Along with leg strength, explosive upper-body power helps skiers maintain balance and react quickly to sudden changes in terrain. For this test you'll need a 10-pound medicine ball (most gyms have them). Sit with your back and shoulders against a wall, legs crossed in front. Make sure the coast is clear and throw the ball forward using only your arms. Have a friend measure the distance to where it lands.
BICEPS CURLS 4
Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides. With palms up, bend at the elbow and bring the weight up, one arm at a time. Don't move your upper body or upper arm.
SHOULDER PRESS 5
Hold weights at shoulders and press up until arms are fully extended straight above your head. Lower to shoulders and repeat.
This no-gym-required standby is one of the best upper-body strengtheners around. Remember to keep your body completely straight from head to toe and your arms directly below your shoulders. Do as many as you can (for me, one was hard).
Agility, the ability to move quickly and react to different terrain, is key for skiers. Make a cross on the floor with tape. Hop on one leg from quadrant to quadrant in one direction for 30 seconds. Count how many times you make it cleanly around all four squares (one lap). Switch legs and try again. This tests for both basic agility and a deficit between legs.
- Single-leg four-square: As you did in the test, hop from quadrant to quadrant on one leg. When you can do 15 laps in 30 seconds, progress to the next level. Speed up single-leg four-square; add directional change after every lap.
- Single-leg four-square with extra single-leg hop at end of each lap.
LOWER ABDOMINAL STRENGTH
Strong lower abdominal muscles increase core stabilization to help keep you centered while your legs move about. Lie on your back with your legs in the air at a 90-degree angle. Tilt your hips so your lower back is flat against the ground. Lower your legs toward the floor and stop when your abdominal muscles can no longer hold your lower back flat.
In addition to the standard curls and oblique curls (work up to 30 to 90 reps of these tummy-toning favorites), try ab biking. Lying on your back with legs straight, lift both legs off the floor as low as is comfortable while keeping your lower back flat against the floor. Bend one leg at a time, bringing knee to chest, while extending the other leg. Alternate legs in a pedaling motion. Work up to one minute.
Assuming you prefer to remain upright on the slopes, balance is very important in skiing. What few people know is that balance is a skill that can be improved. Stand on one leg, close your eyes, and time how long it takes to lose your balance. Switch legs. (Most skiers should do better than my embarrassing 12-second score.)
SINGLE-LEG SQUAT PROGRESSION
- Balance on one leg with eyes closed for 30 seconds. Single-leg 1/3 squat, eyes closed; three sets of 10.
- Single-leg 1/3 squat; three sets of 10.
The plyometric progressions (single-leg squat, lunge, tuck) begin with an easy exercise to familiarize you with the body positioning. As you master each level and progress to the next, the moves get more explosive and challenging. Be prepared: plyos are tough. Do them only twice a week, with at least two days' rest between sessions.
SEATED TOE TOUCH 6
"If you don't have good mobility in your hamstrings, something's got to give," says Burlingame, "and usually it's your back." To test hamstring flexibility, sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Keeping legs straight, reach with both hands toward feet. Scoring: If you can reach your feet, you're average. Beyond the toes is good, not to the toes is not so good.
HAMSTRING STRETCH 7
Lie on your back. Extend one leg on the floor and raise the other in the air. Keep the raised leg straight, grasp your lower leg and hold for 15-30 seconds. Switch legs.
LUNGE PROGRESSION 8
For each lunge, step forward with one leg, then bend both knees, lowering yourself straight down. Step back to the start position. Make sure to keep the forward knee behind the forward foot. Three sets of 10:
- Standing lunges, alternating legs. Add five- to 10-pound hand weights.Jumping lunges: Start in leg-forward lunge position, jump, switch legs in midair, land with opposite foot forward.
- Add five- to 10-pound hand weights.
- Without weights, step into the lunge, lower yourself, then push off explosively with the front leg, alternating legs.
TUCK PROGRESSION 9
- Hold a tuck position for 60 seconds; three sets of three reps. Tuck, jump forward, land in a tuck; three sets of three.
- Tuck, jump in a tuck, land, return to a tuck; three sets of 10.
The Testing Ground
Denver Physical Therapy/ Downtown will offer its Ski Fit Assessments at the Denver Athletic Club on Thursdays from September through early November. To sign up for the $30 session, call 303-628-0871.