After 15 years on the National Ski Team I’ve learned a lot about training, one key component of an athlete’s overall fitness is their ‘strength’. Strength varies from individual to individual, if you take a quick look around some of the World Cup winners you’ll see that they come in all different shapes and sizes.
A few examples, Lara Gut, Lindsey Vonn, Maria Riesch, Anna Fenninger. On the guys side, Marcel Hirscher, Jens Byggsmark, Aksel Lund Svindal, Bode Miller.
What they all have in common is they are very strong in proportion to their size and body frames. You don’t need to be big to be strong, but to be fast on your skis, you need strength.
Here is a quote from Bode Miller in a recent New York Times article where he is saying that in Alpine Skiing size and mass doesn’t matter, it’s a balance of overall fitness.
“It’s an equation,” Miller said. “You can’t just say mass helps, because it has to do with friction and air resistance. We’re not going in a straight line. We’re not speed skiing. If we were just speed skiing, then being heavier would definitely help. But you’re changing directions the whole way down, and I think in Sochi, fitness is going to be a huge component.”
You can break the body down into three main strength areas to build, your upper body strength, your lower body strength and your core strength. All three of these areas are very important in skiing.
Let’s start with your upper body. Your strength here is what propels you out of the start gate; a strong start can win you a run. Here are a list of a few exercise to help build upper body strength: (in all of these no weights are needed)
- Tricep dips: Find the end of a chair or a low table
- Arm curls: load up some water bottles with rocks or water and do curls.
- Chin ups: If you can find a bar, this is a great upper body exercise. You can find these in parks sometimes.
Moving onto our mid-section, our core strength. This area is very important in skiing because with a strong core you will be able to resist all the forces created in the turn and at speed. A strong core equals a stable upper body position and more speed on your skis. Here are a couple of great core exercises to get things started:
- Front Plank: Elbows on the ground, a nice straight ‘planked’ body, on your toes and hold for 30 seconds, eventually increasing your holding time to 60 sec.
- Side Plank: Either on your elbow, or up on your hand, a straight body, resting on the outside of your foot. Do each side and hold the same time as above.
- Crunches: Important when doing these to really focus on how your core is working. Really feel the lower part of your stomach(core) contracting.
Lastly we have our lower body strength, the skier legs! To start to gain some strength in your legs here are a couple of exercises. Strength here will help you recover on your skis, put power into your turns and also help you in dealing with the forces created in the turns.
- Squats: Technique is really important here, even if you are just doing body weight. Ask a coach to show you how to do a proper squat an then start working on your body weight squats.
- Walking lunges: Doing these properly will strengthen some very important muscles around your knees in throughout your quads. Doing lunges with the squats helps to work in a little balance
- Hamstring curls with the swiss ball: Also, technique is very important with this one. If you don’t have a ball you can put your heel up on a ledge, couch height and lift your bum up
Before you do any of the exercises that I listed, talk to a coach and get your technique right. It is VERY important to do all of your strength exercises with good technique. This will keep your joints and your muscles happy and healthy and injury free.
Ski fast and have fun!