Pritchard: Constructing a ski program (column) |

Pritchard: Constructing a ski program (column)

Jimmy Pritchard
Better Version of You
Jimmy Pritchard A Better Version of You

Jimmy Pritchard
A Better Version of You

In my previous article I provided tips to increase fitness specifically for skiing and other winter sports. One may ponder, however, is it possible to craft a training program or workout with such a warehouse of information?

Below I have detailed a sample strength workout that I may prescribe to an intermediate level skier who is in their preparatory phase prior to getting on snow.

Warm Up and Movement Prep

The first thing I will have a client or athlete do to commence a session is elevate their core temperature and increase the heart rate through five to 10 minutes of steady state aerobic activity. The modality is not of great importance, more a matter of personal preference.

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Once that is complete, the athlete moves into their movement prep. This is an opportunity to address areas that lack proper mobility and work through ranges of motion that will be trained that day. Typically, I will aim to include movement through every plane of motion and have the athlete do some self-soft tissue work (foam rolling) on areas that need it most.

An example of movement prep protocol for a strength session would be: Glute bridges; quadruped hip circles/opposite reaches; world’s greatest stretch with a thoracic rotation; inchworms; single leg RDLs; and standing windmills. All of these exercises can be easily found on YouTube or similar exercise video platforms.

Neuromuscular Activation

After completing movement prep, the next goal is to activate the neuromuscular system through proprioception and explosive type movements. This is an essential piece to training that many individuals miss out on. We are essentially priming the body to perform whatever demands the workout will present.

I like to include some single leg balance drills as well as small barefoot hops to work on proprioception. After that, I may include a movement skill such as marching, skipping or jump roping. Finally, I will have the athlete perform an explosive plyometric-type movement such as a box jump or medicine ball slam, depending on the focus of the session for that day.

Strength and Power

Once all the prep work has been done, it’s time to begin with the strength training. Assuming that my athlete’s movement competency is sufficient, I will begin with a compound movement such as a barbell split squat. I prefer to incorporate a greater proportion of unilateral exercises for athletes, as there is research to support that it may aid in injury prevention.

Considering that this program is in a preparatory phase likely aimed at increasing maximal strength and hypertrophy, I would have the athlete perform around three to four sets of eight reps each leg. I would then match this exercise with a superset targeting the posterior chain via a split stance dumbbell RDL for similar sets and reps.

The rest of the workout would include an upper body push, upper body pull, one or two anti-rotational exercises and perhaps another posterior chain exercise as these are essential to keep winter athletes safe.

Correctives and Cooldown

All too often, a strength training session is concluded with the final rep and then a brisk walk to the door. This is a mistake, as simply spending five to 10 minutes at the end of the session to address movement/joint issues can go a long way.

If I know an athlete has poor thoracic spine mobility, then I will have them do a few extra sets of seated thoracic spine rotations and foam rolling before leaving. Similarly, if a great deal of hip flexor work such as squatting has just been done, I will advise the athlete to do the couch stretch for a minute or two each side. Depending on how much time is available, I will have athletes perform correctives and cooldowns after each and every session. If time is sparse, I will do my best to sprinkle these exercises throughout the workout as active rest.

My aim is that this information provides you with the tools you need to design a workout that enhances your performance on the hill and keeps you injury free.

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

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