Pritchard: Tips for getting fit for ski season (column) | VailDaily.com

Pritchard: Tips for getting fit for ski season (column)

Jimmy Pritchard
Better Version of You

Helping others increase fitness for winter sports is the lion's share of what I do as a professional. Implementing effective means of training is essential to success whether I am assisting an Olympic athlete or weekend warrior.

Globally speaking, there are quite a few solid, safe exercises and recommendations that can be made no matter what one's goals are.

Demands of sport

When writing a program for an athlete or client, I begin first by analyzing the demands of their sport, or that which they are seeking to participate in. The needs of a competitive 16-year-old female alpine skier will vary greatly in comparison to those of a 40-year-old male who snowboards recreationally on the weekends.

That being said, it can be generally accepted that both individuals will require absorption and transfer of large eccentric and isometric forces whilst on the hill. This means that mobility, stability, strength and transfer of force are of top priority no matter the goal.

A place to start

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The first and perhaps most important place to address is one's mobility.

A great deal of dorsiflexion is needed throughout each turn and movement for skiers/snowboarders, thus the ankles should consistently be tended to. Additionally, the knees, hips, shoulders and thoracic spine must all have adequate mobility to ensure proper body alignment for each turn or jump taken.

Next, stability throughout the core is absolutely essential. The core provides stabilization and transfer of force, encompassing nearly everything from the shoulders to the glutes. Directly related to skiing, a strong core or high level of stability aids in the upper-lower body separation needed to execute precision turns. Adding movements such as paloff presses, bear crawls, Turkish get ups and loaded carries will all assist in improving the core.

Moving on from mobility and stability, strength is of absolute importance when it comes to performance on the hill. Specifically, unilateral strength and antagonist muscle group strength to that of which is being used while skiing. Bending the ski to make a sharp turn requires loading a large force to one side of the body at a time. Training modalities should be aimed at strengthening the body in a similar fashion and ensuring no asymmetries for safety.

What must also be considered is strengthening the posterior chain, as most ski and snowboard movements heavily load the anterior portion of the body. Strengthening the glutes, hamstrings and lower back will aid in injury reduction.

Glute ham raises, reverse hyperextensions, Nordic hamstring curls, deadlifts and glute bridges are all examples of exercises to add to your program for increased posterior chain strength.

Lastly, training for winter sports should include movements throughout various planes of motion. A common error I see is programs that only work through the sagittal plane. Winter sport athletes move through large ranges of motion, especially those competing in acrobatic events. Effective programming must include movement through the frontal, sagittal and transverse plane.

In my next article, I will outline what a sample program may look like for a winter sport athlete and how you can adjust it accordingly for yourself.

Jimmy Pritchard has a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Colorado Mesa University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the director of strength and conditioning at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Contact him at 970-331-3513 or jpritchard@skiclubvail.org.