Outside Magazine, November 1994
Basic training for the U.S. Ski Team isn't all that basic. But closed kinetic-chain exercises and plyometrics, the team's preseason staples, are easy to duplicate in any gym and provide the one-two punch--strength and agility--that will prepare any skier for the slopes.
Start working the closed kinetic-chain exercises into your routine ten weeks before you hit the snow, and stick with the regimen three days a week. Then, holding to the same schedule, add plyometrics after about six weeks of strength training. For the closed kinetic-chain sessions, do six to ten reps of each exercise using light weights. For the plyometrics routines, do three sets of each exercise and do three to five bounds per set, building to ten bounds by the end of the preseason. And stretch religiously. Plyometrics asks a lot of your muscles.
Closed kinetic-chain exercises
Front Squats: Among other lower-body muscles, front squats strengthen the quadriceps, which will help stabilize the knee. Standing with a barbell held up near your throat, slowly bend your knees until the backs of your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground. Then, keeping your torso straight, slowly return to the starting position.
Good Mornings: These develop both your hamstring and lower-back muscles, key groups in the battle to keep you upright on your skis. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent, rest a barbell on your shoulders. Bend from the waist until your chest is parallel to the floor; then return to an erect position.
Heel Walks: Walking on your heels develops the calves and really works the tibialis anterior muscles, which run down the front of your lower leg. Strong TA muscles help stabilize the ankles. Using a wall for balance, walk with your toes elevated off the floor for three to five minutes.
Alternate Leg Bounds: This exercise does as much for your balance as it does for your leg strength. Standing in a half-squat position with your feet about six inches apart, push off of one foot and then drive the opposite knee toward the chest, as a long jumper would on takeoff. Gain as much height and distance as possible, then land on the leg you brought to your chest. Another leaping exercise is the double leg bound: Starting in the same position, basically perform a standing long jump, using your arms to carry you forward. Land in a half-squat.
Tuck Jumps: These simulate the knees-to-chest motion that's inherent to the sport. Standing in a half-squat position with your hands joined behind your neck, jump up and forward, trying to bring your knees to your chest.
The Medicine Ball Drop: The medicine ball develops your chest and upper back, important muscle groups for keeping your torso aimed downhill and your shoulder joints protected. Using as heavy a ball as you can comfortably toss, lie on the floor and have a partner stand over you and drop the ball. After catching it, fully extend your arms as you throw it up as high as possible.