When you consider what skiing involves – pelting down snowy inclines at 40km/h-plus with only your skill in using two thin planks strapped to your feet keeping you upright – it’s not surprising that it causes more than its fair share of injuries.
It’s not only high-speed crashes that can derail a ski holiday either. Sore muscles from the previous day’s exertions might not be as dramatic as hitting a tree at full tilt, but they can kill your ski spirit just as effectively.
Given that most ski holidays involve a hefty outlay to cover flights, accommodation and equipment hire, not to mention the money put aside for après-ski activities, it’s well worth spending some time in the gym prepping your body so it can handle the rigours of the trip. That way you can maximise your enjoyment without the fear of crippling DOMS come day two.
For some advice on the best exercises to help you prepare for a trip to the slopes, we enlisted fitness coach Jamie Lloyd.
“Skiers and snowboarders need stability, strength, power, endurance and flexibility, as well as good technique, which all needs to be built up over time,” says Lloyd. “I’d advise you to aim for 12 weeks of strength training and specific exercises, but even if you’ve left it late it’s still worth trying this routine three times a week, rather than just lifting some weights and doing a bit of cardio.”
One of the most demanding parts of skiing is the repeated twisting and turning of your body, which is why you can suffer a particularly acute case of DOMS, because you’ll be challenging muscles that are largely dormant during your day-to-day life.
To successful train for a ski trip, then, you need to mimic the movements of the sport by working in the frontal, sagittal and transverse planes. Frontal plane exercises are any that involve moving laterally, like a side lunge. Sagittal plane exercises move you forwards and backwards, as in a standard lunge. Finally, transverse plane exercises involve rotating your body, such as a woodchop.
Lloyd demonstrated a variety of different exercises in the frontal, sagittal and transverse planes to us at Fitness First in Covent Garden for our Facebook Live video. Check out the video on Facebook (opens in new tab) and find out more details on form, sets and reps below to get into tip-top shape for the slopes.
Before you begin the workout, start with this gentle warm-up of mobility drills.
1 Shrimp roll
Lie on your back and grab your knees to your chest. Then roll back and forth on your back to mobilise your spine.
Lie on your back with legs bent at the knees, feet on the floor and arms at your side with palms flat on the floor. Drive your hips up, then lower back to the start.
Start in a press-up position. Raise your hips towards the ceiling until your body is in an inverted V position. Then come back into a press-up position. Like the glute bridge, this mobilises the hamstrings, lower back and core.
4 Crab grab
Reps 4 each side
Sit with your feet flat and your hands on the floor slightly behind you. Tuck one elbow in to your stomach and raise your bum slightly off the floor. Push your hips up until your supporting arm is straight, then reach the tucked arm up and over, as if trying to touch the floor behind you (you won’t be able to). This will also help warm-up your hips.
5 Lunge and reach
Reps 5 each side
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Raise one knee, grab it with both hands and pull it towards your chest, then lunge forwards and reach your arms up straight above you. Bring your back knee forward, grab it and pull it towards your chest and continue, alternating legs.
6 Monster walk I
Hold a resistance band and stand on it with your feet more than shoulder-width apart. Pull the band up with both hands until it stretches up to your chest. Walk forward, moving each foot in and out again with every step.
7 Monster walk II
Reps 6 each side
Hold a resistance band and stand on it with your feet shoulder-width apart. Pull the band up with both hands until it stretches up to your chest. Step out to the side with one leg, then return to the starting position.
1 Bosu squat
How Stand on a Bosu ball with your feet shoulder-width apart. Carefully bend your knees, keeping your knees tracking in line with your feet, until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then push back up through your heels to a standing position. Look forwards throughout in order to help maintain a natural arch to your back. Take four seconds on the downward part of the movement and two seconds on the upward phase.
To make it harder try doing it barefoot. Once you get used to that, up the ante by turning the Bosu the other way up.
Why This is a great stability exercise in the sagittal plane that will also boost ankle stability.
2 Bosu lateral hop
How Place two Bosu balls side by side. Jump from one to the other. Build up to ten reps. Once that becomes easy, add a squat every time you land.
Why This movement will develop the quads, glutes, hamstrings and stimulate your core muscles. “Jumping on the Bosu trains your core and helps give you a strong centre of gravity, but be sure to keep your upper body upright while doing this to maintain proper spinal alignment,” says Lloyd.
Sets 4 Time 30sec Rest 30sec
How Stand on one leg, keeping your body upright. Then leap to the side and land on your other foot, swinging your arms in front of your body as you jump. Leap back again.
To make it harder you can leap with both feet at the same time.
Why “The speed skater is great choice for single-leg stability,” says Lloyd. “Be sure to use your torso and rotate back and forth during the exercise.”
Sets 3 Reps 8
How Stand with a medicine ball on the floor in front of you. Bend your legs and pick up the ball, then raise it above your head with your arms straight. Slam it into the ground. When performing the movement, stay firmly on your heels and focus on contracting your abs and slamming the ball into the ground as explosively as possible.
Add sets as you get stronger. When you can do five sets of eight reps, move up to a heavier ball.
Why The medicine ball slam is a great pulling exercise which integrates the core, legs and upper body, as well as building explosive strength throughout your body. “It serves to develop strength in the exact opposite muscle groups from the squat,” adds Lloyd.
5 Gym ball hamstring curl
Sets 3 Reps 6
How Lie on your back with your calves resting on a gym ball. Lift your hips and bend at the knees to drag the ball towards you until the soles of your feet are on it. Roll it away and lower your hips to the starting position.
Build up the reps until you can do three sets of 15 reps with ease. Then move on to single-leg hamstring curls, where you keep one leg extended in the air throughout.
Why Even if you aren’t planning on going skiing, it’s worth incorporating this into your training sessions, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk. It’s great for training the glutes, back, hamstrings and core all in one go.
6 Medicine ball woodchop
Reps 10 each side
How Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a medicine ball in both hands with your arms extended in front of you. Bend one knee and simultaneously reach down to that side with the ball so it ends up outside your knee, keeping the other leg straight. Twist your torso and lift the medicine ball with straight arms so the ball ends up above your shoulder on the opposite side. Twist back and down again. Aim for two seconds up and two seconds down as you move.
Why This is a great example of a training movement that to prevents injury, because it integrates the upper and lower body on the transverse plane.
7 Single-leg step-up
Sets 4 Reps 15 each side
How Find a box that you can step up and down from comfortably. Place one foot on top of the box and then drive up, raising the opposite leg until your knee is level with your waist. Step down.
When this exercise begins to feel easy to do, add weight – try a sandbag on your shoulders.
Why This move trains your quads, which are vital for skiing. They help straighten your knees and control them as they move from a straight position into a bent position.
Proprioception is your body’s positional sense and it’s as vital for skiing as it is for other sports. As a daily challenge, stand on one leg with your eyes closed for one minute (make sure to hover your hands over something to grab in case you fall). Build up to two minutes on each leg.
Once you’re comfortable with that, add some small movements, like lifting the arms over your head.
Speed, Agility and Quickness (SAQ) Drills
Once you’ve built up a base level of cardio conditioning from cycling, rowing or running, and have developed your stability and strength with the workout above, add some SAQ drills to work on movement patterns until they become fast, dynamic and precise. Doing this will lead to improvements in your reaction times and your ability to move into the correct positions when skiing around sharp bends.
1 Letter T
Sets 3 Time 1min Rest 30sec
Set up cones to form a letter T. Start at the bottom of the T, then run to the middle of the top. From there do lateral hops to one side, hop back to the centre and run backwards to the starting position. Then run forward again and do a lateral hop to the other side and back.
2 Bunny hop
Sets 3 Time 1min Rest 30sec
Lay a ladder on the floor. Hop over each rung with two feet. Absorb the impact as you land and try to keep your back straight throughout.
3 Speed ladder
Sets 3 Time 1min Rest 30sec
This time you’re going to be side-stepping laterally through the spaces between the ladder’s rungs. Stand at the base of the ladder to one side, then put the foot nearest the ladder into the first space between the rungs. Bring in the other foot, then side-step out. Then move on to the next space between rungs. Move as fast as you can.
Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.
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