Step 3: Build with Balance

Ditch the machines. These moves engage multiple muscle systems for real-world power.

Jul 23, 2009
Outside Magazine

From left: Donkey Kicks, Prone Shoulder Circuit, Stretch-Band Supine Pulls, and Kick, Slide, Punch    Photo: Illustration by Chris Philpot


Per Lundstam's four keys to stronger skiing
1. Look at strength training as a way to support your skiing, not as a goal in itself. "Instead of just trying to develop isolated strength, we develop the supportive components to build strength on skis," says Lundstam. "There's not much correlation between performance and the strength gains you make under a bar at the squat rack."
2. Don't let your baseline aerobic fitness slide. "Our athletes work year-round on stationary bikes. That aerobic efficiency lets them recover quickly. And when they're tired or injured from racing, we can train on the bike for strength and explosiveness."
3. Build muscle only where you need it. "We do body-shape analysis to gauge an athlete's needs...

Standing on a stretch band with your feet hip width apart, reach down and grab the middle of the band with both hands in an overhand grip. With your hips high, your abs contracted, and your spine neutral (not arched or bowed), initiate the dead lift by driving your hips forward, keeping the band tight against your body through the full movement.
To finish, flex your glutes and squeeze your shoulder blades tight.

With your feet at hip width, raise a medicine ball to your chest, keeping your spine in a neutral position. Now squat, bending your knees to 90 degrees while keeping them behind your toes, and rotate your torso so the ball is positioned over one quad. Driving forcefully out of the squat, throw the ball at a 45-degree angle up and away from your body¬ómaking sure the cat is safely out of the way first.

Again, stand with feet hip-width. Hold the medicine ball between your knees like you're shooting a granny-style free throw. Tapping into the power of your hips, launch the ball at a 45-degree angle. (Bounce it off a wall for easy retrieval, or just lob it toward North Korea.)

Running and cycling favor quad strength over glute power. But in sports like skiing, glutes balance the load and provide explosiveness. Starting from a standing position, move into a downward-dog yoga stance, being sure to contract your abs as you do so. Lift one leg and slowly bring the knee toward your chest. Drive your heel back explosively with a strong glute contraction, like a kicking burro.

A cornerstone of the L.A.-based Sports Medicine Institute's training programs, this modified push-up should forever replace your bench press. Set up in a push-up position with your hands slightly narrower than shoulder width. Descend toward the floor, squeezing your shoulder blades together, until your elbows reach a 90-degree angle. Press up and return to the straight-arm starting position. Now raise, or "wing," your shoulder blades, and then, without bending your elbows, close them again. (To make it harder, string a light exercise band from hand to hand over your back.)

A few weeks of these shoulder circuits, from the Athletes' Performance Institute in Tempe, Arizona, will hone your back and shoulders like no machine could. Lay prone on the ground, face down, and position your arms so you form the letter Y. Your thumbs should be pointing skyward. With your shoulder blades closed, move your arms to a T position before bending your elbows to form the letter W. Repeat.

Here's a homespun version of the low row favored by gym gorillas. The goal is not to build huge shoulders but to balance the strength gains of the push-up (left) by conditioning the upper back. Wrap a stretch band around a post or tree trunk, then sit upright on the ground. Level your chin, pull your abs in, and grasp the band with an underhand grip. Close your shoulder blades and row until your upper arms are vertical and the band meets your belly.

Anchor a heavy stretch band over the top of a tree limb or pull-up bar and grasp the band with an overhand grip. Lean back so your body is at a 45-degree angle to the ground. Lift one foot a few inches, and dig in with the heel of the other. Now employ your upper-back muscles to "row" your chest toward the band.

This exercise can be done with a cable machine or light exercise band anchored beneath a door. Stand sideways to the cable in a staggered squat, with your left leg a little forward and on top of a Bosu ball. Grasp the cable with both hands at hip level and initiate a chopping motion, from low left to high right.
The key is to contract your abs and stabilize your entire body throughout the motion. Hold the chop at chest level for five seconds and repeat.

Begin in a staggered squat, with your left foot set back somewhat and a medicine ball held at your chest like you're about to pass a basketball. Keep your shoulder blades closed, elbows bent, and abs tight. To begin, quickly step back with your left foot and land on the ball of your foot. Keeping your chest square to your hips, and without twisting any joint (especially not your rear ankle or knee), slide your right foot partway back so your feet end up staggered again. At the same moment, punch the medicine ball forward with an explosive outward push, before pulling it back to your chest.