It's January time, mid winter and the skiing season is now upon us! While you may be looking forward to the exhilaration of hurtling down the slopes, the question needs to be asked... Is your body ready for the challenge?
While skiing can be a hugely enjoyable outdoor activity, it can also be incredibly stressful on the body and can take its toll if you aren't physically prepared. To help you get ready for this years snowy escape from city life, I have prepared a 'Ski-centric' workout to train you specifically for the challenge ahead. This workout will help develop strength, stability, mobility and cardiovascular fitness to make sure you hit the slopes confident and ready for action!
What You Will Need
To complete this Ski Fitness workout, you will need some basic equipment to complete all the exercises:
- An exercise ball
- Small hand weights/dumb bells
- A chair or a gym bench
- Exercise sliders or simple paper plates
The workout I designed down into specific sections. I have written the post following this format so you can get a full understanding of what the exercises do and how they will benefit you whilst you ski. At the end of this post (after all the exercises), I offer some advice about the best way to structure the workout with a couple of options for you to choose based on your level of experience.
TO BOOST YOUR FITNESS & PREPARE YOUR BODY FOR EXERCISE
If you have access to exercise equipment, an exercise bike or step machine would be an ideal way to warm-up. These particular machines target the main muscles of the legs (quads and hamstrings) and help to strengthen the knees in a non-stressful low impact motion. This is ideal for skiing. If you do not have access to cardiovascular equipment then a brisk hill walk or jogging is a great alternative.
Aim for a minimum of 10 minutes of ‘steady state’ exercise keeping the resistance at a level which maintains an intensity rate of around 8/10 (10 being the highest).
TO IMPROVE YOUR BALANCE & MUSCLE ACTIVATION
Skiing downhill in an unstable environment will challenge your body's ability to stabilise itself - This means keeping the muscles and joints in the correct alignment despite the speed, constant change of terrain and impact through the joints being constantly challenged. Poor stability is one of the main causes of skiing-specific injuries. These exercises will help keep you safe and happy during your holiday.
Exercise Ball Kneeling Twists 3 x 20 Reps
Benefit: Building stability and mobility in the core and hips
This exercise requires a certain level of experience to balance on your knees on the ball. If you are not physically ready for this exercise yet, simply kneel on the floor:
- Kneel on an exercise ball or the floor
- Lengthen your spine and keep your abdominal muscles engaged
- Straighten your arms out in front of your chest for balance
- Twist from the waist from one side to the next with a pause in the middle
Exercise Ball Hamstring Curls 2 x 15 Reps
Benefit: Improves core-stability and builds strength in the back of the legs
- Lay on your back with an exercise ball under your feet
- 'Bridge' your body upward, pushing your hips to the ceiling
- Use your core to keep you stable
- Draw the ball toward you and 'squeeze' the back of the thighs as they work
- Keep the hips high as you lengthen the knees and repeat
Exercise Ball Russian Twists 3 x 20 Reps
Benefit: Improves core stability, mobility and posterior chain strength
- Sit on the ball and walk forward until your head and shoulders are on the ball
- 'Bridge' the hips upward so you can feel the back of your thighs and buttock muscles working before you start
- Draw the belly button in towards the spine
- Rotate the spine so you twist your body onto your shoulder muscles - Repeat alternate sides
- Aim to keep the pelvis as still as possible throughout
Exercise Ball Push – Pull Plank 3 x 15 Reps
Benefit: Improves core strength and pelvic stability
- Place your elbows on the exercise ball keeping a gap between the ball and your chest
- Straighten your legs so you are balancing on the ball and your toes
- Maintain a strong posture throughout
- Slowly extend your arms away from your body in a forward motion, then slowly bring the arms back
- The tendency here is for your back to naturally want to drop or arch as you extend your arms away from you - The challenge is to keep the core strong ensuring the pelvis and spine stay stable throughout
TO HELP COPE WITH THE STRESS OF THE SLOPES
In addition to being stable the body needs to be strong. This will ensure your muscles can cope with the stress of the constant knee bending which falls in line with solid skiing techniques. These exercises will strengthen your legs, core and upper body, targeting the major muscles used on the slopes.
Single Leg Bench Squats 3 x 15 Reps (Each Leg)
Benefit: Builds strength in the glute and thigh muscles & improves core stability
- Sit up straight with strong posture on a bench or chair
- Lift one leg off the floor (We'll be focusing on the one on the ground)
- Engage the core and slowly push yourself upward to a standing position
- Slowly lower yourself down again without landing to heavy
Bent Over Tricep Kickbacks 3 x 15 Reps
Benefit: Increases strength in the arms to assist with use of the ski poles
- Select a light weight to assess your exercise performance, it's better to start to light than to heavy - I would begin with around 3 kg - 8 kg dumb bells depending on your experience (The correct weight will allow you to just be able to complete the set)
- Stand upright with the weights in each hand
- Soften the knees and, while keeping your back dead straight, pivot the body at the hips so the chest drops to the floor
- Raise both elbows to the ceiling while keeping the arms bent... This is now your start position
- Slowly extend both arms while keeping the elbows still - You should feel the muscles working on the back of the upper arm
- Maintain strong posture throughout
Wall Sitting 3 x 60 Seconds
Benefit: Improves your endurance in the thighs and hip muscles
- Stand against a wall
- Slide your body down the wall until your knees form a 90 degree angle
- Keep your body-weight toward to heel of your shoes as this will help prevent stress on the knees
- Breathe easily and hold the position until the end of the exercise
Prone ‘Sliding’ Jacks 3 x 30 Reps
Benefit: Increases flexibility and strength on the hip muscles, plus the inner and outer thighs
For this exercise you will need either some 'sliders' or some simple paper plates:
- Place the plates/sliders under your feet while in a push up position
- Maintain a strong core and good posture while dragging the feet out as wide as you can and back again
- Ensure your lower back doesn't dip or drop
- Keep your knees soft to avoid stress on the joints
Multi-Directional Lunges 2 x 10 ‘Rounds’
Benefit: Increases flexibility in the hips and thighs - Builds strength and endurance in the whole leg and hip area
This is a compound exercise made up of three different types of lunges: Front lunges, side lunges and back lunges
- Imagine you are standing in the center of a clock face and seeing the numbers 12, 3, 6, and 9 in front, to the side and behind you
- With your right leg first, you are going to lunge forward to 12, then sideways to 3, then backward to 6 - Each time maintain good posture and push back to the center after each lunge
- Once you have completed the 'no. 6' back lunge with the right leg, repeat the same 'no. 6' back lunge with the left leg, the side lunge with the left leg to 9, then finally to 12 again
- This counts as 'one round' - Aim to complete 10 rounds in total
SPEED & STRENGTH COMBINED
Power exercises are an example of strength and speed work combined at the same time. This will help you maintain control at high speed and enable to use your body quickly in physically challenging skiing scenarios.
Jump Squats 2 x 30
Benefit: Creates explosive power in the legs and hips
- Position your feet wide and turn your toes out slightly
- Maintain an upright posture and bend from your hips as if to drop your backside to the floor
- In a quick, explosive push... Jump upward and leap up off the floor
- As you come down, keep your landing soft and controlled, go straight back into the next squat
Lateral Ski Jumps 2 x 45 Seconds
Benefits: Boost your aerobic fitness, endurance and lower leg power
- Imagine (or draw in chalk) a straight line on the floor
- Stand to one side of the line with the feet close together, knees soft
- You are going to jump from one side of the line to the other in short, sharp little movements as if to replicate the change in terrain while skiing on the slopes
- Keep going for 45 seconds.
POST WORKOUT STRETCHES
TO HELP STAY INJURY FREE
Finally, it's important to remember to stretch. The exercises we have completed will put stress on the muscles in order to help them develop. It's as important to help remove the 'stress tension' at the end of the workout to promote an increased range of movement. This will help you skiing no end... Better mobility will help you ski better!
Quadricep Stretch (Hold for 60 seconds)
Benefit: Stretches the front of the thighs and hip flexor muscles which tighten when skiing
- Sit on your knees with an upright, straight posture - If, at this stage, the stretch in the legs is enough, leave it here
- If you would like to progress the stretch to look like the picture above, lean back with your arms supporting you
- Relax your neck, arms and shoulders
- If necessary, gently squeeze your buttock muscles... This should ease the hips forward and increase the stretch
- Close the knees for a deeper stretch
Hamstring Stretch (Hold for 60 Seconds)
Benefit: Increases flexibility on the back of the thighs
- Sit upright on a bench or a chair and place one leg in front of you with the knee straight
- With good posture, gently ease the chest forward until you feel a stretch on the back of the leg (and possibly the calf)
- Breathe easily and hold the stretch
Glute Stretch (Hold for 60 seconds)
Benefit: Stretches the buttock muscles
- Sit upright on the floor and bend the knees as in the picture above
- Maintaining an upright spine, gently ease your chest toward the floor
- If you can get your chest to your knee or face to the floor, great! If not, no problem, take it slowly and stop wherever you feel a good stretch... Please do not force it!
- Remember to change sides and repeat both legs
Core and Hip Stretch (Hold for 60 Seconds)
Benefit: Stretches the whole mid-section and is great if you have a tight lower back
- Lay on the floor on your back
- Keep one leg straight and lift the other side knee toward your chest
- Turn the hips to the side to rotate the lower body - The 'inside' of the knee you lifted should lower toward the floor
- Take the closest hand and hold the knee in place
- Aim to keep the opposite side shoulder down and relaxed
- Breathe easily and repeat on the other side after 60 seconds has passed
HOW TO BEST STRUCTURE THE WORKOUT
GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR EXERCISE TIME
Now you have the skiing specific exercises, the next question I normally get asked is how to structure the workout. You should, of course, perform the warm-up first and the stretches at the end regardless of the format you decide to follow.
You will notice all the exercises have a number of sets and reps to perform (For example; 2 x 15 reps). You can either perform the number of reps I have prescribed for an exercise, wait no more than 45 seconds to rest and then repeat the same exercise to complete the prescribed number of sets before you move on to the next exercise. This style of training is called Straight Sets. This approach is great for beginners and those new to resistance training.
The next approach is more of an endurance circuit training style workout. This time you take all the exercises as a list and work through them one by one, keeping rest time minimal between exercises. This is a much more challenging way of working out but is fantastic for endurance and aerobic fitness and will really pay off when skiing on the slopes.
If you choose to do it this way, you will be completing three circuits. You may notice, however, I have only prescribed two sets for some exercises in which case you can leave them out of the third circuit (of course, you can still include them if you are feeling really fit).
I hope you find the workout useful and it helps you on your quest to increase your ski fitness this season. I would love to hear how you found the workout and your 'ski fitness' stories - Please share in the comment section below.
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