Skiing and Boarding places a great demand on many of our muscles and joints (please note, we shall just use skiing for simplicity from now on but snowboarding can be read too). Some muscles will need to work under endurance because they are required to work steadily all day to help support and stabilise our bodies. Other muscle groups need to be powerful with the ability to generate substantial forces and to work in short bursts to help propel the body into the different movements required for skiing. However, when preparing for this there is not one size fits all.
There are many different ways you can exercise to get fit to ski and below are just a few suggestions. Please remember, this is a guide only and the list is not exhaustive. Individual programmes designed by fitness professionals are highly recommended. Individual needs will depend on factors such as:
- current fitness levels
- type / intensity of skiing you plan to do
- current body shape / size / composition
- current sports and hobbies
Regardless of the points above there are a few general guidelines to remember when you introduce strength training:
- you should start at least 6-8 weeks prior to your ski trip
- it should be pain free
- it should be progressive e.g. start just using body weight resistance and, as you improve, introduce weights
- increase repetitions or sets
- increase range of movement e.g. aim to squat deeper, jump higher, etc.
- increase frequency
- you don't need a gym - many exercises can be introduced at home
- ideally try and train at least 3 times a week for the best outcome
The squat is the bread and butter of ski training. It is a full body exercise that trains the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks.
Your form is really important when squatting:
1. Place your legs slightly further than hip width apart. In this instance we are training for skiing so we do not want the stance to be too wide or too narrow. Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground with your toes very slightly pointed out (no more than 10 to 2).
2. When you squat you should imagine sitting down on a chair, your bottom moves backwards as you lower yourself down. Whilst doing this you want to maintain 'spinal neutral'. This means that you should maintain a small curve in the small of your back to avoid a 'butt wink' and also avoid over extending (increasing the curve too much). If in doubt, stand side on to a mirror to watch your position. This is really important to reduce the risk of injuring your lower back while you are training.
3. Look straight ahead to avoid looking down and keep your chest out and shoulders back. This will help your upper back and shoulder alignment.
4. Aim to squat so that your thighs are parallel to the floor (although your range will depend on your hip flexibility). Some people may be able to go deeper, however this range is generally a good starting point for skiers.
Progressing the squat by using a Bosu ball and dumbbells
To start try and do 3 sets of 12 squats. Rest for 60 seconds between each set.
To progress the squat try the ideas below:
- squat on a bosu ball or unstable surface
- gradually add weight to the squat - start with 2kg dumbbells in each had and every week add another 2 to 3 kg.
As it is a functional, multi-joint exercise lunge's will increase leg strength, develop core strength and make your hips more flexible, The lunge is beneficial in more ways than one, when it comes to getting Mountain Fit.
Start by taking a step into a forward lunge. Keep your upper body straight and your shoulders back. Lower yourself towards the floor so that both knees are bent to about 90 degrees. Make sure that your front knee is directly above your ankle and that the back knee doesn't quite touch the floor. Push back up then repeat by stepping forwards on the other leg.
Variations on lunging include:
- holding medicine ball / progressive weights
- split squat
- adding upper body rotation
To start try and perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each leg (alternating) while resting for 60 seconds between sets.
Hop to deep land
This is a great exercise for developing explosive power, motion control and balance.
Stand on one leg then hop as high as you can.
Upon landing you need to aim to:
- land on the same spot that you took off from
- hold the landing position for 5 seconds (this can be harder than it sounds)
- ensure your knee is well aligned over your middle toes
- land deep / land on a very bent knee without over flexing from the waist
- land quietly – a heavy landing suggests poor control
Repeat 10 times on each leg. To progress, try wearing light ankle weights.
Lateral bound and / or lateral box jumps
These exercises involves quick, explosive movements.
For lateral bounds you will need some space as you will be travelling side to side. Take a large step out with your right leg to the right, and then bring your left foot to meet it. Repeat to the left. Make each step larger and faster in a 'step touch to right, step touch to left' motion. Continue for 60 seconds and repeat 3 times.
For lateral box jumps you will need a small step or bench in the middle of the room. With both feet, jump up on to the box then over the other side. Repeat back in the opposite direction. Start slowly, and then gradually build up your tempo. Continue for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. To progress this exercise increase the height of the box or step.
The Plank is a great exercise because it works so many muscle groups including your abdominals and core, your back, arms, shoulders, glutes and hamstrings.
To start with try and perform 3 planks holding each for 30 second with 30 seconds rest in between. You can then increase the planking time each session, however if the quality of your movement decreases as you fatigue, initially decrease the length of time that you are holding it for.
When you are planking you should be able to maintain a neutral spine. Do not let your lower back sag or your bottom stick up in the air. Squeeze your buttock muscles and hold your tummy in to help maintain a neutral position. Keep your head and neck aligned by tucking your chin in / aim to make a double chin.
The two major calf muscles, your gastrocnemius and your soleus, both work hard when we are skiing. The gastrocs works when the knee is straight and the soleus works to stabilise our lower leg when the knee is bent.
To strengthen the gastrocnemius muscle, place the balls of your feet on the edge of a low step. You may wish to hold onto a bannister for balance. Slowly sink your heels down and pause, then rise up onto your tip toes. Make sure that you go all the way up onto your tip toes, so that you are strengthening the muscle throughout the whole range of movement. Aim to repeat this 20 times (although start with as few as 5 repetitions if you find this hard and gradually build up). If this is easy, aim for 3 sets. To progress, wear a rucksack with 2 - 5 kg weigh in.
To focus on strengthening the soleus muscles, stand in the same position. This time bend your knees into a shallow squat position. Repeat the movement above, but this time maintaining a bent knee position throughout the exercise. It is a difficult one to master and it will challenge your coordination.
Overhead medicine ball throw
This exercise is an explosive movement that works both the upper and lower body. It demands forceful 'triple extension' movement of the hips, knees and ankles in a similar way to you will extend when skiing.
Stand with a wide stance holding a 3 kg medicine ball. Lower down into a deep squat then push up hard and fast whilst releasing the ball. As your thrust and power increases, your feet will leave the ground. Repeat this 5 times and aim for 3 sets.
We do not recommend that you introduce these exercises without consulting a physiotherapist if you have any current injuries or back issues. We do recommend seeking advice from a healthcare or fitness professional when starting new exercises.
The purpose of this Blog is to provide general information and advice on getting Mountain Fit.
Bonne Santé has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information. In using this Blog you agree that the information is provided 'as is, as available', without warranty, and that you use the information at your own risk. We recommend that you seek advice from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues.
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