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The Final Countdown


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To get more runs in. To make every run count. To avoid injury. To have more fun. These are the whys of ski-fitness training. But because time is running out, you need the hows—and you need them now. So we turned to Dr. Tudor Bompa, one of the world’s top exercise scientists. He’s written 10 sports-training books, trained 11 Olympic medalists and competed in the Games himself (1956 Romanian rowing team). Using Bompa’s expertise, along with tips from Daron Rahlves, the winningest U.S. downhiller ever, we’ve designed a regimen that’ll whip you into slope-shape in eight weeks flat.

Click the slideshow below for the exercises.

weeks 1 and 2 lay the foundation

Even if you biked the Rockies or hiked the Appalachian Trail all summer, you still need what Bompa calls “anatomic adaptation,” or physical preparation time for the work to come.

“The point of this phase is to prevent injuries and strengthen your ligaments to cope with the strain of skiing,” he says. These workouts develop overall strength, endurance and athleticism—the ideal foundation upon which to build ski-specific fitness.

How It Works

Strength Training For lower-body exercises, start with weights that are half as heavy as those you would be able to lift only once. Increase weights by small increments. By the end of Week 2, you should be able to lift 65—70 percent of your 1RM. You won’t need weights for most upper-body and core exercises (use 50—60 percent of your 1RM for those that do require weights), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a priority. “A lot of core work is important in the early phases of training,” Rahlves says.

Begin with two sets of 15—20 reps for each exercise. As you lift heavier weights, drop to 12—15 reps, but try to increase to three sets (keep reps high for exercises that don’t require weights). Stop the workout if you feel unusual pain in your muscles or joints.

Speed up your strength-training sessions by using circuits. Warm up with five to 10 minutes of light cardio activity. Then complete one set of each exercise in the order listed, without resting in between. Stretch if you feel tight; then repeat. After you finish the designated number of circuits, stretch each muscle you worked for 30 seconds. For exercise descriptions, click the article below.

Cardio On designated cardio days, do 20—45 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, or play an active sport that gets your heart pumping. Don’t overdo it, though: You need to be fresh for your strength-training sessions.

Rest Do a full-body stretch. Resist the temptation to play too hard. Scientists are finding that rest—large amounts of it—can play as big a role in training as intense efforts, because it affords your muscles time to recover and rebuild. According to Rahlves, “It’s important to rest so that when you need to work hard, you’re putting everything into it.” And don’t worry about losing fitness: You can rest five to 10 days before endurance declines, and up to four weeks before strength slips.

Trainer Tip If you slacked all summer, spend an extra week or two in this first phase, Bompa advises. If you’re new to strength training, lower your 1RM by 10—20 percent for the entire program.

weeks 3 and 4 step up your strength

Now that you have a fitness base, it’s time to work on your strength, the most important element of any ski-training program. “The stronger your downhill leg, the better you’ll be able to negotiate turns at high speeds,” Bompa says. “And a strong midsection will help prevent injury: You won’t be as fragile when you fall.” But just building muscle doesn’t mean you’ll ski better, he warns. Follow this ski-focused approach to strength training for more crossover to the slopes.

How It Works

Strength Training In Week 3, use weights that are 70—75 percent of your 1RM (again, for lower-body exercises only). Then move to 75—80 percent of your 1RM max for Week 4. Perform eighht to 10 reps of each exercise, and complete two to four circuits, depending on what your body can handle. Keep reps high for core and upper-body exercises.


Rest Listen to your body. “If you’re fatigued before a workout, skip it,” Bompa says. “Otherwise, it’s not beneficial. You’re just wearing yourself out.” If you’re constantly fighting fatigue, make sure you’re eating well and getting enough sleep. Still tired? Expand the seven-day cycle to 10 days, resting or doing light activity on the extra days.

Trainer Tip During strength training, perform each rep relatively quickly to build your power and explosiveness, Bompa says. But be careful always to stay under control, and to never lock your joints.

weeks 5 and 6 prepare to peak

Your goal now is maximum strength. To get there you need high intensity, plenty of rest and a narrow focus. “You have to be very selective,” Bompa says. “Of course you work your midsection—that’s a given—but most of the exercises should involve the flexors and extensors of your knees and hips, because they’re what you use in skiing. The best way to train is to find what’s important in skiing and do it. Don’t get sidetracked.”

How It Works

Strength Training Choose weights that are 80—85 percent of your 1RM (for lower-body exercises) for Week 5, and do five or six reps. In Week 6, drop to two or three reps, lifting 85—90 percent of your 1RM. Complete anywhere from three to six circuits, depending on what you can tolerate. Between circuits, stretch for three minutes to give your muscles time to rest.

Cardio Skip moderate aerobic workouts and rest an extra day instead. On the other cardio day, increase your aerobic guns to four minutes.

Rest This phase is intense. If you’re nursing an injury or feeling run-down, rest up before you begin. If you feel like being active on your rest days, go for a walk.

Trainer Tip The proper strength ratio between your quads and hamstrings is three to two. To achieve this, adopt Rahlves’s approach: Lift slightly higher loads and do fewer reps for quad exercises than for hamstring exercises.

weeks 7 and 8 power play

As the season approaches, it’s time to put your strength into action. The technical term for that is power, which is the ability to produce large amounts of force over short time spans. The result is fast, explosive skiing. “You can react quicker to terrain,” Bompa says. Jumping exercises—often called plyometrics—are a great way to build ski power, but only if you do them right. To make your jumps count, bend your knees and drop your glutes low as you land (envision a skiing tuck), then immediately explode upward.

How It Works

Strength Training For power exercises, do as many reps as you can without slowing down. “I say, show me explosiveness and the quickness of contraction,” Bompa says. “When it’s not there, stop.” Wait at least three to five minutes before starting the next power exercise (you’ll be doing light core work in the meantime). Do two power workouts and one strength-training session each week. During the strength sessions, do three to six circuits and lift between 70—90 percent of your 1RM during lower-body exercises. Complete eight or 10 reps at 70—80 percent, five or six reps at 80—85 percent, and two or three reps at 85—90 percent.

Cardio Don’t worry about additional aerobic workouts. Power training will sufficiently tax your heart and lungs.

Rest Light or moderate activity is OK on rest days, as long as you’re fresh for your power and strength efforts.

Trainer Tip When doing lateral jumps, put more weight on your outside leg as you land. It will simulate forces placed on your downhill leg as you turn.

October 2005