When it comes to downhill ski performance, there's no amount of strength that goes wasted. You can get this strength in two ways: skiing all season or spending some time in the weight room before the snow flies.
You only need to look at the preparation programs for the best skiers in the world (national team alpine racers) to know what works. These guys simply crush it in the gym, squatting massive loads and performing numerous accessory exercises in hopes of gaining an edge over their competitors. In a sport where milliseconds separate the top five guys in any given race, this is a telling fact.
Just witness the number of "ski fitness" classes on tap in mountain towns each fall. There are several different ways to skin this cat but they all aspire to the same end—make the athlete stronger so he or she can charge right from day one.
If you have the time and inclination to attend one of these classes, do so. If you're unaccustomed to this kind of training, it will kick your butt. But many of these classes are limited in terms of equipment and sophistication simply due to the numbers of athletes involved. Plus, after six weeks, or so, athletes tend to plateau.
Enter the Barbell
Increasing the resistance during any exercise will ensure continued strength gains. This can be accomplished with barbells, dumbbells, sand bags and weighted vests.
Pick A Few Exercises
With so many options it's easy to become overwhelmed. It's best to pick two or three exercises and perform them twice a week. If I had to narrow it down, the front squat and the weighted lunge would top the list. These are technically difficult exercises but worth the time it takes to master them. Front squatting allows a stable, bilateral movement for maximal motor unit recruitment while the lunge offers an athletic, single-leg exercise that translates well to sport.
To keep things interesting, variations of these two staples include the Bulgarian split squat, walking lunge, weighted step-up, pistol squat, goblet squat and one-legged drop down squat from a box. These can be added to or subtracted from the program as time and motivation allows
All of these exercises will provide the foundation of strength upon which to build ski fitness but power endurance is another helpful quality that can be addressed pre-season. This is done using sub-maximal loads for higher numbers of repetitions. Thirty rep squat sets without stopping will leave you crippled if you chose a weight too heavy but, done properly, will have you tearing up Tram laps come opening day.
Another favorite exercise of mine for power endurance is the Leg Blaster and Mini Leg Blaster.
The bottom line is that if you don't do some of this work now, you will be under-prepared come snow flies. There is simply no skier out there, no matter how skilled, who will not be better off with this kind of leg strength come opening day.
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