Every year on opening day, it’s the same story: I wish I did more in the off-season so that my legs don’t feel like rubber on my first run down the slopes. That’s why I’ve put together these five, key ski exercises so that this year I’m ahead of the game.
Even though I spend more than enough time riding a bike and even in the gym, I always seem to have to regain my ski legs during the early season months. This year, I’ve vowed to decrease that time and hopefully, enjoy those first pow turns rather than being painfully aware of the lactic acid building in my quads, questioning, how early is too early for après?
Where to Start With Ski Exercises
Skiing is a very complex sport for the body, and you’re going to need to build up your endurance, cardio and strength to be fully ready for the season ahead. What I’m going to focus on is a program that will help with lower body and core strength, at the same time as working on mobility and balance. This will help you with control while skiing, and also prevent injuries in areas that get worked a lot in this sport.
Here are a few, key exercises to kick off training so that you can get more laps on the hill right from the start.
As always, before beginning any exercise program, check in with your doctor or a certified training professional.
1. Lateral Ski Jumps
Lateral ski jumps are plyometric exercises that use your body weight to work muscles throughout your body, including your quads, glutes and hamstrings. Since they’re explosive in nature, they will help prepare you for the bursts of power required by your lower body while on the slopes.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent (an athletic stance).
- Shift your weight so you’re balancing on one leg.
- Jump to the side, landing on the other leg, landing softly.
- Then jump to the other side, landing on the other leg.
- Like a speed skater, swing your arms from side to side.
2. Walking Lunge with Rotation
Forget your basic lunge, incorporating a walking lunge with rotation gets your quads, hamstrings, core and glutes! This is very important as your body moves through various planes while skiing, requiring many different muscle systems, balance and body awareness.
- Stand with your feet slightly apart.
- Step forward with one foot, lowering into a basic lunge position. This means the leg in the back should drop, forming a 90-degree angle to the ground, and your forward leg should also be at a 90-degree angle.
- As you step, rotate your body in the direction of the front leg. Have arms at chest level.
- Push through your forward leg, taking the next lunge step and repeating the rotation to the opposite side.
Squats are a no-brainer when training for the ski season ahead. After all, they directly mimic the action of skiing, strengthening the quads and to a lesser degree also the glutes, hip flexors, lower back and outer thighs.
- Stand in an athletic position with your feet hip distance apart and your arms at chest level.
- Bend at your knees and squat down till your knees make a 90-degree angle.
- Keep your lower back neutral.
- Press through heels to stand back up to the starting position.
4. Deadlift with Dumbbells
Knee mobility and strong hamstrings are benefits of deadlifts that are very useful to skiers. This exercise is a multi-joint movement, specifically building muscle in your glutes and hamstrings. Since many of our favourite Whistler activities are quad dominant, ensuring that your hamstrings are given attention is very important.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of heavy dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing you.
- Bend your knees until the dumbbell almost touches your shins.
- Keeping your back flat, shoulders back and core engaged, push your hips back and simultaneously hinge forward at your waist as you bend at your knees.
- Lower your body until it’s nearly parallel to the floor and / or you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings.
- Slowly reverse the movement back to standing.
Bridges are an amazing exercise that not only strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and quads, but also the spine and hips. This type of mobility is essential to skiing and maintaining overall movement health. There are a number of variations to the bridge exercise (like doing them with one leg lifted), but let’s go through a basic bridge to start.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet apart and hands at your sides.
- Push into the ground equally with your hands, upper back and feet, lifting your buttocks and hips off the ground.
- Slowly, and with control, lower back down the ground.
To start out, try two sets of 10 of each exercise. With these few ski-focused exercises, in addition to ramping up your cardio, you should be able to stay out for a few more laps on the hill and postpone après just that little bit longer!
Hailey Elise is a local mountain bike athlete, who spends a lot of time in the gym! Her background also includes a degree in Kinesiology, which she applies all the time to her lifestyle in Whistler.