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Ski Fit: Little Big Muscles

Train your connector muscles for better stability and a stronger core.

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Watch him ski, and you wouldn’t know Mike Hattrup is 58 years old. The former ski-film star, current U.S. Alpine Director for Fischer Skis, and AMGA-certified ski mountaineering guide can out-perform people half his age. Credit that to small-muscle training—exercises that work the stabilizers in your spine, abs, hips, knees, and ankles. 

“It’s one thing to do sit ups, says Hattrup. “But working these core stabilizers will really help keep your balance. These connector muscles keep you upright and signal your bigger guns (glutes, quads) to fire.”

To get stabilizers like Hattrup’s, we asked Wendy McClure of Body Dynamics gym in Boulder, Colorado, to put together this workout. Give it a try and get ready to be sore in some strange places.

Bosu Skaters

1. Stand with your right foot on the dome of a Bosu and your left foot on a glider, arms bent as though you’re holding ski poles. Keep your chest up and shoulders level, then slowly lower into a tuck and slide your left leg straight out to the side.

2. As you stand up, slide your left leg back in, bend your knee, and raise your leg directly in front of you to hip level. Engage your stomach muscles to keep your balance. Do 15 reps on each side, up to three sets. Too easy? Close your eyes, or hold a nine- to 15-pound body bar in front of you. Too hard? Get off the Bosu and slide your foot on solid ground.

The Payoff: “Often when you’re skiing, you either get too far over on the inside ski, or you hit a soft spot and lose balance, says Hattrup. “These help keep you stable.

Bosu Tables

1. Lie facing up, shoulder blades resting on the Bosu, with each foot on a glider. Engage the backs of your legs and core by raising your hips until your spine is straight. Keep your calves perpendicular to the floor.

2. Open and close your legs, pointing your toes up. Do 15 reps. Keep your torso straight, open your legs, and move both feet in small circles 15 times each way. Make it harder by holding a body bar above your hips.

The Payoff: “Skiers complain about stiff backs because we normally don’t extend that much, says McClure. “This is like the classic Roman chair, only a lot safer—you’re just resisting gravity and can’t overextend.

Straddle Jumps

1. Place your feet on either side of a Bosu ball. Drop into a low tuck, and place both hands on the dome.

2. Explode up and land with your feet on top of the Bosu, hands in front of you, knees tracking straight. Stick the landing by dropping low with your hips.

3. Jump back out to the starting position. Do 15 to 20 reps, or until you burn out.

The Payoff: Going from a dynamic movement (the jump) to static control (the landing) on a wobbly surface works your entire body and strengthens the connection between your core and legs.

Dynamic Abs

1. To start, balance on your back on a Bosu, keep your pelvis level, and bring both knees up to a 90-degree angle (not shown).

2. Hold your hands behind your head, contract your stomach muscles, and drop your knees from side to side—maintaining the 90-degree bend the entire time. Do 30 reps.

3. Move into this modified bicycle: Straighten your right leg, move it out to the side, move it back to center, and pull it back in. Do 10 reps on each side.

The Payoff: Regular crunches don’t hit the transverse abdominus, the corsetlike muscles that wrap around the sides of the body, like these do.

Upper Body Gliders

1. Place your knees on the Bosu and each hand on a glider. Keep your torso straight in a push-up position. Relax your neck and drop your shoulders to release tension from your upper back.

2. Slide your right arm straight out in front of you and your left arm out to the side 45 degrees, then slide back up and do a push-up. Alternate sides for a total of 10 reps.

3. Slide your right aarm directly out to the side as you lower into a push-up, then return to the start position. Alternate sides for 10 reps.

4. Push both arms straight out in front of you, lowering your torso, then slide back. Do 10 reps. Keeping your hands underneath your shoulders, move the gliders in small circles 10 times.

The Payoff: The small muscles in your upper body and core work together to keep you balanced. This series builds spine stabilizers and the muscles around your rib cage.

Stacked Side Bends

1. Balance your right hip on the dome of a Bosu with your feet stacked. Put your right elbow on the floor, and rest your head in your hand.

2. Keep your feet together and raise your legs until your body becomes a straight line, then slowly lower them. After 15 reps, raise your legs again and make 15 circles with your feet in each direction. Switch sides, and repeat the sequence.

The Payoff: “You’re challenging the abs and the back together, with all the possible angles, says McClure. “If you feel it in your back, you’re doing it right. Getting your abs iron-strong will keep your entire body aligned on the hill.