5 Tips How I Build My Ski Legs

1. Preseason Cardio and General Leg Conditioning.

For me the preseason is about riding my bike. Mountain biking is great because it not only develops cardio and endurance muscle but maintains athletic ability and coordination on those technical trails. Things come at you fast on a bike so everything feels more hectic and its perfect training for reading terrain and adapting your line to whats coming up. I’m coming into the season in good shape and after a summer of being a skinny climber have already put on about 6 kg on muscle with long rides on my mountain bike.

2.Isometric Muscle Conditioning.

The cardio fitness and muscle is there but skiing requires the muscle to work in a 3rd way – isometric contraction. On a bike the muscle goes through its usual contraction during activation, then extension as it relaxes. During relaxation its easier for the blood to flow through the tissues to feed the muscle and remove waste products. In skiing you are often in a position half way in between with the muscle partially contracted and staying a constant length and holding tension for long periods. This is especially true for offpiste skiing where wide modern skis need less of an up’n’ down, weight unweight piste style and more just weight shift left or right. One way to achieve this is doing wall squats and simply hold the squat position for as long as possible, rest for a set time and repeat, adding weight as necessary.                                                                                           wall squats

For me I love to train outdoors and use the terrain we have. The gym is good for the odd hit but its not much fun unless you like the smell of sweaty balls. Training on skis builds coordination, overall body conditioning for skiing and acclimatisation while being fun! I can develop my isometric muscle conditioning and power endurance at the same time while skiing. To do this you need to select suitable terrain that will provide enough load for my muscles current strength. Muscle load increases proportionally with gradient due to the acceleration due to gravity going up proportionally with gradient so its important to find the slope thats right for you, it may be 20 degrees, 30 degrees, 40 degrees but you want to be able to ski continuously and fluidly without technique holding you back and without it being too easy. So for me the perfect terrain to start training is the cable face of Skyway which averages about 40 degrees and with 1200 m of vertical is long enough to create fatigue when skiing non stop top to bottoms.

3.Low Time, High Intensity Workouts.

For many of us time and location means finding other ways to prepare for the season. We’ve all come on a ski trip unprepared and by day 3 can barely walk through delayed onset muscle soreness. If you are in this category check out this handy training app from Clinic du Sport Chamonix which I recommend. Ski Fit App. There is a free phaselite version, a condensed 8 minute version and if you like it you can sign up for a year’s subscription to a 4 phase program for 10 bucks! So far I’ve only progressed to phase 3 and I’m sure you could win the Olympics if you complete phase 4.

4.Building Pelvic Stability.

I wish I’d know about this 20 years ago. For a long time I was getting twinges in my lower back with it locking out for a few days every year and I never got to the bottom of it. Then last year I blew a section of my lowest spinal disc onto the root of my sciatic nerve. It feels like you are being electrocuted and weeks of insomnia followed. Believe me you want to avoid this at all cost. The MRI was not pretty and revealed my lowest 3 discs were like that of an 80 year old. Finally we got to the bottom of why my spine was so damaged – very strong exterior muscles but significant core weakness and hyper flexibility in my lower back. You are only as strong as your weakest link and all the force coming up your legs is transmitted through your pelvis into your upper body so that area needs to be as strong or stronger.                                                                                                                      pelvic bridge

Pelvic Bridges build core strength which protects your spine and will allow you to ski harder for longer. Try keep the pelvic floor muscles engaged while maintaining good breathing. Try straightening one leg by raising the foot so all the load is on the opposite leg. The hips must be kept horizontal, don’t allow the hip to drop on the side of the raised foot. Further progression can be made by adding weight over your stomach.

5.Build Strength and Power.

Pistol squats are a great exercise to build leg, hip and core strength while working all the balance muscles. Progress by doing them on a wobble board and adding weight.

pistol-squat

Dead lifts will work hamgstrings, glutes and back which is perfect for landing jumps!

dead lifts

Box jumps will develop explosive or plyometric strength in glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles, and maintain athletic ability, balance and coordination. Perfect for those jumps turns in tight couloirs.

box jump

Don’t forget to eat healthily with plenty of fruit, veg, nuts, seeds and protein to meet your body’s requirements!