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May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, October 1999 Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Nice legs. Now for the important parts.

If skiing were purely about strength—about building the muscular capacity necessary to absorb the G-forces that are generated when you set an edge—getting ready for the slopes would be a simple matter of sitting at the leg press until your pants needed tailoring. But since the sport is dynamic and requires the intricate coordination of many muscles and joints, it's not all about building thighs like tree trunks. "The best skiers in the country have smart strength," says Ron Kipp, a U.S. Ski Team conditioning specialist who devised the following regimen. "They work and work on balance." Here are the drills.



Standing alongside a 12-inch-high bench or box of the sort that most gyms have for this very purpose, leap to the top of it with both legs, and then hop back to the floor. Repeat 15 times on each side to complete one set, and do three sets total. "In ski racing you want to keep your skis on the snow," says Kipp. "If you train your neuromuscular pathways to land and then quickly explode, you're teaching yourself to bounce, which will teach your legs to be down on the snow."



That's right, you'll have to stand on one of these squirrely orbs to do this exercise, which consists of lowering yourself onto your heels in a catcher's stance and then standing up. Do three sets of 15. To prevent serious injury while learning this drill, support yourself against the walls of a hallway. Once you're feeling stable, you can act like a U.S. Ski Team member and play catch with a partner during the repetitions. If that becomes boring, maybe it's time to inquire about openings at Cirque du Soleil.



This aptly named exercise primes your muscles to process lactic acid more efficiently, which will translate into legs that go and go. "You want to teach your legs to do a large amount of work without storing lactate," says Kipp. Take care not to let your thighs dip below a 45 degree angle to the ground to best mimic the proper position on the slopes. And as with the box jumps, drop slowly, and then burst upward—for 50 repetitions.


Kipp says that a poor hamstring-to-quadriceps strength ratio—meaning that the backs of your legs possess less than 55 percent the strength of the front of your legs—can leave you more likely to suffer injury than an athlete whose muscles are balanced. It can make you particularly vulnerable to the dreaded ACL tear. (If you can lift more than twice as much weight in a leg extension than in a hamstring curl, you're probably living dangerously.) Lie face down on the curl bench, hook your heels under the pads, and bring the weight, without jerking, to your butt. Do three sets of 15.

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