After a decade of experts hammering at us, we get the message: Core is King. What we sometimes miss is that the key, especially for skiers, is not so much core strength, as it is core stability. A crunch uses your abs to move another body part; skiing uses your abs to stabilize your body so a different muscle can do its thing.
Do this instead: Plank hops. Get in plank position, with your hands on the floor, palms-down, directly beneath your shoulders. Brace your abs as if someone were about to hit you in the stomach, and keep them braced throughout the exercise. Keep your feet together and hop both legs first to the left and then to the right. Do three 30-second intervals for a combo core and cardio challenge.
Seated leg extension
The ever-popular leg extension is all quads—so it’s a slam-dunk for skiers, right? Problem is, it unnaturally stresses your knee joint, especially your ACL, and raises your risk of injury. Case in point: The only knee tweak I ever suffered was from this machine (don’t worry—this was many moons ago, long before I became your savvy ski-fitness expert). Also, the leg extension doesn’t translate well to the slopes because it isolates the quads, while skiing works the quads in conjunction with the hamstrings, glutes, calves, hip flexors and core muscles. If you do use this machine, stick to light loads.
Do this instead: Diagonal lunge, which invites all your muscles to the party and better mimics the motion of skiing. Lunge toward about 1 o’clock and drop straight down so that your forward knee is directly above the ankle. Push off of your heel to return to the starting position. Do 10–20 reps with each leg.
Your calves see some action when you ski, but frankly, not much. Certainly not enough to warrant the ski-boot-fit-wrecking bulk you get from heavy-load calf raises. Focus instead on calf flexibility, because tight calves make it hard for you to keep your weight forward when you ski.
Do this instead: Build all the calf strength you need through jump roping and other plyometric exercises (bonus: They boost power and anaerobic endurance too). To stretch your calves, stand on a step and hang your left heel off the step behind you (keep the ball of your left foot on the step); lean forward for a deeper stretch. Hold for 15–30 seconds, and repeat with your right foot.