There was a time when ski racers specialized in a single event—say, downhill or slalom. But that’s not the case anymore, says Per Lundstam, strength and conditioning manager for the U.S. Ski Team. The most successful competitors now train for greatness across the board. Case in point: World Cup overall champ Bode Miller has won all five racing events (downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom and combined) over the past four years. Even if watching the Olympics is your only brush with ski competition, you’d do well to follow Bode’s lead. To master the entire mountain, you need the strength of a speed skier, the agility of a technical expert and the power of a mogul master. These training tips from the best of the best will help give you confidence wherever your skis may roam.
Speed (downhill, super G)
Downhill and super G involve barreling down a mountain at velocities that would earn you a speeding ticket on any highway in America (upwards of 80 mph). Even so, calling them “speed events is misleading, at least in terms of fitness. Skiing fast calls for long, slow muscle contractions and deep-seated strength. The key for downhillers isn’t generating speed,it’s controlling it—a crucial skill for anyone who takes runs at full throttle.
What You Need Strong, enduring slow-twitch muscles
Why You Need It To maintain stable turns at high speeds
How You Get It One-Legged Isometric Squat Stand on your left foot on a sturdy box or step. Tighten your abs, lift your chest, and keep your weight on your heel. Perform a squat, but let your right leg drop in front of the box as you lower. Hold for five seconds. Then place your right foot on the box and push back up to the starting position. Do five sets of five reps on each leg.
Who to Watch Kirsten Clark, four-time U.S. downhill champ
Experience—on the racecourse and in the weight room—is one of Clark’s greatest assets as she heads into her third Olympics. After 12 years on the U.S. Ski Team, she knows precisely how tough she needs to be. “Your whole lower body—quads, hamstrings, glutes—has to be so strong to be able to withstand the forces of going 70 mph down the hill, Clark says. “Squats are great because they target everything. Clark’s training routine also includes a lot of single-leg exercises to improve balance, ensure equal strength in both legs and, if all goes as she hopes, carry her to a top-three finish in Torino. [NEXT]Technical (slalom, giant slalom)
Narrow trails. Steep runs. Tight trees. Much of the mountain calls for quick turns on command. While downhill and super G competitors stay in control by managing forces of high-speed turns, slalom skiers generate speed with fast feet and agile movements. “Slalom requires more coordination and more quickness, says David Ellis, director of sport science for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team. “We call it ‘elastic strength,’ or being able to come out of a turn and explode into the next turn. But remember, your explosions must be controlled: Trees are even less forgiving than gates.
What You Need Agility
Why You Need It To execute quick turns on any terrain
How You Get It Shuffle Drill Set up two lines or cones about 10 yards apart. Start at one line and shuffle sideways in an athletic position (knees bent, chest lifted, arms in front) as quickly as you can to the other line. Don’t let your feet cross. Run in place as quickly as you can for a few seconds; then shuffle back to the other line. Repeat. As you improve, increase the distance, but maintain maximum speed.
Who to Watch Ted Ligety, 2005 U.S. slalom and combined champion
Torino will be the first Olympics for the 21-year-old slalom ace, but in only three years on the U.S. Ski Team, he’s established himself as a serious contender, thanks in great part to his agility. “I do a lot of foot drills, Ligety says. “With slalom, you’ve really got to be able to move. In the off-season, Ligety does a lot of mountain biking and aerobic training to boost his endurance, a strategy he expects to pay off in the gates.[NEXT]Power (moguls)
To master the whole mountain, you must dominate the bumps. And for that, you need power—strength combined with speed. “Our mogul skiers are by far our most explosive athletes, says Lundstam. “We’ve found through testing that fast muscle contraction is a very big component of their performance. That means if you’re going to show the moguls who’s boss, it’s not enough to be strong. You have to translate your strength into quick, energetic turns.
What You Need Explosive power
Why You Need It To blast through bumps
How You Get It Resistance Jump Put a resistance band or sport cord around your waist and attach it to a secure point, such as a doorknob. With some slack in the cord, bend your knees and get into an athletic position. Jump forward and to the right against the resistance of the cord, and land on your right foot. Flex your knee as you land. Immediately explode up and back to your starting position, landing on your left foot. Return to the athletic position, then jump forward and to your left. Do one minute of the diagonal jumps, alternating feet. Rest for one minute. Repeat three to five times.
Who to Watch 2005 World Moguls Champion Nate Roberts
The first American man to win a world mogul title, 23-year-old Roberts spends the early part of the off-season ramping up his strength (“a lot of Olympic lifting—no machines) and the latter part getting his fast-twitch muscles firing. “Quickness and foot speed is huge for moguls, being able to move your feet and knees from one turn to the next, Roberts says. “Then, even if you’re in the back seat, you’re still able to get your skis across the hill and make a good turn.