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Prepping for Ski Season - 2013 Edition

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 training:

  • Strength
  • Strength-Endurance
  • Endurance
  • Power
  • Balance
  • 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.


Strength: Single 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.

Power: Box 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).

Flexibility: Hip flexor stretch, quad stretch, hamstring stretch, also hip and pelvic circles (mobility).


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.


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 mobility.

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.