For the past three seasons, 24-year-old freeskier Evan Raps has used a self-designed training regimen that would impress even the likes of Hermann Maier. In addition to lifting Hulk-size loads doing squats, leg presses, and hamstring curls, he tortured himself with sprints on the bike and the treadmill. And, if he was lucky, he squeezed in a few surfing sessions between stints of summertime on-snow training in British Columbia. This fairly standard skiing training regimen helped Raps become a two-time X Games medalist. While shooting for a hat trick in the 2003 X Games Slopestyle finals, however, Raps' fitness didn't save him from tearing his ACL when he overshot the landing on a 1080.
No training techniques can guarantee an injury-free season, of course, but workouts that equally emphasize strength and balance are the best insurance available. Since Raps' X Games fumble, he has traded a few hours on his surfboard for more Swiss ball time doing what physical therapists call "prehabilitation. "The exercises incorporate different angles and challenge my muscles in new ways, says Raps. It not only protects his muscles and joints, but also makes Raps more fearless. "Being strong makes me much more confident during the season. I'm willing to take more risks, and my muscles last longer—which is important on heli-runs in Alaska.
In the following pages, Raps runs you through a prehab circuit designed by Laura Keller, a physical therapist at San Francisco's Stone Clinic. The moves incorporate all three planes of motion (side to side, front to back, and rotational). They build strength in your abdominal, lower back, and glute muscles—the anchors that keep you stable and strong while your legs suck up bumps and fight gravity on cruisers. The moves also enhance your sense of proprioception—body awareness in space, or coordination—and muscular endurance. "It's like building a home on rock instead of sand, describes Keller. "One disintegrates quickly, while the other is there to support you through all kinds of weather.
Be prepared for some serious huffing and puffing—this is no cushy series of glorified stretches. "We do a variation of this circuit at the elite-level camps, says Keller, "and it kicks the athletes' butts. They're crawling by the end. Run through this series religiously a few times a week, throughout the year, and you'll feel stronger and more graceful on the hill. Who knows? Skip the 1080 and you might even come away from an entire season unscathed.
Click below to view the exercises.