Category Archives: Ski conditioning

Ski Fit Strength

If you’re looking for serious improvement in your total physical performance on the ski-hills this winter, taking a well-rounded approach to training is essential. I’ve previously discussed flexibility and core stability, and now it’s time to address full body strength and endurance.

There are thousands of different strength exercises, and many of them would be good for any skier or snowboarder. However, when I was considering which exercises would be good to include in this week’s column, I decided I wanted the activities to meet a few key criteria.

Firstly, because of the physical requirements during snow sports, I’ve selected exercises that have a component of instability, which requires balance and core control. I also wanted to include exercises that integrate the upper and lower body. Sometimes it’s the upper body that is dynamic, while the lower is holding steady, and sometimes it’s the other way around. Lastly, I wanted exercises that are standing, or ground-based, to incorporate the strength and endurance of the leg muscles, as this will clearly carry over to performance on the slopes.

The three exercises discussed this week can be performed with very little weight at first, and progressed depending on your tolerance. They require nothing more than a single dumbbell, or some other weighted item, like a jug of water with a handle!

As always, consult your doctor before beginning or modifying your training plan, and always perform a progressive warm-up before exercising. Controlling your posture and alignment is critical at all times.

Province SkiFit 1-arm DB Squat

1-arm DB Squat

Squats are one of the most functional and foundational exercises you can perform for full-body strength and athleticism. There are numerous variations of the basic squat movement. Performing this 1-arm version requires endurance in your spine, upper back and shoulders, as well as your entire core system and legs. Start by standing in front of a mirror, with your feet approximately shoulder width apart, holding a light dumbbell in your right hand. Raise the dumbbell above your shoulder as if you were going to press it overhead. Once in this position, pay very close attention to the alignment of your entire body, including your hips and legs. Slowly hinge your hips back and lower them down into a squat position, doing your best to avoid shifting any part of your body off to the side. Keep your feet flat on the floor as you reach the bottom of the squat, with your knees bent to approximately 90 degrees. Press yourself back up to the top of the squat, stopping just before your knees reach full extension, then repeat. Perform 10 reps with the dumbbell in each hand, and try for three sets.

Province SkiFit 1-Arm DB Row1-arm DB Row

This challenging upper body exercise will require balance and endurance through your hips and legs as you hold a sustained position on one foot. The rowing movement of the shoulder girdle and arm will improve the strength of the muscles in this area, and help to protect you from injury during falls. Start in a standing position with a dumbbell in your right hand. Pivot forward through the hips and extend your right leg off the floor behind you, with your right arm holding the dumbbell directly below your shoulder. Keeping balance and control by recruiting your core and hip muscles, draw your shoulder blade back and pull your elbow by your side as you row the dumbbell up toward your ribcage. Pause momentarily and then lower the dumbbell to the bottom position before repeating. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions on each arm, switching legs each time you switch arms.

Province SkiFit DB Squat Front RaiseDB Squat Front Raise

Anyone who skis or boards knows that the legs can really start burning during long runs at the end of the first day on the hill. This exercise builds leg endurance while strengthening the core and spinal stabilizers, and muscles of the arms, shoulders and back. Start in a standing position, holding a dumbbell in both hands between your legs. Squat down and hold this low position, while slowly raising and lowering the dumbbell in front of your body to approximately the height of your head. Keep your weight balanced between the balls and heels of your feet and maintain a good, deep hip position with strong posture. The deeper you squat the more challenging this exercise will be on your legs. You can vary the demand by shifting your weight to one leg as you raise the dumbbell, alternating legs each time you raise it. Try 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions with controlled movement speed. Avoid generating swing momentum in the dumbbell.

Ski Fit Core Function

Staying injury free and skiing to the best of your ability requires a strong, stable and flexible body.  With a minimal amount of advance preparation, your body can perform at a higher level, and contribute to more enjoyable days on the ski hill.

In this second part of my pre-season ski conditioning series, I want to discuss core function and how important it is to athletic movement. Improving your core strength and control will give you a solid foundation for explosive athletic movements while on your skis, and help to keep you more stable and balanced.

Skiers must assume an athletic body position to be able to ski efficiently, and to react to irregularities on the hill. Once in this position, it’s critical to engage the appropriate musculature, at times contracting and holding a fixed position, sometimes generating dynamic force and power, or perhaps relaxing and allowing smooth adaptation to movement needs without losing balance or control.

Because skiers use their upper body and their poles during turns, there is a need for integration of the upper body and lower body during conditioning activities. This doesn’t have to be the case for all exercises, but it can’t be ignored. By choosing your training activities carefully you can target the right body parts and systems, offering the greatest return on your training investment.

As always, consult your doctor before beginning or modifying your training plan, and always perform a progressive warm-up before exercising.

SkiFit Ball PlankBall Plank

Doing an athletic plank on the ball is a great way to train your core, in a body position that totally relates to skiing and many other sports. Start with your forearms on a ball and your hips, knees and ankles flexed. Your spine should be parallel to the floor with neutral curves. Good core activation will hold you strong in this starting position, which is more than challenging enough for beginning exercisers. To increase the leverage, slowly push the ball 2” forward and back, moving only the arms, without losing any quality in your spinal position or core engagement.  As you get stronger, increase the movement of the ball, and incorporate opening at the shoulders and hips at the same time. Perform 3 sets of 30-60 seconds in a smooth, controlled fashion. For increased instability and greater difficulty, try putting your hands on the ball instead of your forearms. As you get more comfortable, you can also increase the speed of the movements, or add side-to-side action to the ball. Always use your core engagement and neutral spinal alignment as your measure of quality, and stop performing the exercise before you lose control in these areas.

SkiFit Ball BridgeBall Bridge

Ball bridging uses much of your core and hip musculature. Start in a sitting position on a ball, then roll out until the back of your head and shoulders are resting on the ball and your knees are at 90˚ angles, with your feet hip-width apart. Extend your arms upward, with your palms together and maintain good core activation and spinal alignment. This is the basic starting position, from which there are numerous progressions. Try turning your ribcage, shoulders, arms and head as one stable unit, while keeping your hips as still and level as possible. The ball should roll sideways, underneath your bottom shoulder as you turn. Pause and twist to the other side. Keep your alignment as neutral as possible. Perform 3 sets of 20 repetitions. Another variation is to keep your upper body neutral, and your hips elevated and level as you raise one foot slightly off the floor. Hold for 5 seconds on each side. Starting with your feet close together will make this easier.

SkiFit Side RaiseBall Side Flexion

Try this great exercise to target the sides of the torso, which include the lower back and abdominal muscles. Start by laying on your right side over the top of an exercise ball, with your feet braced against the base of a wall and your top leg behind the bottom leg. The ball should be positioned so that it supports your pelvis and lower torso, just below your rib cage. Place your arms across your chest, or for greater difficulty, place your hands at the side of your head as shown in the picture. Maintain good alignment of the body as you lower your body down, stretching over the ball, then raise back up, lifting your left elbow toward the ceiling as you shift your ribcage upward. Try 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions on each side, maintaining strong core stability and controlled movement speeds. Be careful to maintain good balance and control of the ball while preventing your body from twisting.

Rob Williams is a kinesiologist, elite personal trainer and posture specialist. He has been practicing for 16 years and currently operates an exclusive private training studio Mixx Fitness Studio, with a team of 10 trainers, as well as a multi-disciplinary posture facility, Performance Posture Clinic. Rob is an accomplished writer and speaker in the fields of fitness, posture and nutrition, and can be contacted at Williams Health Group.

Ski Fit Flexibility

There are a lot of years that ski season sneaks up on many of our clients. One day they’re playing golf and cycling, and the next they’re racing to Whistler because the ski hills have opened. I decided that I’d do my best to make sure everyone is ready this year!

Skiing well, and staying injury free, requires a strong, stable and flexible body. The last thing you want to happen is to lose your balance in a turn, causing you to injure a joint or tear a muscle during a fall. If you can get at least a few weeks of pre-season preparation in before skiing, hopefully you can increase your enjoyment, and reduce your risk.

I’ve decided to look at pre-season ski conditioning in 3 parts this season. First I will address flexibility in the lower extremities and hips, by sharing a few of my favorite stretches. These are static stretches that you can perform every day, with the intent of increasing and balancing your flexibility before you ever get to the mountain. You should also perform a good dynamic warm-up before each session on the hill, but I’ll address this later.

In week 2 I will discuss core function and movement, which will give you a solid foundation for explosive athletic movements while on your skis, while keeping you stable and balanced. Week 3 will cover a few great, ski-specific strength and conditioning exercises to get your legs and other muscles primed and ready to go.

As always, consult your doctor before beginning or modifying your training plan, and always perform a progressive warm-up before exercising.

Ski Glute StretchGlute Stretch

As the largest muscle in your body, your glutes can be your biggest friend when it comes to powerful athletic movement. However, if they’re too stiff, or not firing properly, they can also be a problem. To connect with your glutes and keep them flexible, try stretching them regularly. This stretch can be done on a bench or table, or on the floor as shown. Start on your hands and knees, crossing your right leg underneath you. Support most of your weight on your hands as you lay the outside of your right lower leg on the floor, with your left leg extended behind you. Begin shifting your weight back into your right hip joint, while keeping your hips square and your spine and head as neutral as possible. Be certain to stop this stretch if you feel any strain in your right knee. If you don’t feel a stretch right away, use your core muscles to twist your left hip toward your right foot, while picking up your tailbone slightly. These small shifts should dial up the intensity of the stretch. Hold for 30-45 seconds on each side.

Ski Hamstring StretchSeated Hamstring Stretch

Also known as the modified hurdler stretch, this seated hamstring stretch is most appropriate for people with at least an average degree of flexibility. If you’re very inflexible you will likely be more successful performing a standing hamstring stretch on a low step. For this seated stretch, begin by sitting flat on the floor with your right leg extended out in front of your body. Bend your left leg so that the sole of your left foot rests against the inside of your right calf or knee. Sit as tall as you can, trying to extend your spine upward, and pivot forward at the hip joints. You can either reach for your toes with your hand, or hold onto your leg as shown. By pulling the toe of your right foot toward you, you’ll feel a strong stretch in your calf as well. Hold for 30-45 seconds on each side, progressing as you exhale.

Ski Hip FlexorKneeling hip flexor

Whether you’re skiing or snowboarding, one muscle group that gets a lot of work during a day on the slopes is the hip flexors. Because they connect your legs to your pelvis and lower back, these are important muscles to look after so they don’t cause you any problems. To stretch your hip flexors effectively, start by kneeling on your right knee on the floor, with your left foot on the floor in front of you, and both legs bent to 90˚ angles. Keep your core muscles engaged to prevent your pelvis from tilting forward or your abdomen from protruding. Once you’ve found this position, use your abdominal muscles to draw your bellybutton inward and your tailbone under, pressing lightly forward with your pelvis until you feel a stretch in the front of your right hip and thigh. Try to maintain the right angles at your hips and knees, avoiding the tendency to lurch forward with the hips to increase the stretch. Hold for 30-45 seconds on each side. Always pay attention to your posture and body position.

Rob Williams is a kinesiologist, elite personal trainer and posture specialist. He has been practicing for 16 years and currently operates an exclusive private training studio Mixx Fitness Studio, with a team of 10 trainers, as well as a multi-disciplinary posture facility, Performance Posture Clinic. Rob is an accomplished writer and speaker in the fields of fitness, posture and nutrition, and can be contacted at Williams Health Group.