Vail Daily column: How to use single-limb strength training to improve ski performance
Ski technique is more important than fitness acquisition for a successful winter on the slopes.
Last week, I discussed the importance of specific exercises to reinforce the fundamentals of good skiing. Even though developing good ski technique should be the primary goal for any avid skier, after considering the exercises I suggested last week, I realized how important it is to highlight one-leg, negative strength training that complements strong skiing on the mountain.
BENEFITS OF NEGATIVE STRENGTH TRAINING
Negative strength training is when the exerciser trains only the eccentric (lowering) portion of a movement. For optimal benefits, negative strength training requires the exerciser to use a heavier load that would typically be used during a full range of motion for the specific exercise.
For example, take the classic squatting motion used for sitting in a chair. The negative portion of the movement happens when you lower yourself into the seated position. The concentric or positive motion is performed as you stand up. It has been well observed that the average exerciser can use up to 30 percent more external weight during the lowering portion of an exercise verses performing a full range of motion.
An EXERCISE TO TRY
A great exercise that builds ski specific negative strength is the eccentric one-legged squat. Here’s what you need to do. Set up a bench, chair or stool behind you so that when seated, your thighs are parallel to the ground. Pick a weight held with both hands at shoulder height that is somewhat difficult to squat up and down with for 10 repetitions using both legs.
Begin by standing erect with both feet on the ground hip width apart, weight held with both hands at shoulder height, facing away from the bench. Stand on one foot, while keeping the free leg out in front of you, control yourself as you lower yourself into a seated position on the bench.
The weight should be too heavy to stand up on one leg. Simply stand up with both legs and lower again on one leg only.
Repeat for 10 repetitions on each leg. For a detailed demonstration of this exercise, visit http://bit.ly/richardscolumn.
STAY OUT OF THE BACK SEAT
There are numerous benefits from negative strength training on ski performance. During the turn, your body is resisting the forces from the snow as your edges engage. Your legs in particular are using negative eccentric muscle actions to resist the tendency to go from an erect stacked position, into a squat lowering movement that is inefficient and tiring.
Furthermore, the closer your body resembles the bottom position of a squat in the middle of a turn, the further back your center of gravity will sit on your skis, putting you into the dreaded back seat position that plagues so many skiers.
ENLIST YOUR CORE
Negative eccentric training will strengthen this phase of the turn allowing you to resist against this natural consequence of high performance skiing. Another added benefit to this type of training is the smaller base of support standing on one leg. One leg training will recruit more of your core muscles to fight off the effects of rotation as your leg tries to twist because of the added torque created on the smaller base of support.
MIRRORS WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION
Lastly, one leg negative training mirrors the proper weight distribution mid-turn during skiing. One hundred percent of your weight should be focused on the downhill ski during turn execution.
Tipping the little pinky toe edge of the uphill ski should initiate the turn, but once you are engaged on edge, 100 percent of your weight should be focused on the downhill ski. One-leg eccentric training will reinforce this concept.
Add this exercise into your ski specific training and have fun out there this season!
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. Contact him at http://www.r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.