the ground. Then, give yourself a quick boost by holding the barbell firmly on your back. In mid-air, keep your body straight. Land by returning to the squat position.

Reverse fly

Lie down on an incline bench with the chest and stomach pressing against it. Have the dumbbells in each hand with the palms facing each other. Extend the arms in front of you so that they are perpendicular to the angle of the bench. This will be your starting position.
Reverse Fly
Keeping a slight bend of the elbows, move the weights out and away from each other in an arc motion while exhaling. The arms should be elevated until they are parallel to the floor. Feel the contraction by holding the position for a second and slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position while inhaling. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Reverse V plank

Go to plank position with your hands on the ground under your shoulders, outstretch your arms and place your feet on the ball. This will be your starting position. As you inhale, lift your pelvis up and bring it in line with your shoulders, keeping your legs and arms outstretched.
Reverse Plank
The ball rotates under the tip to the tip of the toes as you perform this movement. Lower the pelvis returning to the starting position while you exhale. Repeat for the number of repetitions required.

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