The best time to get your ski legs ready is right now. Get strong and fast before the snow starts falling.
Here is a broad overview of the types of exercises that you will want to incorporate into your ski conditioning routine:
Endurance: If you haven’t already been—this is an ideal time for building up cardiovascular and leg strength on a bike—mountain, road or stationary. Go for long rides (more than 60 minutes) 3-5 times a week.
Strength: Your own body weight, resistance bands and weights are all tools for building strength. To build muscle mass, choose an exercise intensity that cause muscle fatigue within 8 repetitions (3-5 sets.) For Endurance/Strength (which most closely resembles the type of stress put on the body while skiing) choose an intensity that causes fatigue after 15-20 repetitions (2-4 sets) 3 times a week.
Power: Exercises like box jumps, burpees and short sprints are effective for getting all of the major muscles firing quickly and getting the heart rate up. To avoid injury, follow a strength training program for a minimum of 3 weeks to build a solid foundation and only do power exercises after your body is warmed up. Do these early in your routine when you’re muscles are still fresh 2 times a week.
Agility and balance*: Simply standing (try with eyes closed) and squatting on one leg is an easy way to challenge balance. Agility exercises can be done using stairs, cones, trees etc. Get creative and be safe.
Flexibility*: It is best to stretch when the body is warm so stretch at the end of your workout. Muscles that tend to get tight on skiers are quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, inner and outer thighs, lower back and calves
*Agility, balance and flexibility are often overlooked when preparing the body for ski season but these types of exercises will help prevent falls on unpredictable terrain and help prevent knee and back injury.
Skiing involves lateral, vertical, and rotational movements while maintaining a stabilized core. Here a few sample exercises that mimic these movements:
Lateral: Side to Side Jumps
Purpose: builds explosive power and quickness. Recruits gluteal muscles which are important in generating power and preventing poor body mechanics while skiing like the knees caving in.
1. Draw a line or place a rope on the ground.
2. Stand to one side of the line facing forward.
3. Jump over the line, pushing off with the outside foot and land on both feet–immediately jump back focusing the push off with the outside foot again.
4. Continue jumping side to side for 30-60 seconds. Rest for 60 seconds.
You don’t have to jump far at first- slowly build more distance – speed is the focus. To increase the intensity, jump over a higher object and/or use one leg only. Always make sure you land on soft knees that are aligned directly over the foot.
Vertical: Single Leg Squat
Purpose: builds individual leg strength and balance over the center of the foot and activates the large leg and core muscles along with the smaller stabilizers.
1. Using two ski poles for balance, stand on one foot, lower yourself down until your thigh is at least parallel to the ground, and then raise yourself slowly.
2. Keep the knee aligned over the ankle. Sit the butt back as you lower down and press up through the heel of the squatting leg as you come back up to standing.
3. 10x per leg (3 sets.)
As your hamstrings strengthen, drop the poles and do 15x per leg.
Rotational: Wood Chop
Purpose: strengthens core muscles and promotes rotation through the hips.
1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly turned out.
2. Shift body weight into right leg—bending right knee in the same direction as toes. The hands come down toward the right knee and shoulders turn toward right.
3. Shift body weight into left leg, while straightening right knee, rotating hips to left and raising both arms up to the left. Keep abs engaged and avoid over arching the low back. Repeat.
4. 10x each side (3 sets.)
Use Dumbbells, a medicine ball, bands or cables to increase the intensity.
Purpose: simultaneously strengthens low back and abs.
1. Get into push up position and then lower yourself onto your forearms.
2. Find proper alignment—back of head, mid back and tail bone should all align.
3. Hold for 30 seconds to 3 minutes depending on your current strength (2 sets.)
Read Ridge Personal Trainer Jackie Rainford Corcoran’s bio here.