With a ski trip coming up, and full of inspiration from the winter Olympics, I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching the different training schedules of the top downhill skiers. As you’d expect, most of the training is done on the slopes, but there’s also a considerable amount of dry land training that focuses on building strength, speed and agility. As Chemmy Alcott, Britain’s number one female Alpine skier, says, “It takes a lot to race down a mountain at 90mph…”
Leg strength and endurance is obviously essential, and a variety of squats, lunges and lifts are used to develop the muscles of lower body. Julia Mancuso, US Alpine racer, takes this to the next level however. She doesn’t just do regular squats; she does tuck squats whilst standing on a gym ball, now that’s talented!
Balance and core strength are vital components of the off-piste training programme as they enable the skier to hold good form on the slopes. This is where the plank, side plank and back extension exercises come in. Top skiers also use wobble boards, medicine balls and gyms balls to create additional instability challenges that attempt to mimic what they do on the snow. To take this to the extreme, Lindsey Vonn, US Alpine racer, balances on a tightrope in a tuck position while throwing a medicine ball at different angles against a wall – don’t practice this at home!
Explosive and controlled power is fundamental, and off the slopes this can be practised by doing a range of dynamic jumping drills. I think the most challenging example of control I’ve seen so far is Ted Ligety, US Alpine racer, jumping from a trampoline and landing on top of a gym ball in the tuck position!
Stamina and endurance are also vital, and most top alpine skiers improve their lower body potency by doing leg-punishing hill running or cycling Tour de France style. For something a little more fun, try doing what Bode Miller, another US Alpine racer, reportedly does and push a wheelbarrow full of your friends up a steep hill!
Whatever level skier you are, working on your total body fitness prior to your ski trip will improve your overall skiing technique, enjoyment and will help to prevent injuries. Try to avoid boring gym workouts though, and don’t forget that skiing is all about having fearless fun!