Importance of strength and conditioning
We’ve all been there. Usually it’s early to mid afternoon on that second or
third day of the ski trip. The legs start to feel a little heavy and you can’t quite
hold the edge at speed you could yesterday. Your technique starts to become
a little rough around the edges and the dreaded ‘A-frame’ and ‘backseat’ start
to rear they’re ugly heads. Your friends have to stop and wait for you more
often and all you can think about is a sit down with a hot chocolate or a vin
Why is this happening? Maybe it’s your boots, or those skis the guy in the
shop sold you. it’s not and you know what the answer is; it’s you. A little bit of
hard work on your strength and conditioning before you go away can help to
prevent all of the above. We’ve put together some helpful hints, tips and
exercises for you get on with to help you get the most out of your trip.
How to train:
We want you to get the most out your holiday and your time is precious, and
so any time you do have to prepare for your trip should be used wisely. In
order to do that we need to maximise the transfer of training, namely make
sure that what you do in the gym, has as big an effect on what you do on hill
So first of all, you don’t ski sat down, so why sit down to train for skiing. You
also don’t use one muscle group at a time, so we can forget about all those
leg extension and hamstring curl machines. We want to use movements that
keep us in contact with the ground and use multiple muscle groups including
your core together, being able to do this is massively important for skiing
Skiing is a sport that occurs in all 3 movement planes (think
forwards/backwards, side to side and rotations) and so we want to train in all
3 planes. Using diagonal, sideways and single leg movements will help to
achieve this and will make sure you’re prepared for those direction changes
when you’re away.
As you enter a turn, you have to absorb force, this is called eccentric loading.
Think of this as the downward movement in an exercise like a squat. It’s very
important to control the eccentric movement on the way down as well as push
back up (concentric movement). In the strength exercises below, count 3
seconds in your head on the way down to make sure the muscles are
switched on as they have to be while you initiate the turn.
Strength is arguably the most important quality to a skier. The ability to
absorb, control and generate force is vital. Here we’ve included 8 exercises
that you can use to help increase your lower body and core strength before
you go away.
Back squat – A classic for developing lower body strength. By using free
weights we get more activation of the core to help maintain posture. Keeping
postural control, with particular attention on the lower back is a non negotiable
for all these exercises. Look to do 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps to increase strength.
Lateral squat – most movement in skiing happens side to side. This
exercises helps develop strength in that plane.
Split squat – It’s very rare in skiing that the loads going through each leg are
the same, that is why this is a great exercise. It offers a brilliant core and
balance challenge too.
Stiff leg deadlift – A great exercise for developing hamstring strength, a
muscle group that is often overlooked.
Drop landings – The aim of this exercise is to improve force absorption and
movement mechanics. Stay upright and aim to keep the knees inline with your
second toe on landing.
Side bridge – All 3 of these core exercises are aimed at developing core
activation and endurance, that way, even at the end of a long day, you can
still hold good form.
Conditioning – ski fitness
So you wake up (or are woken up) at 7am, you open your curtains to see that
it snowed 30cm last night and it’s a bluebird day. A full day of pow lines
beckons until you get 20 turns in and your lungs and legs are burning. A bit of
conditioning work beforehand could have prevented this.
If you examine most people’s ski day you’ll see it’s quite intermittent with
periods of moderate to high intensity exercise (that’s the skiing), interspersed
with periods of rest on chairlifts, looking at piste maps and the occasional
As such, interval training offers a great transfer to your skiing, periods of
higher intensity exercise followed by rest periods. You can play around with
the work and rest times. As a starter though try 2 mins of hard work followed
by 2 minutes light intensity. Completing 8 of those is 32 minutes of exercise
so a short sharp session that crosses over to skiing brilliantly.
You can use intervals in a variety of activities we’ve listed below.
Cycling (try intervals on your way to or from work during your commute, 2
birds with on stone. Stretching is particularly important after cycling)
If your holiday is going to consist of touring and or hiking for your lines,
interval training will still help. You’ll also benefit from putting on your walking
boots and heading to the hills over here.
Flexibility for skiing
So, you’ve done your strength training and your conditioning work but no
matter how hard you try, you can’t flex your boot or get your weight to the
front of the ski. Sometimes, if you don’t have enough flexibility you’re just not
going to be able to ski well. Here we’ve included some key stretches to target
the usual suspects, common areas of tightness we see that hold people back.
Some key stretching exercises:
Balance is the ability to keep your centre of mass over your base of support.
When you are skiing your base of support is essentially a big rectangle
running from outside edge to outside edge and the length of your skis, that’s
pretty big. But when we start moving at pace and particularly later in the day
when conditions can become a bit choppy and uneven, keeping balance is
more difficult and is when balance training can really come to the fore.
Here some drills you can use to start improving your balance. You may find
that starting on a flat floor is enough to start with before progressing to uneven
surfaces like balance boards and stability pods.
Try introducing them to your warm ups in the gym or for a real challenge
during your rest period in your conditioning intervals.
balance board split squats
Balance board balances/single leg
Thanks to Neil Welch MSc, ASCC currently strength and conditioning coach for the England junior ski team and consultant coach with nwconditioning. He has worked with British alpine skiing, ski-X and snowboard athletes as well as recreational skiers and snowboarders."
Neil is avalable for private training/group sessions @ ‘Profeet’ contact him directly or through Profeet – email@example.com
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