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.
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.
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.
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.