COLUMBIA — “I wanna be a cowboy, baby!” sophomore Leah Cowperthwaite belted out as she swung part of a 25 foot rope around in circles above her head.
Cowperthwaite was not trying to lasso a wild bull, nor was she still stuck in her Halloween Kid Rock character. Cowperthwaite was simply trying to lighten the mood during the newest form of training for the Missouri men’s and women’s swimming teams.
It's called dcRopework — a circuit-style workout that involves 25-pound ropes and is complemented by pull-up bars, resistance bands, and medicine balls. The circuits are done one to two times a week and last 30 minutes. The swimmers stay at each station for 30 seconds and do as many reps as possible, then rest 15 seconds. The rotation cycles through one rope exercise, two non-rope exercises and repeats.
First-year assistant coach Kelli Stein, who is in charge of dry land workouts, introduced the new workout to the Tigers in September and said the athletes enjoy the addition.
“They love it,” Stein said. “They are always asking when we are going to be doing the ropes. It’s something more fun and exciting. It uses functional movements instead of just sitting at a machine.”
“Woo, works the abs,” junior Jordan Hawley said to whoever was listening as he held his body parallel to the ground in the plank position during one of the workouts. Trying to keep his body as stiff as possible with his palms flat on the ground, his ankles resting 2 feet in the air on one of the ropes, Hawley recognized the importance of the workout.
“This workout focuses on using a lot of your own body weight and works your core a lot,” Hawley said. “Our sport is a lot about core. The stronger your core is, the less you wobble and the less drag you have.”
Hawley appreciates the variety the ropes bring to the team’s training.
“It brings a new dynamic to our workouts,” Hawley said. “We are used to having our face down in the water, looking at the lines at the bottom of the pool. The ropes are a nice change.”
Instead of singling out specific muscles one by one like athletes do in the weight room, the ropes circuit integrates many muscles at the same time in an endurance type of workout.
“It gets pretty tiring , so you just have to stay positive and keep going when you get tired,” freshman John Krause said. “I like it because you work certain muscles that you normally don’t work when you’re lifting weights or swimming.”
The training takes place on the east side of Stankowski Field at the pull-up bars, with MU students constantly walking by whispering, “What are they doing?” or “Who are they?”
Cowperthwaite knows the swimmers might look goofy doing “flurries,” an exercise in which the athletes swing the rope in both hands up and down as fast as possible. It doesn’t bother her, though.
“This is the best part because we got to hang out on campus as a group,” Cowperthwaite said. “We get to be social on the campus and people can see what we’re doing.”
Despite the tough routine, Cowperthwaite still found time in those 15 second breaks to keep the team laughing by cracking jokes or serenading others girls with old '90s songs.
“For dry land we used to just do crunches on deck or something and it’s just kind of boring,” Cowperthwaite said. “We never had the ropes and never got to go outside very much, but this year it’s a lot better, more entertaining. Plus when you have people like me, its just funny.”
"OK, stop!" Stein said looking at her stopwatch. "Move to the next one."
Though Cowperthwaite dropped the rope and starting walking to her next exercise, the singing didn't stop.
"With the top let back and the sunshine shining!" Cowperthwaite sang.