With the smooth white mountain tops of the Wasatch clearly within view, the excitement for skiing is so thick you can practically taste it. Like the sweet smell of brewing coffee hanging in the air, the anticipation builds as we all wait to fill our cups. Due to some much needed recent storms, the northern Utah mountains all have fresh white caps, and the enthusiasm among powder hounds has been re-energized.
With all this buzz, it seems that those small mental notes we left ourselves to get in shape before winter have all become mental flashing billboards as opening day looms large on the calendar. The faint memory of walking around like zombies after last year’s first day still haunting, it’s time to make some quick preparations. It’s not necessary to join a gym to obtain tip top ski form but if it will motivate your fitness plan, then by all means, do it!
When thinking about a ski workout plan, it’s important to understand the most-used muscle groups and what their purposes are. The last thing anyone wants is to try and make some beautiful turns and end up injured because of a lack of preparation.
According to Dr. Cameron Garber, a doctor of physical therapy at Body Smart Physical Therapy in South Ogden, There are some definite precautions to consider.
“The most common mistake I see with skiers is the “first run of the day” or “last run of the day,” especially in the early season. Nearly every patient that comes in with an injury reports that it happened during one of those times.” said Garber.
He says that quite often, decisions about the first and last runs of the day are made on excitement and peer pressure. The first run problems come from choosing a run that is too challenging or unfamiliar. Skiers get in over their head and typically aren’t in skiing shape. The terrain is too technical for “out-of-date” coordination and strength. The next thing you know, yard sale and injury!
Last run injuries come because of a different problem, fatigue. Usually, if you’re deciding whether or not to take one more run, it is because you aren’t sure if your tired legs can take one more time down the hill. If you’re debating that with yourself, it’s best to hold off. Don’t let that last run ruin the rest of your season. Live to ski another day.
So how do you take that first run with confidence? According to Garber, you just need to prepare prior to heading up to the slopes. The program outlined below addresses several different muscle groups and what types of workouts will be most beneficial to helping with those groups.
These are the the hardest working muscle used while skiing or snowboarding. They keep you stable and protect your knees.
- Hamstrings and Glutes
These muscle groups are often ignored but they stabilize your body during the back-and-forth downhill balancing act.
Although your lower leg is mainly bent forward, the calf muscles are under constant strain because they help control how much your knee bends too.
The inner thigh muscle group keeps your skis together; while the outer thighs help steer and keep you stable.
- Abs & Back
With a solid core, your arms and legs will be free to function at their best. You’ll also help protect your spine.
These work together with your abs and back to stabilize your shoulders, and also push off using your poles rounding those perfect giant slalom turns.
The following exercises can be done from home with some simple gear like running shoes or a bicycle. This six-day training plan is a quick way to jump into a workout routine that can be utilized by beginners or advanced skiers. For beginners, start by only rotating through a few of the activities during the first few weeks and building to more the longer you stay on the program. For those with more of a fitness base, you may want to do some longer workouts with just a few items on each day’s list, or take on all of them in limited amounts. It’s always recommended to listen carefully to any painful areas during the first weeks of any new workout routine. The risk of injury is high until you can build a base of fitness. Most of us can discern the difference between an acute injury and sore muscles that result from working out. Remember though, the goal isn’t to get sore. If your workout today ruins your workout tomorrow, then today was wasted. Keep it light enough that you can do something every day. You’ll progress faster and burn a lot more calories than one intense session every few days. We’ve still got some time to get in shape; don’t try to do it all in one day! Here are the workout plans for each day with the seventh day to use as a recovery day to prepare your muscles for the following week. Remember, anything you do is better than nothing. Take these workouts as suggestions and listen to your body for cues on how much you can handle.
Day One: Work on Cardio and Leg Strength
Pick your favorite five to six exercises and give about one minute between sets to build endurance.
- Classic Squats
Build up to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions (reps). Determine what your single repetition (rep) maximum is and try to complete the 12 to 15 reps at 50 to 60 percent of that number.
- 666 Squats (Hell Squats)
Do six sets of six reps taking six seconds to perform the squat. Rest one second at the bottom, then take six seconds to lift back to the upright position. Go LIGHT on weights.
- Leg Press
Three sets of 12 to 15 reps. Alternate between seated leg presses and standing leg presses on different days.
Three sets of 12 to 15 reps holding dumbbells. Make sure to use weight you can handle to complete a full set of reps.
- Kettlebell Sumo Squats
Four sets of 10 to 16 reps.
- Calf Raises
Three sets 10 to 12 reps using HEAVY weights.
- Wall Sit
Keep your back flat against the wall, make sure your quads are parallel to floor, your knees are at a 90-degree angle, and you arms are folded across your chest. Start with one minute and build up to three minutes.
- Box Jumps
Three sets of 12 to 15 reps. The box should be slightly taller than the top of your knee caps. Jump up using both feet and land on the ground on two feet.
At a steady pace, do 20 minutes on the stair climber.
Day Two: Upper Body with a Focus on Functional Cardio Pace
- Four sets of 50 mountain climbers progressing into maximum number of push-ups to fatigue, which is doing as many as you can with perfect form.
- Four sets of 10 to 15 reps of burpee push-ups with a vertical jump.
- Four sets of 16 to 20 reps super setting (going back to back) high lat pulls to low pulley rows.
- Four sets of 25 to 50 reps of core holds (sitting with your legs off the ground and slightly leaned back) and shoulder pressing light weights using dumbbells or a medicine ball.
- Three sets of 10 to 15 reps per leg of leg side raises. Balance on one leg while doing a side raise with the other.
- Four sets of 100 boxing shadow punches while holding 5 to 10 pound dumbbells. Use your core in the twisting motion while throwing punches.
- Three sets of 20 reps of V-ups.
- Three sets of 100 bicycle crunches.
Day Three: 80/20-Cardio Intervals
While doing your cardio spend 80% of your time at moderate intensity and 20% at maximal intensity. Minutes 0-8 at: 4-5 out of 10 level of effort Minutes 8-10 at: 8-10 out of 10 level of effort Minutes 10-18 at: 4-5 out of 10 level of effort Minutes 18-20 at: 8-10 out of 10 level of effort
- Treadmill | 20 minutes of walking or jogging on an incline
- Bike or Elliptical | 20 minutes
- Rowing Machine | 20 minutes
- Jumping Rope | 5 minutes
Day Four: Ski Specific Exercises for Endurance Day
- Four sets of 50 to 100 reps of bodyweight squats on a flipped over Bosu ball.
- Four sets of one minute of 90-degree wall sits.
- Four sets of 20 side slide lunges per leg, with disk.
- Four sets of 20 box jumps.
- Four sets of one and a half minute planks.
- Four sets of one minute burnouts of a 90 degree squat on elliptical. Use the stationary handles while going in the forward motion on the elliptical, extend your arms all the way back while holding on, lower yourself to a 90-degree angle while still rotating your legs forward.
- Three sets of body-weight lunges to fatigue.
Day 5: Full-Body Day–Circuit Style
Perform each of these exercises once for 40 seconds, getting as many repetitions as possible with a 20 second rest between each exercise. Then repeat the circuit 3 to 5 times or for 60 to 75 minutes depending on your time and level of fitness. You may have to group some of the exercises into mini-circuits depending on your setup to be able to maintain your heart rate as you transition from exercise to exercise.
- Jump squats
- Jumping jacks
- Squats with dumbbell presses
- Step-ups with dumbbell curls
- Medicine ball twists
- Lat pulls
- Bench dips
- Jumping or walking lunges
- Side raise and then front raises with dumbbells
- Mountain climber
- Swiss ball crunches
- Spin cycle sprint
- Squats with mid row from pulley system
- 90-degree squat hold
Day 6: Core and Durational Cardio
- Three sets of 50 reps of wood chop twists.
- Three sets of burnout Swiss ball crunches going to fatigue.
- Three sets of burnout leg lifts to fatigue.
- Three sets of 20 side bends with dumbbell.
- 45 to 60 minutes of jogging, power-incline walking, elliptical, rowing machine, bike, swimming, or stair climbing.
This six-day plan is quite comprehensive and may seem a little daunting. If a more “bare bones” approach is what you prefer, Garber offers this suggestion. “If I was going to only do one exercise to get ready for the ski season, it would probably be 4 way treadmill hiking,” he said.
This exercise hits all of the major muscle groups in the legs and hips and is great for coordination. To perform this, crank your treadmill ramp as high as it will go. Most people will be able to walk at 0.7-1.5 mph depending on their fitness and coordination level and the steepness of their treadmill.
Start by walking straight uphill for 1 minute, then turn. Continue by walking sideways for 1 minute with a slight squat, then walk backward for 1 minute, and turn to the next side. At the end of the 4th minute turn back to forward walking and start the process over again. Performing 2 to 3 sets of this is a great way to build strength in all directions. Deepen your squat, progress to forward, reverse or side lunges, or add a resistance band around your ankles to make this more difficult as you get stronger. Improving your strength and coordination to move in all directions will help keep you safe and ready to go for ski season.
Above all else, listen to your aching muscles and make sure to not over exert yourself on any exercise. That way, your season is more likely to be long and fruitful. Good luck with your training, and pray for snow!!