Ski Conditioning


The ski season is very (VERY!  VERY!) close at hand and appropriate preparation is in order, so here’s a plan I put together.  Several capacities are key to good skiing performance: endurance, flexibility/mobility, strength/power, and power-endurance.

The periodized plan is composed of three four-week training blocks with each block separated by one week off.  The first two training blocks consist of three gym workouts per week.  The final block has two gym workouts per week.  The week off should allow for thorough rest and recuperation prior to beginning the next block.

Emphasis is placed on training a certain capacity in each block, but the other capacities are trained as well so that nothing is lost as the plan progresses.  For instance, though strength is emphasized in the first block, endurance and balance training also takes place.  The skiing performance capacities I’ve addressed and my thoughts on each are as follows:
1.    Endurance (already established over the summer through running and biking): I must have the endurance to stay on the mountain all day at altitude.  The endurance base will be maintained over the course of the plan.
2.    Strength: Skiing is very thigh-dominant thus I must have very strong legs to ski well.  A strong trunk and upper body is essential for powerful turns.
3.    Mobility/Stability (two sides of the same coin): Effective ski technique requires tremendous hip and leg mobility during turns, especially at high speeds.  While the legs and hips must be mobile, the trunk typically must be rock-solid and stable during turns.
4.    Power: Strength must be transfered to power.  It’s not enough to be strong and slow to ski well.  I must be able to express strength at high speeds.
5.    Power-endurance (Here’s where the training gets very specific to skiing.): Skiing requires one to be powerful over and over again for several minutes.  Then the skier typically gets a rest of several minutes while he or she rides back up to the top of the mountain.  So it’s not enough to be powerful once and then rest.

Here’s the plan:

  • Block 1: Strength & Mobility
    • Strength Day
      • front squat: 3-6 reps, 4-8 sets
      • bench press: 3-6 reps, 4-8 sets
      • face pull: 8-12 reps, 3-4 sets
    • Balance Day
      • single-leg squats from a box
        • heel reach forward
        • toe reach back
        • toe reach forward
        • rotational squat
      • single-leg bent over dumbbell row
      • single-arm overhead dumbbell press with frontal plane hip drive
    • Mobility Day
      • multi-directional lunges with varied arm drives
      • dips
      • rotating cable pulls from various angles
    • Endurance: running and biking throughout the week
    • One week off
  • Block 2: Power
    • Day 1
      • multi-planar jumps/hops: 6-10 reps, 3-4 sets
      • barbell clean to front squat: 3-5 reps, 4-6 sets
    • Day  2
      • Kettlebell swings: 8 reps, 3 sets
      • Kettlebell swipes or chops: 5-8 reps, 3 sets
    • Day 3
      • long jumps: 6 reps, 3 sets
      • dumbbell or barbell push press: 3-5 reps, 4-6 sets
    • Endurance: same as block one
    • One week off
  • Block 3: Power endurance
    Due to the high stress of these workouts, only two are performed per week.

    • Day 1:
      • barbell complex
      • clean
      • front squat
      • bent row
      • Romanian deadlift
      • floor press
      • followed by multi-planar jumps/hops
    • Day 2:
      • Kettlebell complex (may vary widely)
        • snatch
        • clean
        • chop
        • press
        • swing
      • running or rowing intervals

2 thoughts on “Ski Conditioning

  1. Kathi

    This plan looks great for pre-season so what would a maintence plan look like during the season for someone who skis 3-5 days per week?

    • Kyle

      Wow, 3-5 days of skiing per week? I wish I could go that often! By the way, I should say that the ski conditioning plan I outlined is for downhill skiing. (I probably should’ve noted that in the post.) Are you referring to a downhill skier or a cross-country skier? For the sake of my reply, I’ll assume it’s a downhill skier.

      The best way to train for a sport or improve one’s skill in a sport is to participate that sport. Lots of time spent skiing is the ideal way to maintain good ski conditioning. With that many days spent skiing, rest and recovery is extremely important to keeping an athlete strong and fresh for training and competition. Make sure those components are addressed before worrying about strength training. If the athlete is eating well, sleeping well and balancing hard work with adequate rest then attention can be paid to a strength program. So on to that topic.

      I would focus the in-season program on two areas: 1) mobility and 2) power endurance. All athletes in fact should spend quality time making sure their bodies can move through three planes of motion. This type of work doesn’t necessarily need to look or feel like “weight training.” Mobility drills focusing on the ankles, hips, trunk, shoulders and neck should be employed. Since downhill skiers stay in a tucked or flexed position (if they have a desk job or drive a car then they stay in a tucked position literally almost all the time) then considerable mobility work should focus on spinal extension. The same thing can be said for the hips. Mobility work can be a great warm-up or it could be a workout unto itself.

      For power endurance, workouts should be kept fairly short but fairly intense. Workouts should not be so grueling that the athlete is too tired to ski well. A power endurance circuit might consist of three or more exercises done consecutively. For example: 20 seconds of jumping followed by 20 seconds of medicine ball rotational throws followed by 20 seconds of lateral lunges followed by 20 seconds of pushups. The athlete may rest, then complete the circuit again anywhere from 2-6 times, or another similar circuit may be employed.

      The idea here is to create a workout that resembles a ski run in terms of time and movement patterns. A typical ski run takes a few minutes during which powerful movements are executed. A skier then spends several more minutes at rest as he or she rides the chairlift up again. The legs and hips are clearly the key body parts of skiing but the trunk and shoulders must be strong as well to execute good turns. Skiing takes place in three planes meaning that the skier moves forward and back, side-to-side, and in rotation.

      There are a few ideas on in-season ski conditioning. Now, here’s what else must be considered: How do the workouts affect the skier’s skiing? If he or she takes on an additional workload and they feel fatigued during their skiing, then we may not be doing any good. Maintenance of strength doesn’t require a lot of time in the gym. More and more work isn’t always better work. Thus, I suggest two days at most of gym work. If anyone else has insight on this topic please chime in.

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