June 2005

                       
                          Core Strength for Speed Skating
                           For printable version click here


Traditionally speed skating has been thought of as a sport where maximum power is
generated by the legs, in particular the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, and little upper
body work is needed as it is not important in skating. A few sit-ups here and there is
helpful to maintain a balanced body, and really helpful if you are in to showing off the
ripped six-pack on the beach, right?

In truth, skating involves the whole body, right from the shoulders and arms, through the
back and abdominal muscles, through the hips, and the legs. No, we don’t use our arms to
propel ourselves forward, but a good strong arm swing is just one of the links in the chain
in generating maximum power to the legs. Have you ever seen anyone skate a full out
500m with two arms on their back. Nope.

To generate maximum power in any sport, all of the muscle groups involved in
performing the action must be strong to ensure the kinetic chain of power is maintained.
Any weak link in this chain of power will result in losses in power. So even if you have
thighs like Eric Heiden, you will need a strong upper body and core to be able to transfer
that power. Being strong through the core helps stabilize the body so you can use the
power where it is needed without losing power through unnecessary movement in the
upper body. Think of the core muscles as a shock absorber. If the core is strong enough to
control the violent movements occurring in the lower body (push) and the upper body
(arm swing), the less energy they use up in stabilizing the transfer of power, resulting in a
smoother, more powerful ride.

The skating position itself requires you to be strong through the back, stomach, hip and
glute muscles. Your abdominal and back muscles work to keep your chest in a low
position and your abdominal, hip, and glute muscles work to maintain your butt tucked
under you. Often, when you see a skater’s knees start to rise it is because the core is not
strong enough to maintain the upper body and butt position.

Core strength is perhaps even more important in short track. Because of the tighter radius,
there is a high degree of centrifugal force pushing against the body. The core muscles
must work to combat the centrifugal force to keep your chest from rising, especially on
the pivot, and the exit of the turn where centrifugal force is at it’s max. Also, there is the
inevitable contact in short track. Having good core strength may help you to stabilize
yourself against the contact so you don’t wind up on your butt.

Starts require a great deal of core strength to be able to drive your hips forward to
maximize the contraction of the glutes and the extension of the muscles in the front and
side of the hips. It is the extension through these muscles that allow you to fully access
the power in the quads. In other words, if you don’t extend powerfully through the hips
and your butt is left behind, you will be left behind.

Good core strength plays an important role in injury prevention. Training for skating and
racing places an enormous torque and strain on various body parts. Many injuries,
particularly knee, groin, hip and lower back injuries can be prevented through developing
core strength. Not to mention the added bonus of having a good shock absorber when
hitting the mats at 25 mph!

Core training for speed skating should focus on the abdominals including rectus
abdominus, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominus and intercostals, upper
and lower back (deltoids, rhomboids, lats), hips (gluteals, hip flexors, psoas), outer and
inner thighs (abductors and adductors), hamstrings, even some chest, arm and shoulder
work. There are 10001 different ways and exercises to train the core, from Swiss Balls,
medicine balls, machines, Pilates, and traditional sit ups, crunches, and back extensions.
Find some exercises that you like to do from each of the areas listed above and dedicate a
few minutes a day to doing the exercises that you enjoy doing and that work for you.
There is not one magic exercise that works it all so choose maybe three a day working 2 –
3 of each muscle group.

Check out these sites for some core strength exercises:
http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/exercises.php?MainMuscle=Abdominals
http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/exercises.php?MainMuscle=Lower+Back
http://www.d3multisport.com/articles/core1.html
http://www.d3multisport.com/articles/core2.html
http://www.powerbasefitness.com/gallery/speed

As with any training, approach your core strength training slowly. Ease in to it so you
don’t get injured or develop overuse injuries. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and core
strength takes time to develop. Be extremely careful and pay attention to exact execution
of each exercise. Core strength using weights, resistance, or machines should only be
done after you have developed a reasonable base of strength.

References:
Round Table discussion on Core Strength by Skip Allen, B.S., C.S.C.S.
Manager, Peak Performance Youth Athletic Development Academy, Mike Iosia, M.Ed.
Head of Strength and Conditioning, Tulane University, G. Alton Dudley, Ph.D.,
F.A.C.S.M., C.S.C.S., Professor of Exercise Science, The University of Georgia, Dixie
Stanforth, M.S., Instructor, Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas,
Brent Steuerwald, M.A., Head Football Coach, Department of Athletics, Shenendehowa
Central School District

Core Strength Training – The Key to Optimum Sports Performance – Jason Morgan
http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/morgan3.htm
Core Strength Training – Steve Pyle
http://www.tri-ecoach.com/art5.htm

For printable version click here


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