Every ski season brings the opportunity to be better than the last. If you continually tell your self you will get into ski condition but wait till the season actually starts you will end up in the same rut as last year, and not finishing out the whole ski season. If you give your self enough time, and with a proper foundation in fitness, you can make this ski season one of your best and longest.
The first step to ramping up your fitness starts with a solid strength training program. The first six weeks of a strength training program should be spent building a foundation. Start light and focus on proper form. Lift twice per week, with 48 hours of rest in between each session. To see significant results, put in and hour per session, in which you do two sets of 12-15 repetitions each, resting only 30-45 seconds between each set.
Because skiing is a whole-body sport, you’ll want to do whole-body strength workouts. Thinking of your body as a series of components simplifies planning a workout. Target the following muscle groups: Legs (ankles, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes), torso ( chest, back, and abdominals), and arms ( biceps, triceps, and shoulders).
Also keep in mind that muscles don’t work independently. Each muscle group has an opposing group and can only lengthen when the other one contracts, so it’s important to develop both equally. For example, the quadriceps extends the leg (straighten the knee), while the hamstrings flex it (bend the knee). If only one group is strengthened, the imbalance can lead to injury.
After six weeks, crank the workouts up a notch. Try to do three sets instead of two, start lifting to failure (the point where you can’t lift any more) and incorporate eccentric lifting. Each weight lifting move has two parts: the concentric (lifting and shortening) part of the motion and the eccentric (releasing and lengthening) component. In an eccentric move, you add 10 pounds to the maximum weight you can do 15 reps. A training partner helps you lift the weight, and then you slowly lower – or resist – it on your own. This method helps simulate the forces your body has to deal with while skiing. As you ski your body is resisting forces during turns and bumps more than it is trying to produce force. So when you put on a huge amount of weight that you can’t push, that you just have to resist, it trains the muscles and allows you to be so much more efficient that you don’t get tired.
After 10 weeks of lifting , add ski specific exercises that demand not only strength, but balance and quick reflexes, too. Plyometric jumping exercises and training on unstable surfaces are often added in to workout routines twice a week with two days of rest between sessions to ramp up your intensity. Plyometrics will make you quicker, more balanced and lighter on your feet. Plyometricss include any exercise, from jumping rope to tossing a medicine ball, in which a muscle is contracted eccentrically and then immediately contracted concentrically. To picture it, think of the muscle as a rubber band that is stretched and then released. The faster you can switch from a stretch to a release, the greater your explosive power and the better your reaction time on the hill. This would also be the time to add in unstable surfaces such as bosu balls or gym balls to increase activation of stabilizing muscles. Most strength workouts are done on a firm surface, giving the stabilizing muscles a break but if you move your workout to exercise balls or unstable balancing surfaces this will force the smaller muscle to work during your workouts similar to the demands of skiing. Plyometrics will make sure you are not fazed by powder, crud or anything else mother nature throws at you.
With the ski season right around the corner it is time to get started with your conditioning program. The Seattle Athletic Club offers a ski conditioning class right now on Mondays at 6 pm with Joel Mitchell or for more information on sports training please feel free to contact any of the training staff at the Seattle Athletic Club to help get the best out of your next season of skiing.