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Ski Fitness Fundamentals

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
If you are new to this wonderful sport, you are probably, and hopefully thinking about the best fitness plans to optimize your skill and safety on the slopes. I am so enthusiastic about this topic, that I actually left a comfortable city life to move to Colorado to open Mountain Sport Pilates and Fitness. My book, Open Your Heart With Winter Fitness: Mastering Life Through Love of the Slopes presents a detailed winter sport fitness plan.
http://mountainsportfitness.com/

Much of what I learned about ski fitness was learned through trial and error. In the begining, it was mostly error. The purpose of this thread is to help you understand the best practices for ski fitness.

Here is a priority list of fitness qualities needed for ski fitness:

Balance
Postural alignment
Agility
Coordination
Endurance
Strength
Flexibility

Note that balance is top priority. Without balance, all of the other qualities of fitness are useless for skiing. If you do too much flexibility training, you may over-stretch muscle groups such as the hamstrings. This can aggregate an already existing muscular imbalance between the hamstrings and quads, which can lead to injury. Also, people who are hyper-flexible have limited integrity at the joints, which in turn, makes them unstable.

Some people do so much strength training that they over power themselves on the hill. Don't get me wrong: Strength training is very important! However, strength without balance is once again, pretty useless on the slopes.

In training for skiing, you also want to think less about muscle groups and more about movement pattterns. For this reason, summer actvities such as skating are great for ski fitness. Also note that since skiing involves the use of a number of muscle groups work simultaneously, muscular isolation exercises will only have a minimal benefit for ski fitness. The same applies to predictable exercise such as machines. As you have probably noticed, skiing is anything but predictable! You can condition for skiing by chasing your dog, playing tag with your kids, etc.

Every skier should own a stability ball. If you look in the health and fitness section there are many posts about using the ball, the bosu and dyna disc.
Meanwhile, here is an article I wrote about posture and balance for skiers:
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/ind...rticle&sid=530
Have fun, and welcome to Epicski!
post #2 of 13
Great post! I haven't really ever prioritized my conditioning like you outlined. I will definitely try to incorporate your philosophies. Balance is definitely a prerequisite for good skiing.

Personally, I just combine a bunch of different activities as often as possible.

Here's what I do consistently:

cycling (daily commute, 8 miles; mtb in summer)
walking/running (3-5 days/week, 30-45 minutes)
weight training (2-3 days/week)
- compound free weight exercises like squat, power clean, overhead press, barbell rows and bench press
- basic bodyweight work like one legged squats, pull-ups, push-ups, dips, various ab exercises
hiking/backpacking/trail running (3-5 times/month during spring, summer, fall)
post #3 of 13
I can't recommend lunges highly enough for strength and balance. To concentrate more on balance, just do a set on the same leg, leaving your feet where they are and just dropping your knee. You'll find that balancing is harder that way.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
From the last two excellent posts, you will notice a consistent theme. The leg exercises are all what is considered "closed chain" exercises. This means that they involve the foot being in contact with the ground, which in turn results in what is called "compression forces." Compression forces build knee stability. In contrast, exercises where the foot does not stay in contact with the ground, such as the leg extension, cause "shearing forces." Shearing forces are associated with knee instability and eventual wear and tear.
post #5 of 13
nice post LM,

I encourage any activity that promotes dynamic balance movements, core strength and flexibility. Arobic activities are more usefull than anarobic when it comes to skiing. Build strength, not muscle.

RW
post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White View Post
Arobic activities are more usefull than anarobic when it comes to skiing. Build strength, not muscle.
Ron, I would like to offer some thoughts as to why I feel leaning solely towards an aerobic program for skiing places one, at least in my estimation, "out of balance".

A properly balanced aerobic and anaerobic program (diet included please) incorporates and considers a bodies balance, core, flexibility, strength, power etc. Aerobic (with oxygen, steady-state, endurance) and Anaerobic (without oxygen, burst activities, strength) equally share in our athletic development. An unbalanced program (i.e., with focus either more aerobic or anaerobic) produces for example, a marathon runner who cannot dead lift their body weight or an individual who can squat 405 lbs but cannot perform a 90 second cross over jump rope routine. Skiers are subject to the same physiological considerations with aerobic and anaerobic conditioning as both are needed in equal share. A skier’s VO2 max along with the muscle power to pull out of numbing G’s go hand in hand but neither can be honed by an aerobic or anaerobic program exclusively. Certainly I agree with you whereas the goal is not to increase muscle size necessarily (bulk and associated weight) but rather to increase the strength and force you generate with your body muscle tissue; a balanced program is paramount.

With an aerobic and anaerobic training in balance, your body is now able to move its weight as well as the additional objects (say 40 lbs of skis, boots, bindings, poles, helmet, clothing etc.) it carries or moves about more nimbly, powerfully and efficiently. Cheers.
post #7 of 13
Don,

I agree with you to an extent, but I didn't say all of one or nothing. I had a power lifter who couldn't get up on skis without taking one off. He was amased how I could get up. I did mention core strength as a important part of fitness. BTW, aerobic activities certinally will give enough strength to maintain balance against mounting G-forces.

RW

PS: My bet on a skier advancing in technique and terrain quickly would be the figure skater over the power lifter.
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White View Post
...I had a power lifter who couldn't get up on skis without taking one off.
post #9 of 13
Yikes. That is one unsafe power lifter. It's not the healthiest sport to begin with, but the idea of squatting without core muscles is a hernia, slipped disk and ruptured achilles tendon waiting to happen.

Shearing forces: LM is right, stay away from leg extensions. Lunges, squats, deadlifts, and leg press all involve extension at the hip and the knee which means that your quads and hamstrings will balance tension at the head of the tibia. If you're just doing extensions at the knee, you'll pull on the ACL, which is no good.
post #10 of 13
LM thanks for kicking off a very good topic.

"Fitness goals" presupposes that a beginner skier aspires to skiing as a sport, as an athelete.

There are lots of different categories of skiers out there
- vacationers: one year they go to disney, another the beach, why not skiing this year? it's just a fun activity to do while on vacation once, or once a year
- recreational: these are the folks who are happy to get five or ten days of skiing a year ... it's fun, but just one of the many fun things they do
- hobbyists: these are the folks who really, really like skiing ... they bought some equipment, and maybe a pass, and they go ski when they can
- sports/athletes: these are the folks who see skiing as one of the "sports" of choice, they commit a lot of time, money and energy into the pursuit of skiing and their personal improvement

IMHO ski fitness will only be embraced by folks who are invested in becoming better skiers.

I learned to ski eight years ago ... and after about three years I realized that skiing at a higher level was "athletic skiing" and that I had to get in much better shape if I was going to be able to ski at a higher level.

I undertook a fitness program with a trainer, in the following phases
- conditioning: cardio, light weights/many reps, core and balance
- strength: progressively heavier weights, plyometrics, core and balance, cardio
- endurance: supersetting weights with plyometrics, core and balance, cardio (exercising to "failure")
- maintenance: ongoing activities

One of the most interesting things I learned from the trainer is that a program like this takes about 16 weeks.

But, when it comes to specific ski conditioning programs you should think of it in terms of a pyramid ... and, you should plan to read the top of the pyramid mid-season (february).

Getting a bit fitter and then doing ski conditioning programs have made a HUGE difference in my skiing!!
post #11 of 13
westeast,

Quote:
Yikes. That is one unsafe power lifter. It's not the healthiest sport to begin with, but the idea of squatting without core muscles is a hernia, slipped disk and ruptured achilles tendon waiting to happen.
I feel it was more a matter of flexibility (or lack of) and not using muscle groups, but trying to isolate specific muscles.

RW
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
Fitness articles, many that are ski-related will be updated here:
http://www.qwickly.com/author/lisamercer/

Visit often!
post #13 of 13
Dear Lisa . Link not working.

I hate to be a spammer but Lisa creates personal fitness programs for members for a small fee. Now's the time to get into a program that gets us ready for the slopes come fall. Send her a PM and see what she might be offering . You'll be glad you did.
And for those folks in the bottom half of the world it's never too late to build some stamina ,strength and lose a bit of useless baggage
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