Fitness against shaky legs on skis
Sandro Kaufmann, coach ACTIV FITNESS Lucerne Bundesplatz
The 2022/23 ski season has started for professional athletes. While the world’s elite prepares meticulously for the season, numerous recreational skiers hit the slopes unprepared. Regular fitness training contributes to gliding down the slopes more elegantly and with better endurance. A side effect that should not be neglected: the risk of accidents can also be reduced with improved basic fitness.
“Snow juhee” – that’s what many people wish for these days, who can hardly wait to leave their tracks on snow-covered slopes. Sandro Kaufmann, fitness trainer at ACTIV FITNESS Luzern Bundesplatz, recommends a training plan divided into five sections for all snow sports fans as optimal preparation for the ski season: preparation, coordination, cardiovascular training, muscle training and conclusion.
Preparation is everything, and of course that also applies to an intensive workout. 2-3 functional bodyweight exercises will help warm up the body and mind for the workout ahead. Ideally, warm-up exercises require both static and dynamic muscle work, stretch the myofascial connective tissue and also activate the mind via the sense of balance.
Example of a static exercise: Front support (plank): Forearms and toes are in contact with the floor, the body forms a plank, and the abdominal muscles are contracted the whole time. Hold exercise 1x for 30-60 seconds (submaximal effort).
Dynamic exercise example: Standing trunk rotation with the upper body in forward position. During the alternating rotations from the entire spine, stretch the upper arm as far as possible. Hold 1x for 30-60s (submaximal effort).
On skis, a good sense of balance, stable joints and the ability to react quickly are crucial. It is therefore advisable to complete 1-3 coordination exercises.
Example of squats: Performed on an unstable surface with a firm surface (sypoba, upside-down Bosu), squats promote not only a sense of balance, but above all knee joint stability.
Example three-point on the Balance Pad: Stand with one leg on the Balance Pad and touch the floor with the other leg in three directions (front, side, back). In addition, briefly tap the opposite elbow with the knee of the free leg between the change of direction. 30-60 seconds per leg. This exercise promotes coordination from the upper to the lower body via the torso.
3. Cardiovascular training
After an hour of fun on the slopes, who wants to have to take off their skis again because they are out of breath? Exactly, nobody!
20-30 minute interval training sessions on the treadmill or cross trainer help to achieve maximum progress in terms of endurance in as little time as possible. These units promote improved endurance by training the heart muscle, increasing the blood’s oxygen transport capacity and optimizing oxygen utilization in the muscle cells. Anyone who regularly completes these interval units will soon find out on the slopes that their legs don’t start to burn so quickly and their heart rate stays at a lower level for longer.
4. Strength training
So-called eccentric forces act on skiers, especially in curves, when crouching and when driving over bumps. It is all the more important to have strong muscles that can withstand such loads. Targeted exercises (performed in 1-2 sets per muscle exercise) are best suited, especially for the lower half of the body and the legs. They help to minimize impacts on the knee and to counteract the strong centrifugal and gravitational forces that occur during skiing in the best possible way.
Example leg press: This trains the foot, knee and hip joint muscles at the same time.
Example lunge squat: This exercise mainly trains the same muscles as the leg press, but with a separate control of the front leg. This load can be transferred very well to skiing, because when turning, one knee bends slightly and the hip or trunk is used to maintain balance.
Speaking of the torso: this must not be forgotten, because without a stable center of the body you lack the necessary balance:
Example of front support: analogous to a static preparatory exercise, but with the forearms supported on a fitball. Due to the additional instability caused by the fitball, the torso now does a similar job as when skiing – it has to stabilize under load.
Example Back Extension: Trains the back of the trunk and the lower back. Bends can be performed with a straight back or dynamically with the back curling up during the downward movement.
Important: In order to optimally develop the muscles and to achieve long-term progress, the tension range (time under tension) should be changed every 4-12 weeks. The most important thing in muscle training, in addition to the anatomically correct execution of the exercise, is the full joint amplitude (range of motion) if possible. The training progress is also optimized if the sets are maintained until complete muscular exhaustion.
In order to round off a rigorous and good workout, it is advisable to work on individual parts of the body with the foam roller (also known as black roll or trigger point roll). When used correctly, the rollers promote blood circulation and fluid exchange in the muscle fascia. This in turn can have a positive effect on muscular recovery. Preferred areas for skiers: buttocks, thighs, lower legs and back.
Training as just presented lasts an average of 70 minutes and should ideally be carried out twice a week to enable a longer and more intensive driving experience. It is important not to train intensively two days before skiing so that the body can recover optimally. Then nothing stands in the way of perfect performance on the skis.
Good luck implementing these tips! Incidentally, every ski sport fan who is at least 15 years old can contact a trainer in an ACTIV FITNESS studio to receive such a training plan.