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These are your abs, these are your abs when skiing

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
There have been a few topics in the instruction forum that discuss the idea of contracting the abdominal muscles while skiing. As someone pointed out in one thread {can't remember which one} there seems to be some confusion about core strength and core stability.

For those of you who frequent the fitness forum consistantly, please forgive me for reiterating on points I have made before. But with new members coming in all the time, its nice to bring them up to date.

The abdominal muscle most people are "familiar" with, is the rectus abdominus. This is your outermost layer of abdominal muscle. Its primary function is foward flexion of the spine. Performing simple crunches works these muscles. In skiing, if you felt yourself falling backwards, the rectus abdominus would be the muscle that would pull you back to center. also, a racer in a tuck position is using their rectus abdominus muscle to hold a flexed spine.

So the rectus abdominus is primarily a strength oriented muscle. The problem is, many people over train these muscles for endurance. This in of itself is not a "bad" thing. But if they are trained with the exclusion of the deeper muscles, some people actually develop a somewhat rounded back. Keep in mind, their primary purpose is flexion.

The external obliques are primarily resposnsible for lateral flexion of the spine. Someone who is weak in those muscle may POSSIBLY {but NOT necessarily} have a problem with angualtion.

The internal obliques are responsible for torso rotation. My GUESS is that they were used more frequently in an older technique. Golfers {AHEM!!} will use their internal obliques in a golf swing. The internal obliques are primarily strength oriented muscles.

But the internal obliques have a deeper layer, that have a different function :Torso Stabilization, which is manifested in skiing by A QUIET UPPER BODY. Kneale once gave me my most favorite image for how the deeper internal obliques work in skiing. he said "think of moving your belly button in the direction of the turn".

Since the role of the deeper layer of the internal obliques is stabilization, they are, for the most part, endurance muscles.

Here's something to think about. In their fitness programs, many people do tons of oblique exercises that emphasize rotation. But they do very few that emphasize stabilization. Then, when they go skiing, what do they have a tendency to do?
Counter rotate! Hmm!

Finally, moving deeper we get to the transverse abdominals and the pelvic floor. These are your stabilizers. If your rectus abdominals can pull you up when you are about to fall backwards, your transverse abdominals will stabilize your torso so that you don't fall backwards in the first place. Since they are stabilazers, they are endurance muscles. Exercises that use the transverse abdominal muscle are subtle, which is why people sometimes avoid them They play a major role in balance activities. Its difficult to describe the sensation of using your transverse abs. Its more like a feeling of lifting and lengthening, as opposed to a clenching and tensing.

Many people have commented that even though they do not do any traditional abdominal workouts, they are still excellent skiers. This includes many ski instructors.
But as I mentioned earlier, the transverse abdominal muscle and pelvic floor are directly involved in balance activities. And since skiing is a balnce activity, it makes perfect sense, that someone who is a ski pro would have highly active transverse abs and deeper internal obliques, even without any gym training.
post #2 of 7
It's all very interesting... But what are some exercises that target each group of muscles? I work out quite a bit and would definitely like to know which muscles I am working in each exercise.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Since you are in Calgary, check out the Fitter1 store. Lots of balance type toys. Anything involving balance will be using your transverse abdominal muscle. Click on any of the workouts on this board for more ideas.

Plain crunches work the rectus abdominals. Anything involving rotation works internal obliques, side bending exercise work external. Exercises that lift the pelvis, such as the reverse curl, are PRIMARILY lower abdominals. If you take any of these moves, and put it on balance challenging equipment, you add your transverse.
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Okay, here's a contrast. I was just watching the Women's World Cup cross country races. Lots and lots of up/down upper body flexion. I'm sure there is use of the stabilizers, but they are using infinitely more of their rectus abdominals than downhill skiers.

I had another thought when watching these racers, and although its a bit off my own topic, its worth thinking about.

Most of the women I know who participate in snow sports choose cross country,over downhill. I used to attribute that to a fear factor. But observing the "workout factor" involved in cross country, I wonder if some women choose cross country because of its calorie burning, muscle shaping capacity. Also, by CONVENTIONAL standards, MANY female cross country professional skiers have a more enviable body type than SOME downhillers.

Getting back to abs, there are many ways to take a traditional abdominalexercise,and turn it into something that would be more beneficial for skiing.

Think about an exercise that many people do, albeit incorrectly: The opposite elbow to knee bicycle.
First of all, it should not be opposite elbow to knee! Many people think that just moving the elbow across to the bent knee will work the obliques.
It won't!
To optimally engage the internal obliques, you need to think of ROTATING the rib towards the opposing rear hip pocket. In order to NOT use your neck muscles, the fingers need to be UNLACED, and placed at the edge of the head, not locked behind the neck. As you rotate towards one side, the opposite hip needs to be down on the floor. Very few people do this correctly! The spine needs to be imprinted to the floor whenever both legs are of the ground. Many people perform these exercises with a completely arched lower back!
But of equal importance is the alignment of the knees. If you observe the leg alignment on people performing this exercise,you will see that the knees are not in alignment with the hip bones. Developing a bad habit such as this can have a negative effect on your skiing.

Try this:If you have access to a medicine ball, lie on your back, placing the ball under your feet. Check your alignment. Bothe hips need to be evenly weighted into the floor. Bring one bent knee to your chest. Place your hands on your hips, and straighten your opposite leg on the ball.Now, without pausing through center, switch legs. There should be one point where neither of your feet are on the ball. If your alignment is correct, the ball will go in pretty much a straight line.Start with just the legs, then add the upper body. But NOT elbow to knee! Rib leads towards the hip of the bent knee. Both hips stay on the floor.
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Just found this in the TPS archives. It shows the actions of the different abdominal muscles during bumps. My only critique would be the actual exercises chosen. Although the transverse "CAN" be activated on basic crunches, must people will over use the rectus. Also, the intensity of the workout should match the needs of the sport. These are good cosmetic exercises, but they don't impose the balnce demands needed for skiing.

The transverse can be activated in these exercises by isometric contracted. BUt since there are no balance issues, the transvers will not be CHALLENGED.
post #6 of 7
Hey...here's an idea...drink a lot of malt liquor (or cosmoploitans) to the point where your balance is challenged,...this should make you transverse muscles work harder.

Then go down to the local pick up joint and see if you can activate the kegels.
post #7 of 7
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