Though many parts of the country host seemingly never-ending ski seasons (ahem, Colorado), between the birds chirping, flowers blooming, and warmer weather, it's pretty clear winter is over here in Pennsylvania. And that means it's time to start thinking about preparing for next year.
If you're an outdoor adventure addict like I am, the activities you love in the off-season are great for keeping in shape for skiing. Mountain biking, backpacking, hiking, climbing, even stand up paddleboarding and kayaking can help maintain strength and endurance when it's not snowing. But if you're looking for something more sport-specific, there are a handful of exercises in addition to these that can be combined in a variety of different ways to help prime your body for the slopes. Give this sample workout a try to kick start your off-season fitness training.
Sample Workout and Instructions
- Lift: Work up to three sets of five (3×5) deadlifts at a moderate to heavy weight, i.e., 75 percent of your one rep max. Do a minimum of five warm-up sets at increasing weight with no more than 40-pound jumps. One minute rest between sets.
- Accessory: Three rounds, 10 (each leg) dumbbell box step ups with 25-pound dumbbells, superset with three sets of 10 lat pulldowns, bands or weighted.
- "Cardio A": As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of 15 wall ball shots with a 14-pound ball and an 8-10-foot target, 15 pushups, 15 box jumps on a 20" box (lateral or traditional), followed immediately by a one-mile steady state run, OR...
- "Cardio B": Choose one -- 6x400m sprints, 6x500m on a rowing machine, 6×1-mile sprints on a bike, 90 seconds rest in between each.
- Cash-Out: Tabata plank holds (20 second hold, 10 second rest, repeat for eight rounds). If you're feeling ambitious, do this in the traditional plank position, then redo the eight intervals on each side.
Scale as needed! If the weights, box height, wall ball target height or cardio distances are too difficult, adjust to ensure you reap the benefits of the workout as it's intended to be performed, and to avoid injury.
Though it's not often you have to pick up something heavy while skiing, deadlifts are one of the most universally functional exercises available. Deadlifts promote full body muscular development, work your core, and help prevent injury when performed correctly and regularly.
With all of the deadlift variations out there, it can be difficult to determine which is best. For the purposes of building power in general, a conventional deadlift is encouraged here. Start with a loaded barbell on the floor and your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Position the barbell over your mid-foot. Keeping your chest high, bend down while pushing your hips back and keeping your shins perpendicular to the floor. For most people, a good starting point is to keep your knees bent at about a 45-degree angle and adjust from there. You should feel tension in your hamstrings in this position.
Grab the bar with your hands slightly outside of your knees. Take a deep breath in and tighten your entire back, making sure your back is flat and your lats are engaged. That's your starting (and ending position) for every lift.
PHOTO: Deadlift Starting Position
To start the movement, pull the bar off of the floor keeping it as close to your body as you can. Stand tall by opening your hips and knees at the same rate, keeping your back and torso tight. Breathe out as you stand up. Return the barbell to the floor the same way. Click here for a detailed video.
PHOTO: Deadlift Finishing Position
Additionally, single leg deadlifts are a great way to develop hip strength and balance for skiing. This video is a great resource for single leg deadlift technique.
Weighted Box Step-Ups
In the same vein as single leg deadlift, box step-ups will help maintain strength and balance in each leg. A 20" box will work for most, but if that's too tall or short, adjust accordingly. With identically sized dumbbells in each hand, standing a few inches from the box, lift your right foot off the floor and place it on top of the box.
PHOTO: Box Step-Up Starting Position
Pushing off of your right foot, bring your left foot on top of the box and don't put your left foot down until your right leg is extended. Step down, and repeat on the other side. Try not to push off the floor; use the foot that's on top of the box to do all of the work. Click here for a video.
PHOTO: Box Step-Up Finishing Position
Wall Ball Shots
It's no secret that skiing requires leg power and endurance. Wall ball shots, or wall balls, are a great way to develop both. Start in a standing position approximately an arms' distance from a wall with a medicine ball in your hands. Keep your elbows high, your back flat, and the medicine ball close to your body. Your upper arms should remain as close to parallel to the floor as possible.
Initiate the movement the same way you'd initiate a squat -- keeping your weight on your heels and your chest up, push your hips back and lower down until your hip crease is below your knee. Stand up as explosively as possible while continuing to keep your weight on your heels and your elbows high.
PHOTO: Bottom of the Wall Ball Shot
Launch the ball into the air, aiming for a target between eight and ten feet high. Catch the ball as it succumbs to gravity. While keeping the ball close to you and your elbows high, rinse and repeat.
PHOTO: Top of the Wall Ball Shot
A few dozen of these and you'll feel it! Click here for a video.
Traditional and Lateral Box Jumps
Box jumps are great for all athletes; the exercise promotes the development of explosive power and cardiovascular fitness. Though it might look like a simple movement, good technique will ensure you get the most out of each repetition.
PHOTO: Traditional Box Jump Starting Position
Begin by standing a few inches from a plyo box in the "power" position with your feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent, ready to spring into action. Explode out of the power position, land softly with both feet completely on the top of the box, and stand to full extension with your hips and knees locked out.
PHOTO: Traditional Box Jump Landing Position, Prior to Standing to Extension
At this point, you can either choose to jump down and rebound immediately into the next repetition, like this, or step down. Rebounding is faster and more cardiovascularly challenging, but can be tough on your calves and Achilles tendons. Be sure you're properly warmed up and stretched out before you try rebounding.
In skiing, we spend a lot of time moving side to side quickly, and lateral box jumps are a great option to train those muscles. The points of performance with a lateral box jump are similar to a traditional box jump. In this video, the athlete demonstrates how to do these quickly and in a controlled fashion. Standing to full extension is less important on lateral box jumps if you're going for speed and agility.
Doing crunches and sit-ups might make your abs sore, but those exercises don't mirror what your core needs to help you do while skiing. Rather than practicing bending and contracting, we want to practice and train for stability.
To do a basic plank, get in a full pushup position with your fingers facing forward and your shoulders directly over your hands. You can also do a plank on your elbows, but I like the extra shoulder work that comes with staying in the full pushup position. Squeeze your entire body and create a flat line, or plank from head to toe. Avoid letting your hips sag and maintain a neutral head position.
PHOTO: Plank Hold, Pushup Position
Side planks are a great variation and the points of performance are similar. They can be done on your elbow or hand, but be sure to maintain that straight body position as long as you can.
PHOTO: Side Plank Hold
Enjoy and have a great off-season!
Of course, any action taken based on the contents of this website is to be used solely at your own discretion, risk and liability. Always consult appropriate health professionals before proceeding with any action related to your health and exercise regimes While the information provided in this article is believed to be accurate, the author assumes no liability for the use or misuse of information.
Any exercise you read about on this site are to be attempted at your own risk. It's always a good idea to perform weightlifting movements with a partner and/or spotter.
This post originally ran on the Liftopia blog.