It takes single-leg training for single-limb sport
Make it Count
I was going to write extensively about ski technique this week. The dry start to the season has disrupted my thought process, and skiing is slightly less appealing at this time. I’ll continue to exercise indoors until this stubborn pattern changes as I wait for Old Man Winter to return. Unfortunately, I have a limited understanding for the mechanics of snowboarding, I’m sorry. This discussion will reflect my bias for traditional alpine skiing, and the fitness practices you should pursue until the snow piles up.
SEARCH FOR BETTER TRAINING
Contrary to popular belief, skiing is a single-limb sport. Even though both lower extremities are involved in a turn, 100 percent of your weight should be on the big toe edge, or downhill ski. During the turn transition, your weight shifts to the new downhill ski. Unless you’re a downhill racer, or a big mountain competitor that spends a lot of time skiing straight, rarely should you be equally distributed on both skis at the same time. Given this insight, it is critical to consider single-limb training.
The more time I’ve spent on the snow, and the harder I’ve searched for better off-snow training techniques, the brighter the light shines on the importance of unilateral strength training. However, traditional bilateral (two-limb training) should establish the foundation first because these exercises are easier to learn and offer a greater strength stimulus.
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ASYMMETRIES MORE COMMON
The problem with bilateral exercises is that they don’t create independent strength in each respective limb, and they certainly don’t address asymmetries and muscular imbalances. If you’re skiing in the presence of a muscular imbalance, then the outcome is negative, compensating forces that lead to inefficient skiing, and potentially pain in specific areas of your body. For the record, most people display asymmetries upon evaluation.
Here’s the good news. There are a few critical exercises that will annihilate muscular imbalances. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a better exercise than the single leg deadlift using double kettlebells, dumbbells or a single barbell. The second greatest exercise is the pistol, also known as a deep, full-range of motion single-leg squat. Lastly, the single arm suitcase walk using a single kettlebell or dumbbell is very effective for developing the deep stabilizer muscles of the torso critical for postural control, and the counteracting movements necessary for great skiing. As far as the details of executing these exercises, my recommendation is to perform a search on Youtube to gain an understanding; trying to describe the details of these technical lifts would make your head spin. Check out these exercises, incorporate them into your routine and I’ll see you on the hill if the snow ever shows up. Have a great week.
Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.