With Strength, Don’t Neglect Flexibility

wsdnfEspecially critical to Rogers and Klaus’ success and safety is core strength and flexibility–both key, often neglected elements of fitness. Having a strong core–the erector muscles of your lower back and the rectus abdominis, obliques and transverse abdominis of your stomach–will help you avoid nagging back injuries that can not only make for a painful golf swing, but can also knock your training off-track. A firmed-up midsection will help you handle heavier weight with exercises such as squats and standing shoulder presses, which translates to more muscle gain. Lastly, increased flexibility will reduce injuries and muscle soreness and give you greater range of motion.


On days when he doesn’t jump out of a plane several times, Klaus usually lifts weights for an hour to an hour and a half. Because his work recruits even the smallest and most out-of-the-way muscles, Klaus performs a variety of exercises for each area of the body to ensure a comprehensive workout.


While most guys focus on their “beach muscles,” Klaus concentrates mostly on his core, performing crunches and back extensions (he also includes lat pull-downs and rows to strengthen his upper back). This not only provides him with stability during free fall, but also builds those boxer’s abs that most women prefer to beach muscles anyhow.

Rogers does a rather brutal daily abs workout utilizing a Swiss ball. His typical routine includes crunches, crunch twists, trunk rotations, reverse crunches and flail sit-ups. Generally, he does sets of 40 repetitions, but occasionally he’ll throw in a five-minute sit-up “sprint” (this shocks the muscles and stimulates development). To round things out, Rogers does some light upper-body work with dumbbells, often using the Swiss ball as a seat or bench in order to target stabilizer muscles.


Klaus also goes for a short run (two or three miles) once or twice a week and stretches extensively every day. “Lifting weights makes my muscles strong, but the stretching allows me to use them,” he says. “There’s no way I could perform some of the tricks I do without getting injured if I didn’t have the flexibility.” For guys who lift weights regularly, Klaus says full-body stretching will enable them to get the most out of their newly developed strength.


Rogers took up yoga several years ago, and it has been his primary fitness activity ever since. “I haven’t found any other kind of exercise that gives you so many benefits,” he says. He cites increased strength, flexibility, balance, concentration, relaxation and general body awareness as benefits he’s drawn from yoga that have helped him as a camera flyer and with all of his physical activities. Rogers does his yoga workouts at home with a video called Power Yoga, instructed by California-based fitness guru Bryan Kest. Rogers performs the 45-minute routine four times a week.

Wherever you are in your fitness program, you’ll benefit by paying attention to core strength and flexibility. So adopt some of the Yahoo! team’s training into your own regimen; for example, try taking a yoga class once a week, and include a variety of ab exercises with a Swiss ball two or three times a week. Even if you have no plans to step out of a perfectly good airplane, you’ll know you could.


Combining elements of skydiving, snowboarding and high-velocity camera work, the spectacular and very extreme sport of skysurfing involves a pair of athletes at 15,000 feet recording a live video that is scored by judges stationed on the ground. The skysurfer, in this case Stefan Klaus, performs a series of tricks on a specially designed “skyboard” during free fall, while his camera flyer, Brian Rogers, follows him with a helmet-mounted camera.

Klaus’ role as skysurfer, which requires him to maneuver a 59-inch board at 120 mph–a rate of speed called “terminal velocity”–and perform hundreds of spins at a rate of up to three per second, emphasizes strength, balance and quick reflexes. Meanwhile, Rogers must contort his body in a variety of ways, and slow down and accelerate his fall in step with his partner’s changing moves, providing interesting angles without losing focus (a major point deduction). Agility and stability are paramount.

Skysurfing may sound like a sport invented by overcaffeinated Fox executives, but it’s genuine–executing the one-minute routines is an intense effort and calls on a broad range of physical and mental attributes.

“Skysurfing is very physical,” says Klaus, who was born and raised in Switzerland and spent much of his childhood pursuing extreme vertical challenges in the Alps. “Being in good shape is important. Even though it’s only one minute when you’re actually doing something, that minute is incredibly intense, because you’re concentrating the whole time. You’re burning adrenaline, and you’re spinning and doing all these tricks.” On an average training day, Rogers, a native of South Carolina, says he and Klaus will do eight to 10 jumps, leaping aboard the next plane within two minutes of landing in the drop zone. How does he feel at day’s end? “Totally spent.”

The sport requires a variety of mental skills, too. Above all, naturally, a skysurfer needs to have some serious nad. Beyond that, good old-fashioned discipline and a capacity for extreme focus and concentration are mandatory. But the most striking mental quality you see in skysurfers like Klaus and Rogers, who won the X-games skysurfing gold medal last year, is an inexpressible passion for flying–a passion much like a surfer’s mystical love of wave riding. Everything else–the guts, the focus and the discipline–is critical, but secondary.

Searching for the right words, Rogers says, “What can I say? It’s flying! I love flying. It’s an incredible rush of adrenaline.”

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