Fit for the Slopes: Train Like a Snow Sport Athlete

woman snowboardingPerhaps you’ve noticed the agility, endurance, balance and strength of pro skiers and snowboarders—their skills are admirable in action, and they look good off the slopes, too.

Whether you’re heading out for some black diamond runs or some simple winter fun, there are key fundamentals you can incorporate in your workouts to help you get fit for the slopes.

Try these exercises to improve your performance, as well as stay safe, on skies or a snowboard, and prep for the powder like a snow sport athlete.

Leg strength:

So many of focus on building on concentric leg strength—the kind used to do things like get up from a squat or hike up a hill. But mastering the slopes requires a lot of eccentric leg strength, which enables getting down to the bottom of a squat or controlling movement downhill.

  • Prisoner jump squats. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms bent at the elbows, hands behind your head. Lower yourself slowly towards the floor until your thighs are parallel to the floor and then quickly spring your body back up to do a jump off the floor, and land back in standing position to repeat.
  • Eccentric single leg press. On the leg press machine, slowly lower the platform using one leg toward your body until the knee is at 90 degrees. Place the other foot on and quickly push away until the legs are extended again, then lift off one foot to repeat.

back extension

Posterior work:

Another aspect of mountain sports is the strength of the “posterior” chain—that’s basically the back of your body. Balancing your body development when training your body will go a long way to help with everything from knee stability to back injury prevention.

  • Single leg deadlift. Add balance and core work to your deadlifts by doing them one leg at a time. Place one leg slightly behind you and lift it off the floor as you bend forward at the hips. Be sure to keep your back flat, engage your abs and used your glutes to help you get back up to standing while keeping that foot off the ground.
  • Prisoner back extension. Set up on a back extension machine with feet locked into the foot pads and your hands in prisoner position behind the head. Keep your spine neutral and your chin lowered, and engage the deepest of abs to support your low back as you extend up in one fell swoop. Slowly lower back down to starting position.

box jumps

Explosive power:

Plyometric movements that require you to spring up for lift off and land with some cushioning action are a perfect choice for prepping for the slopes. The lateral moves are a benefit to both skiers and snowboarders. Doing these jumps as quickly as you can with good form is an added benefit.

  • Box jumps. This is as simple as it sounds. Grab a plyometric box and stand in front of it facing the box. Explode up and jump to land with both feet on the box, and then back down.
  • Lateral box jumps. Snowboarders, stand to the side of a low box and jump on and off the box from both the right and left side. Skiers try it one-legged: stand next to the box with one foot on the box. Pushing off with both feet, jump over the box and land on the other side, one foot on the box. Jump back and repeat 20 times.

medicine ball twist

Core & Endurance:

Cross-training and core exercises are a good addition to your snow sport training. Focus on muscle endurance—abs to help you stay stable against gravity and legs to help you along those long runs.

  • Medicine ball oblique twists. Sit on the floor on a mat and hold a medicine ball with both hands in front of your ribs, keeping your elbows slightly bent. Lean your upper body back a bit, and if you can lift your feet a few inches off the mat. Rotate at the waist from side to side, lowering the ball toward the floor as you turn each way.
  • Stationary cycling. Alternate your 15-minute cycling workouts between the full time at a steady pace one day, and an interval approach the next, pedaling at sprint speed for 30 seconds and easy pace for 60 seconds until you reach 15 minutes.

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