The Importance of Core Strength

Skiing and more importantly ski racing requires the body to move in ways that aren’t found in many other sports. While it’s obvious to many that leg strength is a critical part of being a strong skier, less obvious is that of equal importance is having a strong core.

What is the core?

When we refer to strong core muscles we are talking about your stomach and lower back. These muscles are absolutely essential to be able to hold a balanced athletic stance and the parallel position as required by modern ski racing. When you transition from a steep to flat, absorb a mogul, stay forward over a rut, or make a Herman Maier style recovery what muscles were you using to stay centered on the skis? Your core.

Some of you may have heard of a one of the more famous ski racers in recent history, Alberto Tomba of Italy. He is one of the most successful ski racers of all time. He was a phenomenal slalom skier. While his antics off the slopes may rival Bode Miller’s, his training regime was/is something to be admired. Tomba recognized that the importance of a strong set of core muscles in ski racing, so much so that it was rumored that he did 100 sit ups in between every set of repetitions and every exercise he did in a typical gym session. He did somewhere on the order of 2 thousand situps in every session. And he looked like it. Many ski coaches and racing analysts attribute much of his overwhelming world cup success to being phenomenally well conditioned.

So, now that we know what the core muscles are and that having a strong core is important lets talk about some things you can do to help build your core muscles. Remember, everyone has to start somewhere. Whether you can do 10 situps or 100, adding a few exercises that emphasize the core to your training regime will unquestionable make you a faster racer. Let me say that again. Exercising your core muscles will make you a faster ski racer. Think that speed suit makes a difference? Wait till you see what happens after you start getting stronger, and stronger than your competitors whose idea of core strengthening is to sit on the coach in front of an X-Box or in front of the computer instant messing friends all afternoon.

If you spend 10-15 minutes 5 days a week doing the exercises properly and consistently you will see a difference. I guarantee it. The following exercises take less than 10 minutes to do.

  • For the first 10 days do these exercises every other day
  • For the next 10 days, do them two days on, one day off
  • For the next 10 days, 3 days on 1 day off
  • For the next 10 days, 4 on 1 day off
  • For the next 10 days, 5 days on 1 day off
  • Now you do them 6 days a week, with the same off day each week.

When the next season roles around you’ll be very strong, and as a result much faster, able to turn harder arcs with more power and hold more aggressive angles at higher speeds, holding a tighter line than your competitors can. The more you can stick to the schedule the more efficient your progress and strength will develop.

Exercise 1 – Crunches Bicycle
Lie on your back, lift your legs up in a 90degree bend at the knee so your lower leg is parallel to the ground. Hands crossed on chest. Bring L shoulder to R knee. Lift up and hold for a count of 2 seconds, down rest for 2 seconds and then switch. 10 on each side when this becomes easy increase hold count and increase the reps
Exercise 2 – Superman 1
Lie on stomach, lift arms straight about 6 inches – 1 foot off floor and do the same with legs. Up for a count of 5 seconds, down rest for the 3 seconds, up again. Count of 10 when this becomes easy decrease the rest count to increase the reps
Exercise 3 – The Bridge
Assume push up position (straight back) but rest on elbows not hands. Hold for 20 seconds. When this becomes easy (you don’t shake) add time in 10 second increments and work your way up to two minutes.
Exercise 4 – Crunch 2
Same as above but cross arms on chest and just lift chest up and hold for a count of 2 seconds then down and rest for 2 seconds. 10 Total. Don’t twist. When this becomes easy increase the hold count. and increase the reps.
Exercise 5 – Cherry Pickers
Extend straight legs straight up in the air (perpendicular to floor). Reach up with L hand and touch R toe. roll back flat on ground and switch to other hand & foot. 10 on each side When this becomes easy increase the reps.
Exercise 6 – Superman 2
Same as above, but lift L leg and R arm, hold for a count of 5 seconds, down rest for 3 seconds, switch Count of 10 on each side. When this becomes easy decrease the rest count and increase the reps.
Exercise 7 – Situps
Regular situps hands crossed in front, toes held by someone or under a piece of furniture. As many as you can do in 30 seconds with quality motion. Record this figure in your training log if you keep one.

So there you have it. The above exercises aren’t easy; in fact they’ll hurt, but you will be rewarded on the race course. If you can’t commit to a schedule where you are doing them 6 days a week, please try to shoot for a minimum of three times a week. You’ll still see a noticeable difference on that schedule.