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How a roller coaster mechanic trains core strength and balance



If you want to know what strength and balance look like in real life, check out Jairo Meza, 37, the man in charge of maintaining the rides at the famous Luna Park amusement park on Coney Island.

The golden rule of balance has nothing to do with your feet or legs. When Jairo Meza is 115 feet off the ground, walking across the slippery rails of Coney Island’s dizzying Thunderbolt roller coaster, he’s focusing on his core and squeezing his abs. “When you go down one track, contract your abs and back so that your core is like a fifth limb,” he says. “That gives you additional stability.”

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The Thunderbolt is 2,223 feet long and has steep turns and twists, including a full corkscrew. Meza walks with her head on a vortex, just a light belt to catch him, looking for broken sensors and lightbulbs. If he spots loose bolts along the Thunderbolt’s side pillars, it’s more core. Meza climbs down the rails and puts his feet up. Then he tenses his core and sprinkles again, plastering his upper body as close as possible to the coaster. “You have to become one with the structure,” he says.

To prepare for anything, Meza trains like a climber and goes to the gym a few times a week to do pull-ups in different grip positions (underhand, overhand, palms neutral). In order not to lose core strength when the park is closed, he does all kinds of planks and other core exercises, as well as 200 crunches. And before climbing a coaster, he clears his head by taking several deep breaths. “You need a clear mind when you are up there,” he says.

Get the balance of a coaster

To work out your balance like a coaster, try resistance band plank marches. Tie a looped resistance band to a pull-up bar. With your back to the bar, grasp the ends of the ribbon. For tension, step out and straighten your arms overhead. Tighten your abs and take turns lifting your feet off the floor. Work for 30 seconds, then let rest for 30 seconds. Do 3 sets.

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