Ski jumping demands advanced ski skills, combined with extraordinary balance, timing and coordination. Some Olympic Committee members once believed that the sport was too dangerous for women, that they lacked the appropriate skills, and that jumping might damage their "girly parts." After a long battle --which included a lawsuit, according to the "New York Times," the International Olympic Committee finally agreed to include women's ski jumping in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Female skiers can now show the world that girls can soar.
Before you take off on your jump, you build speed by skiing down a steep slope called an "inrun." For maximum speed development, ski jumper's assume the "tuck" position, a variation on the basic squat. The tuck differs from the traditional squats you know and love. It uses a slightly rounded lower back, which minimizes wind drag. Holding the tuck requires quad, hamstring and butt muscle strength and endurance.
The principles of plyometric exercise apply to the inrun and the takeoff. As your lower body endures the grueling tuck position, your muscles act like a coiled spring, storing the explosive energy that makes you spring into action during your takeoff. Plyometric exercises, including squat jumps and box jumps, develop this type of strength and benefit your takeoff and landing. If your legs are strong, but lack the appropriate "zing," integrate your plyometrics with traditional strength training. After completing a set of weighted barbell squats, remove the weights and do a set of squat jumps.
Stance and Balance
The classic ski jump resembles a plank in midair. You must lean forward until your torso practically touches your boards, keeping your hips aligned with the center of your skis and your head and neck in a neutral position. Your deep core muscles must stabilize your spine, because any superfluous movement might throw you off balance. When combined with balance and core stability, this alignment propels your body forward and provides an aggressive stance against a skier jumper's worst enemy: wind resistance.
Bending your legs during ski jump landings is imperative or you can injure your knees. The typical female hamstring/quad imbalance makes this easier said than done. Once again, plyometric exercise is your new best friend. The results of a study published in 2004 in the "Journal of Athletic Training" indicate that six weeks of plyometric exercise can reduce the risk of injury in female athletes. Because the ski jump requires you to land with one foot in front of the other, add the lunge jump to your ski jumping fitness program. Place one foot in front of the other and bend your knees. As you straighten your legs, jump up, switch lead legs and land in the lunge.
- CBC: Women's Ski Jumping in 2014 Sochi Olympics
- Newton's Apple: Ski Jumping
- Canadian Ski Instructor's Alliance: Park and Pipe Manual
- Sports Fitness Advisor: The Physiology of Plyometrics
- Ross Boxing: A Twist to Complex Training
- Journal of Athletic Training: Neuromuscular Changes in Female Collegiate Athletes Resulting From a Plyometric Jump-Training Program
- The New York Times: After Long Fight for Inclusion, Women’s Ski Jumping Gains Olympic Status
- Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images
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