Toby Dawson, Mike Dunleavy, Will Gadd
(Illustration by Nathan Fox)

Who’s the Fittest?

Toby Dawson, Mike Dunleavy, Will Gadd
Ryan Brandt

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Twice a year, we take three top athletes, compare their training programs, and tell you who’s the most all-around fit. For 2005’s cold-weather edition, we studied the regimens of mogul skier Toby Dawson, 26, pro basketball player Mike Dunleavy, 24, and ice climber Will Gadd, 37. Our judge is Werner Hoeger, an exercise physiologist at Boise State University. His job? To determine which of these athletes jumped into winter with the best comprehensive package of endurance, strength, and flexibility.

Toby Dawson, Mike Dunleavy, Will Gadd

Toby Dawson, Mike Dunleavy, Will Gadd

“Awesome Dawson” won three events on the moguls circuit last season, locking up second place overall, even after breaking his fibula on the eve of the season-ending Freestyle World Cup Finals. Since then, the Vail, Colorado–based skier has amped up his training to prepare for this year’s world championships, March 17–20 in Ruka, Finland.
THE PROGRAM Six days a week, Dawson spends 30 to 90 minutes on a stationary bike, spinning through intervals, shorter aerobic rides, and longer low-intensity cardio sessions. Every week in the gym, he completes an hourlong workout consisting of upper-body exercises like weighted dips, push-ups, and bench presses, and two days of lower-body work emphasizing explosive Olympic lifts and squats. On the days not reserved for lifting, he finishes a one-hour session of both yoga and torso work with a 45-minute round of jumping drills.
HOEGER’S VERDICT “Toby’s core work is exceptional, and he has a good sport-specific strength program. But I worry about the cardiovascular training once his season starts; it’ll be practically nonexistent. If he can keep it up, he’ll minimize the fatigue of his on-hill practice sessions.”

Even after Dunleavy led Duke to the NCAA championship in 2001, critics wondered if his relatively slight six-foot-nine-inch frame would cut it with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Now in his third pro season, the forward has responded with an off-season program that maximizes muscle gain. As a result, he’s packed on 15 pounds to reach a weight of 230.
THE PROGRAM Dunleavy begins each of his four weekly weight sessions with 20 minutes of cardio followed by 20 minutes of core-strength exercises, like a series of sit-ups and back extensions. On Mondays and Thursdays, he muscles through an hour of upper-body strength training. Then it’s off to the track, where he builds stamina with eight 300-meter sprints. Tuesdays and Fridays are reserved for explosive movements—think Olympic lifts, hamstring curls, and dumbbell complexes. Four days a week, Dunleavy hits the court for an hour of basketball and agility drills. After that, he scrimmages before finishing with ten minutes of stretching.
HOEGER’S VERDICT “Mike’s strength-training program is the best, broken into cycles of increasing muscle size, then muscle endurance, and then bursts of power. But he limits cardiovascular development to make those strength gains—his program won’t put him at the top.”

As a world-record-holding paraglider, kayaker, and former Ice Climbing World Cup champ, the Alberta, Canada–based Gadd stays active all year, so he needs a strong fitness base.
THE PROGRAM Twice a week, Gadd works through a two-hour upper-body regimen in the gym, composed of exercises like offset pull-ups, one-arm cable rows, and dips. Three days a week, he performs a short shoulder-strengthening program focused on injury prevention. To increase flexibility, he does yoga four days a week. For his lungs and heart, he rotates daily between two sub-one-hour runs and an eight-hour hike. Saturdays? A three-hour hike or cross-country ski up to a big wall, where he’ll ascend as much as 4,500 feet of vertical over 36 hours. Climbs during the week consist of a couple of six-hour snow-and-rock routes.
HOEGER’S VERDICT “Gadd focuses on muscular endurance, not pure power. But, overall, GADD IS THE FITTEST, due to a balanced cardio program and year-round flexibility schedule combined with a sport-specific strength routine.”

From Outside Magazine, Feb 2005 Lead Photo: Illustration by Nathan Fox