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Take It Outside

Core rotary power in winter sports


In the first part of this series, we explored the roles of linked strength and performance balance. Developing core strength will also help set you up to enjoy the outdoors.

In the first part of this series, we explored the roles of linked strength and performance balance. Developing core strength will also help set you up to enjoy the outdoors.

The core is the middle of the body, integrating your abdominals, low back, and hips. A strong, functional core effectively links the upper body to the lower body. I call the core the “speed center,” as it stabilizes the torso so the arms and legs can produce movement. Without strength and endurance within the core musculature, an athlete will be unstable and have a greater risk of injury.

The Core of Winter Sports

You’ve seen core rotary power in the sports environment with the swinging of a tennis racket, golf club, hockey stick, or the throwing of a ball. Snowboarders use an array of techniques and tricks dependent on core strength that involve getting air, carving turns, switching stances, and making jumps and spins. Sharp downhill ski turns (especially on moguls) are also dependent on strong torso rotation. Skaters use rotary power to execute aggressive turns at high speeds and to initiate spins on the ice and in the air.

Traditional abdominal exercises focus on floor-based crunches, sit-ups, leg raises, rope crunches, and back hyperextensions, exercises selected to isolate the abs, achieve a good “burn,” and protect the lower back. However, in sport, nothing is done in isolation, lying down. These exercises can actually cause low back injuries by eliminating the back from the exercise equation, thereby removing the opportunity to strengthen it. They also build ab strength in just one plane of movement, setting participants up for injury when their sport demands high velocity torso rotation (think of navigating those moguls).

You are only as strong as your weakest link, and for most athletes this is the core. Building strength, stability, and rotary power through the abdominals, low back, and hip musculature improves more than a six-pack! Training from the inside out places emphasis on first increasing core strength and only then adding in leg, upper back, shoulder, and arm strength.

To prepare to train for core rotary power, first advance your ab exercises to include core strengthening in a standing position. This can be accomplished with stability-ball holds and partner resistance, exercises that enable the core to remain stable with either both feet or one foot on the ground. Then build strength through rotation by introducing weighted ball throws (with a partner) and resisted torso rotation against a strength tube.

Begin with a slow tempo to ensure the exercise is safe for the lower back. When rotating, be careful not to bend at the waist but rather use the legs, shifting the hips across and down. Learning to weight shift is a skill that transfers well to many winter sports.

A solid core that absorbs impact, undulating terrain, near-falls, and other challenges will help you enjoy the day and get through it injury free. After all, the whole idea is to play in a beautiful environment and enjoy the exhilaration of moving well. Next year, you can be proactive and prepare yourself to take your game up a step by training in the summer and fall for a safe and successful winter sport experience.



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Leah PayneLeah Payne