Get Hard Core

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In a typical World Cup downhill, Daron Rahlves hurtles 80 miles an hour down a near-vertical ribbon of ice. As he banks a turn, skis chattering wildly, his muscles resist spikes of ground force equaling 1,600 pounds, according to his trainer Per Lundstrom. Twenty seconds into the race, his heart rate hits 186 beats per minute.

Check out the workout schedule and exercises below,

At 180 pounds, Rahlves is a full 20 pounds lighter than most of his European rivals—a significant disadvantage in the momentum department. But that doesn't hold him back: In 2003, he became the first American since 1959 to win the storied Hahnenkamm downhill, dusting the Austrians on their home turf and taking home a title more coveted in the skiing world than Olympic gold. His secret? A strong core and exceptional balance.

Each summer, Rahlves cross-trains with wakeboarding, mountain biking, motocross, and surfing. Closer to winter, he hits the gym, focusing on strength and power through weight training. He runs and spins for endurance, but also works his core year-round—four to five days a week. "The core is everything, says Rahlves. "If you're weak in the midsection, you'll get tired and make mistakes.

If you've been following Skiing's 12week fitness program, you've endured one month of cardio conditioning and another of iron-pumping pain. To get you primed for opening day, we paired Rahlves with Laura Keller, our expert PT and ski trainer at San Francisco's Stone Clinic, to create a series of core-specific moves. "Core strength is what prevents injury, says Keller. "You can have the strongest quads in the world, but if your core isn't strong, you can't rescue yourself from an off-balance position.