A World-Champion Freestyle Skier’s Insane Circuit Workout

Just try to keep up with Gus Kenworthy's 30-minute barrage of strength moves. Credit: Shay Williams

Every pro athlete's career involves overcoming injury. This is especially true in Gus Kenworthy's chosen profession, slopestyle skiing — an Olympic and X-Games event where competitors are scored for their tricks as they fly through a terrain park. For Kenworthy, soaring off gigantic table-top jumps while flipping, twisting, and spinning is normal. But shortly after bringing home an Olympic silver medal from Sochi in slopestyle, Kenworthy crashed and injured his knee.

Kenworthy was determined to come back stronger than before, so he hit the gym — hard. "When I was younger I didn't go to the gym much at all," Kenworthy says. "But after getting hurt I realized how easily everything I love and have devoted my life to could be taken away. I wanted to prepare my body for how rigorous and demanding slopestyle is and be confident that I could crash hard again, because I know it's going to happen."

A rapidly evolving sport like slopestyle is driven by innovation, and learning new tricks (and failing) exacts a heavy toll on the body. To develop endurance, flexibility and strength without getting bored, Kenworthy created a rotating circuit workout of seven exercises. "It's quick, intense, and works my entire body," Gus explains. "It leaves me exhausted, but is short enough that I can't make up any excuses not to do it."

Currently, Kenworthy leads the AFP (Association of Freeskiing Professionals) world ranking and is confident ahead of the X-Games. "I want to medal at the X-Games and defend my freeskiing overall world title," he says. "But my main priority is staying healthy and strong. I want to feel indestructible coming into the Olympic qualifying process next year."

The Gus Kenworthy "Indestructible" Strength Circuit
"It's basically 30 minutes of high intensity," says Kenworthy. "Quick, but you should feel absolutely shredded afterwards." We included Kenworthy's weights, but if you can't match his numbers, pick a weight that feels challenging, but that you can also maintain through all four rounds. Don't rest between exercises, but take increasing recovery periods (60, 90, and 120 seconds) between the circuits. 

1) Goblet Squat: 25 reps with a 25-pound kettlebell in each hand. Hold the weights close to your chest, elbows tucked in. Squat as low as you can while keeping chest up, back flat, and feet planted. Push through heels to stand.

2) Dumbbell Chest Press: 25 reps with 35-pound dumbbells. Lay flat on a bench with knees bent and feet planted, dumbbells in the same position that you would normally set up for a bench press. Engage abs, and using only your chest and triceps, drive the weights straight up, then lower slowly. Pause briefly in the start position, and repeat. 

3) Double Crunch: 25 reps. Lie on the floor with legs extended and hands behind head. Lift your legs off the ground slightly (keeping them straight), then crunch upper body up while simultaneously bringing knees in to meet your elbows. Return to start and repeat without letting your feet touch the floor. 

4) Push-Up: 25 reps. From a straight-arm plank position, lower chest to floor while keeping elbows snug to the body and back flat.

5) Strict Pull-Up: 10 reps. From a hang, engage your lats by pulling your shoulder blades back and together. Pull up until your collarbone meets the bar. Slowly lower back to start, and repeat.

6) Sit-up: 25 reps. Lie on the floor with legs straight and hands behind head. Breathe deeply and exhale to engage your abs. Lift your torso off the floor until you're sitting fully up, then slowly lower back down. When you’re lying down, you keep your lumbar flush to the floor so you don't arch your back.

7) Russian Twist: 25 reps on each side with a 25-pound medicine ball. Sit on floor with knees bent, feet lifted two inches, and hands holding the med ball in front of chest. Rotate your torso to the right and tap floor beside you with the med ball; rotate back through center and repeat to left. Your feet shouldn't move during the exercise.