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The Core of the Matter

Figure skaters no doubt hear all the time about the need for a strong core. But ask a skater what exactly that means and you might get a few blank stares. In today’s post we’re going to break it down so we’re all on the same page:

What is your Core?

Your core is not just your abs. It refers to the midsection of your body – all of you from your hips up through your ribcage. It does include your abdominal muscles: your rectus abdominis (your 6 pack muscles), your obliques (your side abs – and you have two sets, external and internal), and your transversus abdominis (the layer of muscle underneath your rectus abdominis). But wait! There’s more! Your core also includes your pelvic floor muscles and your back muscles like the erector spinae, lower latissimus dorsi, and multifidus.

We know – sounds like an anatomy textbook. Here’s the TLDR version: your core contains at least 8 muscle groups and refers to both the front and back sides of your body. Focusing your effort on just your front, shallow-most layer of abs won’t give you the strong core you need to succeed in skating (or really any other athletic endeavor). Neglecting your back muscles, especially those attached to the hip complex is a rookie mistake.

What does your Core do?

The short answer is: a lot! Its most basic function is to hold your body upright and turn your torso. Both super important jobs! In figure skating there are additional demands on your core:

  1. Maintaining your upright line and graceful posture on the ice
  2. Rotating efficiently in spins and jumps
  3. Stabilizing your body on landing and coming out of turns and spins

And a whole host of other subtle, but no less important ways.

How do you get a Stronger Core?

Your core does a lot of things and moves in a lot of ways so you’re going to have to approach your core work with an equally diverse exercise routine. There are three fundamental ways you should be training your core in order to strengthen it the most effectively.

Rotation: This is where you want to practice building strength through your full range of motion. Basically, can you fully turn in both directions or is one side inhibited in some way?

Example exercises: Russian twists, lunge with rotation, woodchoppers/hay bailers, mountain climbers etc.

Anti-rotation: This is making sure that your torso stays straight despite pressure coming from one or multiple directions. Basically, are you stable enough to keep your body centered?

Example exercises: Paloff press, sandbag slides in a plank, plank with hand/leg lifts, bird-dog/deadbug, jackknife on stability ball etc.

Isometric holds: This is what most people are familiar with when it comes to core exercises, it’s where you attempt to hold a position that forces your core to engage. Basically, can how much endurance does your core have when constantly forced to work?

Example exercises: Planks, deadbug, leg lifts, side plank, active hang, pull-ups, deadlift etc.

Hope this helps as you continue to work out that core!

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