Training Tip by Jane Mandli
Core Strength and Power of the Pelvis
While watching video of women skiing on the World Cup, my husband would make the strange comment, “I wish I could ski like a girl.” He maintained that the women never tried to overpower the snow with their strength. Rather, the women applied their strength more efficiently and appeared to float over the snow with a conservation of energy. We would see some exception to this in the sprint races where efficiency, while still important, seemed sacrificed for pure power. But, even in the sprints, being efficient appeared dependent on core strength applied to dynamic balance.
We all do some kind of core strength, but I found something that has made a huge difference in the way I ski. It involves training those muscles that allow me to keep my hips forward while on one ski. That yelling of coaches to keep the hips forward seemed so elusive until I learned the “Power of the Pelvis” (POP).
The progression is a fundamental key to skiing both classical and skate techniques.
If you have no back issues, lay flat on the floor. Gently arch you back off the floor. This is what you do not want to do when you ski! Now, without using your hip flexors, flatten the small of your back on the floor, contract you lower abdominal muscles and tilt your pubic bone toward your naval. Try it. You can do this exercise anytime and almost anywhere. This is the position I want my pelvis in when I am on my skis in skating and classical technique. This is the “Power of the Pelvis.” Most all the core strength work I do is to strengthen my ability to obtain this posture on my skis. Yes, this is bad posture for everyone, but good posture for cross country skiers. If you roller ski, work to get this position. Of course, keeping the ankle flexed gets you to the full dynamic posture that keeps you up and over your ski. If you don’t roller ski, practice this posture while standing on one leg with the ankle flexed forward. You will find that sweet spot.
Most of us have learned how to do front planks and side planks with and without movement. You know the ones where you support your body on your forearms (or forearm for a side plank) and assume a static pushup position that makes the “plank.” Girls, do those, they really help. However, for a change, focus on keeping that pelvic tilt on the front plank and side plank. POP is very subtle.
The simple shoulder bridge that requires us to keep both feet on the ground and then lift our pelvis upward is common to any core strength workout. However, now the focus is on keeping the “Power of the Pelvis.” While maintaining the POP, try straightening one leg from the knee and hold it parallel and steady. Alternate to the other leg. You will immediately see some shakiness when you start these, but stability comes with time.
My girlfriends hate to do sit ups, like leg lifts even less, but they do like abdominal crunches with all the variations. Do these, too. However, a POP version is simple and effective. Return to that original exercise of being flat on your back and titling your pubic bone toward your naval. To make it a full crunch, simple involve the head and shoulders in about a three inch movement up and toward the belly button and hold it. Remember to keep the back flat against the floor.
My husband might disagree, but I think it is easier for most women to obtain this posture on skis. With a strong core, the World Cup women win races, and we, too, can use the “Power of the Pelvis” to reach our goal of being powerfully efficient. “Ski like a girl.”