The winter ski season is not just around the corner, but winter sports enthusiasts can begin to prepare their workouts in time to devote themselves again to their favorite activity. There are those who begin to prepare a couple of months earlier the ski season to be able to deal with the snow in the best possible way avoiding the possibility of 'accidents’ and trying to enjoy the season with as little DOMS as possible. On the other hand, there are people who dedicate all year round to prepare for the winter sports season. This is the case for professionals and passionate enthusiasts, who make skiing fitness their first objective.
Structuring an athletic preparation for this type of person is not easy because ski fitness is a sport with many variables: the compactness of the snow, the reflections of the light, the visibility on the slope, the climatic conditions, etc. It is therefore necessary to reduce the variables left to chance to a minimum and to plan each phase of the workout precisely.
Due to the subjectivity of workout for ski fitness, It is not possible to write a single preparation that is valid for everyone, so this article will be limited to explaining structure and concepts to create or manage the dry workout for ski fitness season according to individual athlete’s needs.
Before starting athletic preparation in ski fitness
Before starting any kind of athletic preparation in ski, it is necessary to know the specific sport performance model and the starting point of the athlete who will have to train. As far as the latter is concerned, a postural analysis is necessary in order to identify various compensations that could create any serious problems during the various descents while skiing.
A second fundamental step is to evaluate the relationship of force between the flexor and extensor muscles of the lower limb: in ski athletic performance, the stresses on the lower limbs are considerable and evaluation of the functionality of the muscle structures is essential for the prevention of injuries, especially to the knee.
Flexor/extender ratio test of ski fitness
Tests that can be carried out are:
- Isokinetics: very precise and with direct measurements but more difficult to implement due to the equipment required. Furthermore, this gives no practical indication of isotonic loads.
- Isotonic: simple to implement but offering indirect measurement, much less precise and dependent on the quality of the machinery used. In this case it is possible to use a leg extension for the test of the knee extensors and a leg curl to test the flexors.
The strength ratios between flexors and extensors using different equipment (body positions for the knee flexion) should be:
- 1:3 Leg extension / lying leg curl
- 2:3 Leg extension / standing leg curl
- 1:1 Leg extension / seated leg curl
Usually there is a deficit of the flexor musculature in bodies trained for skifitness, as these are used less in daily life and are generally less well-trained. It is very important to bring this relationship back into line as flexors are fundamental to limit knee hyperextension and the action of the proximal tibia, and help to stabilize the pelvis.
Assessing proprioception and balance in ski fitness
The second step of evaluation in ski fitness concerns balance and proprioception. When skiing, the feet are bound to axes that slide on an unstable surface of various densities. The weight is almost never distributed on both lower limbs in an even way and passes very quickly from one ski to the other, so it is necessary to workout on sensitivity and coordination using specific tests.
Some of the tests that can be used include:
- Walk with eyes closed in a straight line for 8-10 meters by placing one foot in front of the other. This simple exercise will measure the quality of the kinesthetic apparatus.
- Lay balanced on a wellness ball for 30 seconds. This requires excellent motor feedback as well as great core proprioception and functionality.
- Performing single leg squats with eyes closed. The aim of the exercise is to remain as stable as possible with only one foot on the ground.
Exercises that can improve specific proprioception in skiing fitness:
- Stand on a board resting across a foam roller, or an upside-down balance dome and play throw and catch using a med ball. The trainer can increase the level of challenge by delivering the ball a little higher, more lateral, etc. each time it is thrown
- Stand on a board resting across a foam roller, or an upside-down balance dome , holding a 10-15-20kg disc (depending on the athlete’s strength) make a circular movement in the frontal plane with the disc, varying the speed of execution.
- In quadruped position, with the shins on one wellness ball and the hands on a second. Stretch out arms and legs so that the wellness balls move away from each other, then return to the starting position.
Regardless of the specific ski fitness the athlete performs, there are demands that are common to all disciplines. Firstly, the overload on the knees, which in World Cup athletes has been calculated to achieve an acceleration of 4G in turns. To give a practical example: a skier of 80 kg will be able to perceive pressures higher than 300 kg on the knee. Similarly, strength in the upper limbs is essential, both in the thrust phase where power and explosiveness are essential, and because it helps the athlete maintain balance during the various phases of the descent.
Last, but not least, the core muscles are always active to resist the forces that tend to unbalance the athlete. As far as the performance model of ski fitness is concerned, there is no absolute model, but it is necessary to look at every single discipline.
Lower limb strengthening exercises for ski fitness
Some strengthening exercises for the lower limbs are:
- ½ squat and squat. The general indication is to be able to perform 10 repetitions with an overload equal to at least body weight.
- Step up
- Squat with isoinertial machines
- Deadlifts, using at least 130-150% of the overload compared to your body weight to perform a series of 10 repetitions.
These indications, although general, are the basis for building a safe athletic program, and train all year round rather than a couple of months from the beginning of the season. This approach distinguishes a professional sportsman (beyond the participation in various competitions) from the recreational skiier. The difference is not so much in the technique of ski fitness or in having less DOMS after a day spent on the slopes but to be able to practice their favorite sport in total safety, preventing trauma and injury.
The purpose of every sport activity is not only to be able to do a performance once in a while but to be able to repeat it whenever you want, without having to wait days and days to recover from the physical effort, or worse from an unnecessary injury. If well-prepared the worries and fears can be left at home for the only thing that matters in sport: the fun.
- Valentina Frison, Preparazione atletica, una stagione di sci alpino
- Farhan Tinwala, John Cronin, Enrico Hämmerle, Angus Ross, Eccentric overload squats with the intelligent motion lifter strength training for Alpine Ski racing
- Carson Patterson, Christian Raschner, Science and Skiing V Edited by Erich Muller, Stefan Lindinger, Thomas Stogg
- Andrea Scattolini, La preparazione atletica nello sci alpino