Strength, speed, flexibility and agility are among the fitness parameters most commonly trained to improve your performance in sport. The type of sport you participate in will dictate the relative blend of these qualities, but whether it is team sports or alpine skiing, ultimately the aim is to develop balance that will lead to physical control and optimal performance.
Training often focuses on obvious, easily visible muscle groups in the arms and the legs. While the relationship between these muscles and movements of the limbs is readily accepted eg hamstring muscles and knee flexion. What is overlooked is an understanding that these muscles of the limbs depend on a solid foundation to pull from. Training core stability develops this foundation.
Some of the benefits associated with core stability training include: Improved Posture, Fewer Injuries, Better agility and improved ability to change direction, improved balance and co-ordination, improved power and speed. The complete guide to core stability – Matt Lawrence
Highlighted above are most of the areas that these blogs will look at, but through out the research we have found other fundamental areas/elements that will benefit from the introduction of core stability/strength in a skiers training programme. The areas felt to be key are to be illustrated and discussed during the following series of blogs.
Posture is the alignment of the joints and muscles to assist function. The complete guide to core stability – Matt Lawrence
Force is transferred most efficiently through the body in a straight line, but because of poorly developed centres of power, athletes often have poor posture, which can lead to less efficient movements. Athletes who don’t have good posture often waste energy through erratic, uncoordinated and inappropriate movements.
For posture to be improved by including core strength and stability into our exercise programmes we must first understand what good posture is. Secondly athletes must ensure that through out all of their work out they stand, sit or move in the correct manor. Undertaking an exercise programme with out this basic knowledge and discipline may end in injury. Athletes need to train all of their muscles so that not only do they work in harmony but in the correct range and planes of movement.
The quality of being flexible, pliancy and adaptability. Freedom from stiffness or rigidity
Flexibility is achieved through stretching, mobility work and range of motion exercises a very important part of core strength work outs.
Stretching increases the length of the muscle resulting in greater range of movement of both the muscles and the joint that the muscle acts upon therefor improving its function. This will include recovery speed, increased muscle growth and enhanced shape leading to better posture as well as improved flexibility.
Stretching is a very widely researched topic: Most recent information advises dynamic stretching prior to a work out, be that skiing or specific off snow core strength workouts, and static stretches only when the muscles are warm.
When stretching as previously discussed, the muscle is being extended. In a warm state the muscle will be more agreeable to change therefore allowing increased flexibility to be developed. When cold the muscle is much less pliable and therefor more vulnerable to over stretching which could result in an injury such as a pulled muscle.
To increase flexibility a skier would want to be using static stretches, sliding surface maintenance and joint capsule work. A dynamic stretch is mainly used prior to exercise to warm up the muscles and prepare them for the exercise programme ahead. Dynamic stretching may be used to prepare the muscles for a static stretching session or incorporated into a warm up session before exercise or indeed skiing itself.
Flexibility in the alpine skier is particularly important, not only for the development of muscles and their range of movement but also the speed of this movement, an integral part of the skiing fundamentals for example agility.
Injury during sport can be caused by many factors, such as muscles imbalances, poor conditioning, bad training programmes, poor posture and the common problem of poor technique. Core strength is a very important tool that is often neglected in injury prevention. Athletes need to ensure that injury prevention is addressed in their program especially as they are expecting and demanding more and more from their bodies.
Research has shown that increased flexibility supported by good core strength can be an effective method of injury prevention. Inflexible athletes will be ore likely to cause injury by stretching a muscle beyond its normal range of movement.
Including effective core strength training into a program will enable all the muscles to be strengthened and used, thus preventing the overuse/compensation by certain muscles that can lead to injury. This injury is caused by over worked muscles shortening through over activity, this leads to them eventually becoming fibrous and therefore loosing the ability to return to their full length. This not only damages the muscles themselves but can lead to postural problems and muscle imbalance as previously explained.
Alpine skier’s bodies are regularly subjected to impact which can be a cause of injury. A strong stable core will aid in the management of this impact: As explained in part 1 if the spine is held in neutral by the surrounding muscles it has a natural curve to absorb the impact. The inner and outer girdles both aid in this. Well developed and trained muscles also have the ability to stretch and retract at higher speeds therefore moving and supporting out skeletal system with more proficiency.