During the long, cold off-season, the mere thought of slashing your first pass of the spring can leave you feeling breathless. However, if you fail to maintain your level of fitness this winter, you may be out of breath before you even get your bindings strapped on.
To help you get in your best skiing shape this preseason, we've teamed up with Karyn Harpell, a personal trainer to many of the sport's top pros. She designed a full-body attack that will simultaneously improve your strength, balance and core stability. Work through the steps in this simple, 30-minute workout and get ready to accelerate into spring '10.
Begin this workout with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up and follow it with a 10- to 15-minute cool-down.
• **Single-leg squats with stability ball
(2 x 12)**
Squats are perfect for building a strong lower body. By focusing on one leg at a time, you not only eliminate the urge to favor your stronger leg; you will also increase core involvement and add a balance component to the exercise.
Keep the stability ball behind your back against a wall. While performing this squat on one leg, the core should remain neutral as the tailbone lowers toward the floor.
• **Single-leg dead lift
(2 x 10)**
This is a great exercise for working glute, hamstring and especially lower back strength. When you perform this exercise on one leg, you will introduce an incredible amount of hip stability work, which is a key component in slalom strength.
Begin by standing on one leg with the other lifted behind you. Lower your chest as if you were bowing, keeping your lower back straight. Return to your starting position. Focus on strong hips and a neutral spine for balance. Progress to using light dumbbells in each hand. If you are new to dead lifts, master this standing on both legs before progressing to single-leg dead lifts.
• **Unstable arm/single-leg push-ups
on medicine ball (2-3 x 12)
**Push-ups are known for increasing your chest and core strength, but by having one hand on an unstable surface you will also improve the strength in your shoulder stabilizers, which will aid in preventing slalom's common shoulder injuries. Performing this exercise on a single leg also works the erector spinae (lower back) muscles.
Start in a raised push-up position with your right hand on the medicine ball and your right foot elevated slightly off the floor. Focus on using your lower back muscles to help lift and hold the leg in the air. Slowly lower into a push-up position without letting the core sag, then return to starting position.
(2-3 x 10)**
Chin-ups not only help increase the strength in your latissimus dorsi (lats/upper back) muscles; they can also improve your grip strength.
Complete chin-ups using varying grips, such as overhand, underhand, and baseball wide and narrow. Think about relaxing the biceps. Focus on putting the work into your lats while keeping your core tight.
• **Back extensions on stability ball
(1-2 x 10)**
These exercises hit one of the most important areas for a slalom skier — the lower back. The key to this exercise is to let your lower body relax, instead of letting your hamstrings and glutes take over. Think about spinal extension and rotation, not hip extension.
Place the stability ball under your hips and stabilize your feet against a wall for support. Begin with your chest on the ball. With soft legs and glutes, lift your chest off the ball. Lift your chest straight up, lower it, and then raise your upper body to each side to complete one rep.
• **Front/side lunges
(1-2 x 10)**
It is important for slalom skiers to improve their lateral strength. Side lunges laterally load the hips and core, and also train you to counter the lateral movement.
Start with your feet together, step forward into a front lunge, push back to starting position and quickly step out to the side into a side lunge with the same leg. When performing the side lunge, keep both feet facing forward and push the hips sideways over the knee. Next, complete the lunges with the other foot leading.
• **Single-leg biceps curls
(1-2 x 12)**
Add an element of balance to your traditional biceps curls. Focus on keeping a neutral spine and tight core as you curl. A hammer grip will recruit more of the biceps muscle groups than a traditional open grip with your palm up.
Standing on one leg, perform alternating biceps curls.
• **Leg drops on bench
(2 x 6-8)**
This is an exercise that takes some focus. If it feels easy, you have probably let your core relax and have called in your hip flexors. By contracting the core tightly, you should be able to make these more challenging as you become stronger.
Start by lying on a bench with your bottom close to the end. Bring both feet up into the air and bend your knees 90 degrees. Secure your arms beside your head by gripping the edges of the bench. Push your lower back into the bench and lift your chest slightly (similar to a crunch). With heavy, relaxed legs, slowly lower one leg toward the ground and return to starting position. Repeat with your other leg to complete one rep.
**- Medicine ball (approximately 10 lbs.)
- Dumbbells (a challenging weight for upper body)
- Stability ball
- Chin-up bar (or any suitable bar to perform chin-up exercises)
Karyn Harpell is a personal trainer based in Clermont, Florida. She works alongside many of the sport's premier athletes and is also available for private consultation.
Contact her at email@example.com to set up a personalized physical program aimed specifically at your needs as a water skier.