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October: Unleash Your Raw Power

Be Strong
posted: 10/08/2002

We don't blame you for staring at the photos on the opposite page and thinking: Been there, done that. But while the lunges and squats Walshe is prescribing might look familiar, the coach is going to change the way you perform them. Walshe is a proponent of eccentric lifting, a technique that increases the demand on the muscles by slowing down the first part of the lift (four to five seconds) and then ramps up your power by having you burst back to the starting position (a second or less).

The strategy mimics the demands of skiing. By slowing the first phase of the lift, you'll train your body to withstand the high downward forces of making a turn; by using explosiveness to drive the weight upward, you'll build the large universal muscles—glutes, hamstrings, and quads—that give you the reflexes and power to move quickly between turns and recover from near crashes. "Eccentric lifting is more typical of the downward contraction pattern that's dominant in skiing," says Walshe. The closer you can get to replicating a movement in the gym, he says, the better the lift will transfer to the sport for which you train.

The second difference in Walshe's plan is the range of motion required. The conventional commandment among weight jockeys is to never bend your legs beyond a 90-degree angle while performing asquat. Whereas most trainers teach their pupils to halt a squat descent at chair-sitting height, Walshe advises you to keep going, descending "until the bum touches the heels, if possible." The reason, again, is to emulate the demands of skiing. You'll be simulating what your body actually does on the hill by putting your legs into a weighted crouch in as many planes of motion as possible. (Think of the times you need to recover from the out-of-control hip-check.) "As long as your progressions are incremental, controlled, and managed," says Walshe "it's pretty much an urban legend about needing to stop at parallel to save the knees." Which doesn't mean you don't have to be careful with his how-low-can-you-go philosophy. While performing these lifts, pay close attention to keeping your knees in alignment. Always point them forward (rather than letting them splay in and out) while descending and ascending during lifts. If you're having trouble keeping up good form, reduce the amount of weight you're using. In addition, because the lifts also stress your vertebrae, make sure to engage (read: flex) your abs and lower back for support.

Finally, choose an appropriate amount of weight to start (see "Weight Savvy," bottom right).

Walshe's plan demands a commitment of three days a week. Consider making Mondays and Thursdays your lower body days (see "Six- Week Training Plan," page 145, for the full details), saving Wednesdays to keep your arms, shoulders, and chest from atrophying in comparison. After all, you can't completely ignore those muscles—remember poling? In three to four weeks, you'll keep the exercises the same but increase your weights and decrease your reps enough so that you reach muscle fatigue after only six reps. This will increase your overall power. Last but not least, be sure to start with a 20-minute upper- and lower-body warm-up before lifting: Skipping rope, spinning on a bike, or jogging are your best bets. "You want to get really good and sweaty first, to make sure your muscles are warm," says Walshe.

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