Editor's Note: Adam Vognild and Cathy Covey, co-owners
of the Inner Circle Gym, presented this information to a Backcountry Skiing class WenatcheeOutdoors organized a few winters ago. Those of us who attended this
session on getting physically ready for the ski season were put through a workout that turned our legs into boneless chicken. It hurt, but it made us all realize how much more we'd enjoy all forms of skiing if we performed these exercises regularly before the ski season began.
Ski Conditioning 2013
Compiled by Adam Vognild
Disclaimer: Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Each of the following exercise
components of conditioning should be addressed in your dry land ski
- Mobility and Flexibility
1. Strength: A strength set of any
exercise routine is loaded (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells,
medicine balls and sandbags) to the point where you can’t complete
more than 6 repetitions at a time while maintaining proper form.
This repetition structure will increase muscle strength and is
usually done with a 2 to 5 minute rests between 3 to 5 sets of
repetitions. This does not always require external loads. One
armed push-ups, one armed pull ups, and single leg squats and pistols
are examples of body weight strength work.
2. Strength-Endurance: Any exercise
that allows a rep structure of more than 12 reps at a time. This
exercise (or combinations of exercises) will happen over a time frame
of roughly 45-150 seconds. This repetition range will produce
no muscle mass gains and will begin to utilize the cardio-respiratory
system. This will be the meat of what most skiers should
concentrate on because this is more comparable to the stress put on
the body during uphill and/or downhill skiing.
3. Endurance: Any exercise performed at a
low enough intensity that can be maintained for hours or even days.
Running, biking, swimming, cross country skiing, and, of course, ski
touring are all examples of this component!
4. Power: An explosive movement
utilizing fast-twitch muscle fibers often throughout the entire
body. Examples of power movements include box jumps, tuck
jumps, short sprints at maximum effort, hill sprints, squat jumps,
stair climb sprints, burpees, moguls and on-snow jump turns.
5. Balance: Any movement that will
require stabilization. This stabilization could be required on
one foot or both (or both hands). Stabilization could be needed
due to the surface, or due to an outside force that is applied to the
body. Jumping, landing, standing, and squatting on one leg will
help train this.
6. Mobility and Flexibility: Become
more mobile and flexible so that you can maximize your range of
motion (ROM). Joint mobility is the concept of putting your
joints through their complete ROM and working to improve your joints
with a reduced ROM. Joints must be moved and have their ROM
continuously challenged or risk allowing it to decrease with age. A
larger ROM will allow for larger distances of applied force, improved
technique, and reduced joint injuries. With respect to
stretching, it’s better to stretch your muscles a little throughout
the day than for an hour one day a week. If you have an injury,
including stretch as part of your warm-up. However, it’s most
beneficial to incorporate stretching at the end of your workout once
your muscles are already warm.
These are broken down according to
their given component along with upper and lower body specificity.
leg squats, pistols, knees to elbows.
Strength-Endurance: Air squats, lunges,
lunge variations (star, backward, and with weight overhead), poor
man’s hamstring curl, single leg box step ups, Bulgarian split
squat, sit-ups, sandbag getups, supermans, hollow holds, plank walk
ups, and wall sits.
jumps, tuck jumps, squat jumps, split (lunge) jumps, two foot
lateral, lateral single leg box jumps, and hill sprints.
Balance: Single leg ball throws and
catches, side to side lateral hop with stabilization, running on
trails, balance boards (and pillows).
flexor stretch, quad stretch, hamstring stretch, also hip and pelvic
Strength: One armed push-ups, one armed
pull-ups, pull-ups (if you can’t do more than 8), ring dips.
Strength- Endurance: Push-ups,
bodyweight rows, dips, isometric holds (flexed arm hang, dip hold on
rings, rope hold etc).
Power: Burpees, clapping pushups,
jumping pull-ups, throwing things
Flexibility: Shoulder dislocates, wrist
stretches, down dog.
HOW TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
This is very individual decision, as
you need to determine your weaknesses and then address them. This
will make you a better, injury-free athlete. A general rule of thumb
is if it’s really hard for you or you don’t like doing a
particular exercise, you probably need more of it. You should make a
point to include every component of conditioning into your workouts
throughout the week. Some days might be heavy on strength work
(perform several sets of heavy squats, for example), another day
might emphasize power (move through a circuit made up of jumps and
sprints), another day might emphasize endurance and balance (take a
trail run). The goal for all of these workouts is to be consistent
and, over time, to add volume and increase resistance.
You can add volume by doing more
repetitions of the same exercises in the same amount of time, or by
adding another round of exercises to your workout. Or you could
increase the resistance by adding a weighted pack to your back while
doing any of these body weight movements. The first priority is
proper form and complete range of motion. Once these have been
established and accomplished, you can then move onto increasing
volume and resistance. Most importantly, engage your mind and your body,
and have fun!
Here are some points that were
emphasized when this information was presented to local
backcountry skiers who were taken through a workout:
Maintain good form with each exercise.
This is about getting maximum benefit by going through the full range
of motion an exercise demands. Standing all the way up with squats,
for example, is important to properly workout muscles and elongate
the hip flexors. Good form also reduces injuries. For example, if
your legs are too tired to properly lift weight or support your upper
body, then you expose your back to injury while lifting. If your form
is falling apart, reduce the intensity of an exercise. If you still
can’t maintain proper form, stop.
- If any of the listed exercises are
unfamiliar to you, perform a Google search and you’ll find
instructions, pictures, and videos describing how to execute that
exercise. For example, try a search like (“box jump” fitness) or
(“Bulgarian split squat” fitness) and you’ll find dozens of
entries demonstrating that exercise.
- The exercises presented here
are easily performed at home and don’t require fancy gear. In
truth, the only problem with doing this stuff at home is maintaining
discipline. Visiting a gym where someone is encouraging you to push
yourself is helpful for those of us who slack off long before we
approach the puke zone.
- A big emphasis was placed on
flexibility—the element of overall fitness that is most neglected.
As we age, flexibility becomes increasingly important 1) to simply
keep moving 2) to avoid injury. Joints that have little range of
motion are easily damaged in falls. Fight to maintain your
Inner Circle Gym will hold ski conditioning workshops and classes in October. A free workshop (come dressed to sweat) benefiting WenatcheeOutdoors visitors will be held October 29 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Inner Circle Gym. On-going ski conditioning classes (one with a noon start time, another with a 5:30 p.m. start time) start at the gym on October 7.