If you stumbled across the "Superstars Championships" on CBS last summer, you may have noticed that the made-for-TV kayaking, sprinting, cycling, multi-sport showdown is fast becoming an advertisement for the athleticism of skiing. In 2002, Bode Miller beat out New York Jets fullback Curtis Martin and a host of others to win the competition. This year, World Cup moguls champ Jeremy Bloom dispatched the likes of Packers running back Ahman Green and boxing phenom Shane Mosley (no relation to Jonny) to take home the title.
There's a simple explanation for this latest smackdown: Professional skiers spend hours in the weight room to build lower bodies as powerful as a fleet of one-ton diesel F-350's. "I talk to every strength coach I can find," says Bloom, who believes his heavy lifting routine with the University of Colorado football squad has improved his skiing. "The most important thing is to be open-minded to different lifts and training ideas." The second most important thing? Getting your barbell groove on before the ski season begins.
Last month we outlined the start of a three-month, preseason strength and conditioning program designed by the U.S. Ski Team's trainer, Andy Walshe. If you took his advice and got off the couch, he gave your stale cardio workouts a renewed sense of purpose and increased your lactic threshold so you can last longer on the hill this winter. Now the spotlight turns to building strength. "You can make the most of your time on the snow if you're stronger in the legs when you arrive," says Walshe. "We don't worry as much about the upper body; it's the quads and hamstrings that are fundamental to skiing."
Unless you're already a disciplined gym rat during the off-season, Walshe is betting your lower body has experienced near-criminal neglect. He wants you in the weight room for 60 to 90 minutes, three times a week, running through a series of lifts that target ski-specific muscles. This means learning a new technique called eccentric lifting, coupled with going beyond your normal range of motion, and building a base with some standard lunges and squats. Combined with last month's cardio program and next month's final installment on core training, you'll be off to your most aggressive ski start in years. After that, who knows? The "Superstars Championships" may still be accepting applications for 2004.