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November: Creating Core Stability

Be Strong
posted: 05/26/2004

The core is often the most neglected muscle group of the body. What's worse, building it up requires more than simply hopping on a fitness machine. Your torso muscles are most challenged in movements where they have to balance and keep the body upright-often while the upper and lower body are reacting independently of each other. Unlike bench presses or curls, which work one or two muscles in isolation, core-strengthening exercises recruit your legs, back, hips, and upper body all at once to simulate what your body is actually doing while skiing.

Walshe's core prescription includes drills for skiing's three basic planes of motion: forward bending and straightening; sideways bending and straightening; and twisting combinations of the two. The thick necks in the gym might look at you funny, but these exercises will improve your skiing a lot faster than knocking out hundreds of single-planed crunches and plain-old sit ups.

Once you've warmed up for at least 10-20 minutes, approach the core workout itself as a three-part assignment: sideways movements, twisting exercises, and fore and aft work. "If you only have the time to do three exercises, do one from each group," says Walshe. While performing each exercise, suck in and tighten your abs to bolster your spine. Be sure to bend from the hip rather than the gut when doing forward-bending movements and lead with your pelvis rather than with your shoulders in rotational movements.

Because it's harder to overwork the core than it is, say, your quads, you can hammer the area more often with higher reps than you can other large muscle groups-three sets of 20, four days a week, all year long-if you feel strong enough. And since we all know core work can be somewhat-okay, completely-monotonous, Walshe recommends getting into the more diverse and interesting moves (i.e. move away from boring crunches) right off the bat.

Bode, meanwhile, insists that any pain and monotony will pay off ripping turns on hardpack and in the chop. "You'll always be sore the first few days back," he says. "But if your core is relatively strong, you'll get longer runs with less chance for injury, and more energy to make skiing fun."

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