We only have a few months until skiing season begins in earnest, and so you may consider buying new gear and equipment. But in addition to improving your gear, you must improve your body. If you want to have a fun, enjoyable, and above all else injury-free experience heading down the slopes, you must get in shape now.
Even if you hit the gym regularly, skiing tests your body in ways which you may not expect. Most exercises such as squats, running, or lifting weights are concentric exercises, which focuses on the shortening of your muscles. But in skiing, your eccentric leg strength, which focuses on the lengthening of your muscles, becomes vital. Eccentric leg strength determines how well your legs can endure the force of the mountain pushing against your skis, as well as your ability to maintain the constant bending position necessary to ski.
So how do you improve your eccentric leg strength, as well as making sure that your body is generally prepared to ski? Here are some important tips and exercises to turn yourself into a top skier.
The leg blaster is not a single type of exercise, but a combination of exercises developed by Mountain Athlete. A proper leg blaster set consists of:
- 20x Air Squats
- 10x In-Place Lunges (10x each leg, 20x total)
- 10x Jumping Lunges (10x each leg, 20x total)
- 10x Jump Squats
A good workout is to do 3 to 5 sets, with 30 seconds rest in between each set. Do one workout two to three times per week to get your legs ready. If you are not in proper shape yet, you can do a mini blaster where you halve each of the four steps.
Remember that proper form is more important than doing the appropriate number. The true emphasis of the leg blaster is not when you kneel down into a squat or lunge and contract your muscles. It is when you stand up and lengthen them, improving your eccentric leg strength. Take things slow at first, especially because this particular exercise can be far more strenuous on your leg muscles than you may realize.
If I had a penny for every ambitious skier who plans to hit the slopes all day yet finds himself an hour later in the cabin too exhausted to keep going, I would never have to work again. Good skiers need to have the endurance to power through the day and strong anaerobic fitness for those short bursts of frenetic activity.
Standard cardio training like running, swimming, and hiking for half an hour per day is a good start and you can find plenty of equipment to help you in Bay Sports. But if you are already doing that, consider doing interval training which alternates periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity. Interval training closely mimics what skiing is like, which thus helps prepare your heart and lungs. It also carries unique benefits. Interval training is a good way to burn calories, and the different periods of intensity keeps your mind focused in ways that normal cardio exercise will not.
Interval training is not a complete substitute for long endurance workouts, and you should alternate the two to improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Remember that your endurance matters as much as your leg strength.
You probably know this exercise already. The Russian twist is an exercise where you rotate your torso from side to side, often lifting a medicine ball or weight. But while plenty of men do this exercise in the hope of getting shredded abs, far too many people perform this exercise incorrectly. Instead of twisting your lower back from side to side, keep it locked into place when you do an interval. Perform three rounds of 10 to 20 reps, though only do it after you have done squats and worked out your legs.
The Russian twist is a well-known core training exercise, which is absolutely necessary in skiing to maintain positions which can be tough on your back. But there are other effective methods as well. Planking, Superman swims, and front squats are other solid exercises to improve your core. And if you are feeling really crazy, you can follow the example of competitive skier Kelsey Serwa and jump across a row of Swiss balls.
The number of books and articles written about stretching could make a mountain bigger than the one you will be skiing down. The key with stretching is to understand the difference between dynamic and static stretching, and know when to use each one.
Static stretching is the stretching most people are familiar with, such as bending down and touching your toes. Static stretching has value after a workout in increasing flexibility, which is absolutely necessary in skiing. Dynamic stretching is stretching while in motion, which helps truly warm up your muscles before you train or ski.
Stretching and warming up are important to keep yourself fit and injury-free, but understand that stretching should be about movement. Five minutes of dynamic stretching before your workout will warm your body up and keep it limber.