Slalom Strong - Constructing The Injury Resistant Slalom Body
By: Trent Finlayson
Face the truth. Slalom skiing can be extremely taxing on your body. It challenges muscles and joints to be at their best, and if you’re not taking precautionary measures to keep your body in peak condition, well, there’s going to be pain to pay! Enter Muhammad Weusi, an elite trainer from San Marcos, Texas, who’s worked with numerous pro and competitive amateur skiers and who now wants to help you. “My approach to training is centered around controlling your form through the strength of your core,” says Weusi. “When I watch someone slalom, that’s what I see them attempting to do on the water.”
While finding a knowledgeable personal trainer is easy, finding one who understands the specific dynamics of water skiing is not. Weusi explains: “Unlike conventional athletic training, a skier’s training needs to account for the nontraditional positioning the body’s forced to assume while on a slalom ski, while still increasing overall strength and endurance.” Weusi has compiled a list of exercises that directly apply to each phase of your skiing — the load, the transition and the turn — that will help keep you on the water and injury-free.
To formulate your personal workout, select two moves from each of the three phases.
Beginning on phase one, perform the two exercises in immediate succession as prescribed.
DURATION: 30 to 45 seconds per exercise.
REST: 30 to 45 seconds between rounds.
PERFORM: Four rounds; then rest one minute between phases.
Spanning from the completion of the turn to the center of the wakes, this phase places enormous load on your entire body. Core strength is paramount in protecting your lower back during this most strenuous phase. Through each exercise concentrate on a long, straight spine, braced by a strong, tight core.
ONE: DEAD LIFT
A proper dead lift needs to be in every slalom skier’s repertoire. You don’t need to lift heavy, only properly.
-Begin with correct structural alignment, a high chest and hips directly over feet.
-As you lower the weight, take your hips back, keeping your weight on your heels.
-Control your motion down, and then explode up, realigning your hips over your feet.
TWO: STAGGERED STANCE ROW
Row variations will directly aid in your ability to maintain your stacked position as the line pressure builds through the load phase. The staggered stance of this exercise will additionally work your stabilizing muscles.
-Stagger your stance with your left knee in front of you close to 90 degrees and straighten your back leg.
-With a proud chest, brace your left elbow on your left knee. This should form a long, straight line from the top of your shoulders to your back foot.
-Grab the dumbbell with your right hand and row it up around your torso until your elbow is at 90 degrees.
-Control the lowering phase, ensuring your hips and chest remain perfectly still.
-Repeat on the opposite side.
THREE: SUSPENSION STRAP SQUAT ROW
This movement directly addresses your body’s realignment as you complete the turn. It will tax your base, core and back comparable to a slalom cut. This exercise can also be performed with a slalom handle anchored at head’s height.
-Begin with your feet directly beneath the handles. Contract your core and lean away from the anchor point, which is your starting point. Your weight will be on the heels of your feet.
-With the weight on the heels of your feet, lower into a full squat with a high chest.
-Driving through your heels, explosively realign your hips above your feet, returning to your starting point.
-At the top of your squat, pull the handles to your chest until you are standing tall over flat feet.
This phase of slalom is the most dynamic of the three. It requires stabilizing one part of your body while moving another. At the precise moment your body is under maximum load, you’re trying to be dynamic with your lower body while your upper body remains as strong and still as possible.
ONE: MEDICINE BALL BACK-LOAD SQUAT
This exercise calls on many of the muscle groups involved in the transition phase. Back-loading the medicine ball will ensure you keep your core engaged as you move through the squat.
-Position the medicine ball behind your head, resting it low on your neck.
-With feet at shoulder width, ensure your body is stacked with a high chest.
-Keeping your weight on your heels, take your hips behind your feet as you lower to a full 90-degree squat.
-Driving through your heels, explode up, realigning into a stacked standing position.
-For added challenge, perform the medicine ball back-load squat on an Indo Board or Bosu ball.
TWO: PLYOMETRIC SPLIT SQUATS
This move focuses on your ability to maintain a strong, still upper body with a fast, dynamic lower body. Front-loading the medicine ball will ensure you keep your core engaged.
-Hold a light medicine ball with straight arms at head’s height.
-Step into a backward lunge position. Ensure your front knee is at 90 degrees and your back knee is just above the mat.
-With a proud chest, contract your core and explode up, pushing off your front heel and the toes of your rear foot.
-Swap your feet midair, landing in the opposite lunge. Focus on a controlled upper body, limiting your movement through a strong, contracted core.
THREE: SUSPENSION STRAP MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
Much like an edge change, this exercise will force you to stabilize your entire upper body by contracting your core while you remain light and fast on your feet. If you’re uncomfortable on suspension straps, this exercise can be modified by instead placing your hands on a medicine ball.
-With your hands in the handles directly below your shoulders, assume a plank position with your back and hips in line.
-With a tight core. drive your right knee toward your right elbow. – Simultaneously push your right leg back to its original position as you drive your left knee forward.
-The handles should remain still by keeping your upperbody strong and still.
With little support from the rope, this phase taxes your balance and coordination skills. Additionally, there is a torso rotation component with a slight counter-rotation into the turn, and the strength required to resist ro- tation as you exit the turn. It’s also important to strengthen your shoulders to protect them against the injuries incurred during a fall in this phase.
ONE: MEDICINE BALL WOOD CHOP
This move focuses on controlled rotation through your torso while your lower body moves dynami- cally. The skills perfected for this exercise translate well for a still upper body during a slalom turn. Once you’re comfortable doing this movement on the ground, you can increase the intensity and your core-building strength by standing on a Bosu ball or Indo Board.
-With your feet shoulder width apart, lower into a full squat with the medicine ball just outside your knee. It’s important to main- tain a vertical axis with your torso and keep your head upright.
-Begin the movement by contracting your core and drive up through your heels.
-As you rise from your squat, draw a straight diagonal line with the medicine ball from outside your knee to a spot above the opposite shoulder.
-Lower into your squat while moving the medicine ball in the same path on the way down. Keep your arms straight and the ball away from your body.
TWO: BENT-OVER REAR FLY
A fall on an outstretched arm during the turn can result in a season-ending injury. As such, it’s important to isolate your oft-neglected rear deltoid. Use a very light weight and control your movement.
-With the dumbbells at your sides and knuckles facing forward, lower into a full squat.
-Fold forward at your hips so your torso is parallel to the floor. With straight arms, slowly raise the weights out, keeping them within the view of your peripheral vision.
-At the top of your range of motion, slightly pause before slowly reversing back down.
THREE: BATTLE ROPE SNAKES
In addition to building endurance, this move forces you to stabilize while your upper body is under alternating unilateral forces. Keeping your core engaged throughout this exercise will allow you to control the battle rope, much as it will with the slalom rope. Battle ropes are a very affordable and versa- tile addition to your home or dockside gym.
-With the rope fully extended, take a step forward to gain some slack.
-Lower into a full 90-degree squat. Keep your chest high and back straight.
-With short, alternating chopping movements begin snaking the ropes. One arm will be chopping up while the other is chopping down. Your goal is to control the rope’s motion.
Muhammad Weusi owns and operates Str8 Training in San Marcos, Texas, the home of the 2014 U.S. National Championships. For personalized sport-specific athletic consultation, check out str8training.com.