Head Coach Mark Zawadski of Peak Condition talks through the many exercises you can do with a Swiss ball before you head to the mountains.
When recently asked to write a blog on a piece of equipment that every gym goer must have seen, but probably doesn't know how to use effectively for ski performance conditioning then I had no hesitation in choosing the Swiss Ball as the subject matter.
Not many people know that the Swiss Ball was widely introduced into gyms by Paul Chek, who has enhanced, utilised and championed this training tool for rehabilitation and high performance athletic conditioning for 30-plus years. When you see one in the gym it's him you have to thank.
For the skier, the Swiss Ball is a vital conditioning tool due to the fact that using it correctly has a high functional carryover to skiing.
One of the main reasons for this is that doing any exercise on a Swiss Ball requires that you activate a far higher number of stabiliser muscle fibres than doing the same exercise on a stable base of support. These stabiliser muscle fibres are vital for maintaining optimal stability over your skis, while ensuring that your joints and spine remain protected.
Also, the reflex profile is similar when you are skiing and when you are exercising on a Swiss Ball, so this will make your body far more effective at reacting to the requirements of the sport of skiing. When you are on an unstable surface you use the Tilting Reflexes predominantly and this is the same when exercising on a Swiss Ball.
Therefore, I want to introduce you to 3 highly effective Swiss Ball exercises that, when undertaken correctly, are likely to have a beneficial impact on your performance on the slopes.
The Seated Single Leg Swiss Ball Woodchop is one such exercise as not only does it incorporate the Anterior Oblique Sling of muscles, which is vital for creating ski turns, but also it is using the ski-specific "Tilting Reflexes”.
I would suggest undertaking this exercise with a weight where you are fatigued after 12 to 14 repetitions, then swap sides. You should count for 1 as you rotate to the side, hold for the count of 1 and then return to the midline for the count of 2. Start with 2 sets and build up to 4 with a rest of 45 seconds between sets. Increase the weight when you can complete 4 sets of 14 reps each side without significant post training muscle discomfort the following day or 2 after training.