The temperature is dropping and the snow is starting to fall—yeah, it’s ski season.
As resorts from the Rockies to the Catskills starting to get loaded with snow, it’s time to dig out your snowpants and rally your friends to book your annual ski trip. But while the runs are surely ready, are you prepared to get on the mountain and dominate? Even if you work out daily, skiing for four or five days can be ultra taxing on your muscles. Trust us.
That’s why we checked in with Alex Moore, high performance strength and conditioning coordinator at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, for the five best gym exercises to get you geared up for ski season.
Do these, and there’s no way you’ll wimp out after the first run this year.
1. Romanian Deadlift
Suggested: 4 sets of 8
Grab an 80 lb dumbbell (you can increase the weight as you up the intensity). Bend your knees slightly, keeping your back straight, then lean forward with the barbell, hinging at the hips. Fire your glutes and hamstrings, bring your hips forward, and return to a standing position. “Hamstring strength is really important to prevent ACL injuries, which are prevalent in skiing,” says Moore. By working the hamstrings, you help stabilize the knee joint and prevent injuries.
2. Single-Leg Eccentric Leg Press
Suggested: 4 sets of 4 on each side
Load the leg press with about 60 to 70 percent of what you can lift with both legs. With one leg, lower the plate down for six seconds. When you’re at the bottom, push up with two feet. Moore advises to go slowly, resisting the weight coming down on you to keep the movement smooth and in control. (If you are having to move too fast, then the weight is too heavy, says Moore.)
About 80 percent of alpine skiing is eccentric, so this downward pressure helps mimic when you are going into a turn, with inertia and gravity pushing you into the ground. Single-leg work also helps eliminate strength imbalances, which is key to preventing injury in skiing—especially because you’re often shifting your weight from one leg to another.
3. Medicine Ball Pump Squat
Suggested: 3 sets of 1 minute each
Hug a heavy medicine ball (15–50 lbs) to your chest and lower into a squat position. Staying low, doing short pump squats (pulsing up and down about an inch or so) without coming back up to start. Your muscles should always be contracting. This exercise builds local muscular endurance in the lower back, glutes, and quads.
4. Squat Jump
Suggested: 4 sets of 4
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down so your thighs are parallel to the floor, then jump high in the air. Try to land softly on the balls of your feet. “This exercise develops explosiveness in the quads and glutes, which is necessary if you want to ski fast and push hard out of your turns,” says Moore.
5. Backwards Treadmill Walk
Suggested: 3 sets of 1 minute; build up to 3 sets of 3 minutes
Start walking very slowly on the treadmill at 2–3 miles per hour. Increase the incline as high as it goes. Very carefully, turn around so you’re facing backwards—your toes should be pointing toward the end of the belt, like you’re walking backwards uphill. As you walk, drop to a squat so that your knees are at nearly 90 degrees—similar to the tuck position of skiing. Make sure you hold on to the treadmill arms as you do this exercise. (And if the notion of going backwards on a treadmill seems crazy, just find a hill and walk backwards up that.
The backwards treadmill walk builds muscle endurance in the quads and glutes. “It doesn’t look that hard,” Moore says, “but when you hop on and do it, it’s brutal — thirty seconds in and your legs are on fire.”