PT on the Net Research

Water Skiing – Strength and Balance


Question:

I have a client that is a pro water skier she competes in wake board, ski jumping and speed slalom. Are there any conditioning exercises that simulate her activities using either bands, ball, etc? Her core is already very strong, but I feel we need to work on strength required to keep her in some of the extreme angles encountered in slalom and ski jumping especially.

Answer

Regardless of the sport, it is vital that you begin with at least a basic Kinetic Chain Assessment (KCA). This will allow you to identify where your client is lacking, specifically regarding posture and flexibility. You mentioned "her core is already very strong." Be careful to draw this conclusion so quickly, and please remember many athletes, especially those who've never trained with a skilled professional, are MASTER COMPENSATORS. This is why we must assess. Hence, the old phrase, "If you're not assessing, you're just guessing." Your assessment should be three fold at MINIMUM:

  1. Standing Postural Assessment (see Postural Profile by Lenny Parracino)
  2. Active ROM Assessment (see Muscle Balance or Flexibility Profile by Lenny Parracino)
  3. Transitional Flexibility Assessment (see Overhead Squat: Total Body Profile by Lenny Parracino)

Once you have completed the above, proceed with the appropriate flexibility protocol. Please keep in mind that the following muscles are VERY PRONE TO TIGHTNESS in most individuals:

Water sports have a high demand on a very specific type of reflexes in the human body. The following excerpt from "Scientific Balance Training - Part 2" by Paul Chek explains.

These reflex reactions can be broken down into two main groups:

  1. RIGHTING REACTIONS- These are used primarily when we are on a fixed or stable surface. For example, if you are walking along a sidewalk and you are forcefully pushed by someone behind you, you will primarily use your righting reactions to stabilize yourself and prevent yourself from falling
  2. EQUILIBRIUM REACTIONS- These are used primarily when the surface beneath us moves. For example, if you were taking a step off a curb and accidentally stepped onto a skateboard, in order to catch yourself falling while the skateboard shot out from under you, you'd be primarily using your equilibrium reflexes. These reactions are developed in us as children for the purpose of maintaining or regaining control over the body's center of gravity, thus preventing us from falling. There are several categories of equilibrium reactions:
    • Protective reaction of the arms and legs
    • Tilting reactions
    • Postural fixating reactions

As stated earlier, equilibrium reactions are more dominant when the supportive surface moves underneath us. Examples include WIND SURFING, working on a fishing boat in the open sea, riding a horse, driving a motorcycle, riding on a subway train or riding a skateboard. These activities use righting and equilibrium reactions together but may require a dominance of equilibrium reactions at any given moment.

Application

When selecting exercises for your client, it is important to consider which is the dominant reflex profile in the activity for which they are conditioning. In sports such as equestrian activities, SURFING or motorcycle racing, it is important to determine which aspect of the task is most challenging to your client and therefore needs the most attention.

EXAMPLE PROBLEM #1

EXAMPLE PROBLEM #2

Hopefully, this has demonstrated the importance of identifying the type of reflex demands being placed on a client BEFORE you prescribe a balance exercise for her!

References:

  1. Chek, P. (2002). Scientific Balance Training Series (Parts 1-6). Personal Training on the Net
  2. Chek, P. (2000). What is Functional Exercise? Personal Training on the Net