Regimens: Aprs Ski: Downhill Workout For the Indoors

Outside magazine, October 1996

Regimens: Aprês Ski: Downhill Workout For the Indoors

When members of the U.S. Ski team come off the slopes and into the weight room, aside from doing zillions of leg extensions, they work their "downhill" muscles. And that takes some inventiveness: Because muscles can handle more weight during eccentric, or lengthening, contractions, you somehow have to lower more weight than you can lift. But it can be done, says Richard Watkins, the team's strength coach. "Either set the burden down slowly or get a little help from a friend," he says. "Our athletes lower weight over a count to four. But having someone gently push down on the weight as you lower it adds to the effect."

Watkins offers four weight-room exercises that target eccentric contractions. He recommends you lift two or three days a week and do three sets of ten to 15 repetitions. Determine with your spotter how much extra downward pressure you can handle. In several months, you'll be stronger for sports that utilize eccentric motions, such as boardsailing, backpacking, running, and of course downhill skiing. In the short term, however, there are dues to pay. "It's the eccentric movements," says Watkins, "that make you sore."

The Muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes
The Exercise: Start with less weight than you typically press with both legs. When your knees are just short of locking, free one foot from the platform. Slowly lower the load. "Just be careful not to overdo it on the weight," Watkins says. Use both legs to raise the platform. (Perform three sets per leg.)

The Muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes
The Exercise: Stand in front of a bench with one leg bent behind you and resting on the bench. Maintain an upright torso and squat until the bend in your weighted leg creates a 90-degree angle--no farther. Lower yourself to this point slowly: The eccentric contraction is the first part of the movement. If this becomes easy, hold dumbbells by your sides during the exercise.

The Muscles: Lower abdominals
The Exercise: Hang straight-armed from a chin-up bar with your legs bent at a 45-degree angle, keeping them off the floor. Bring your thighs toward your chest. Return them to the original position. "This exercise is hard enough without spotters pushing on you," says Watkins. "Just let your legs down slowly-if you can."

The Muscles: Anterior and posterior deltoids
The Exercise: Sitting on a 45-degree incline bench, hold a set of dumbbells at shoulder-height with arms flexed out to your sides. Push the weights straight up simultaneously (as if making a victory salute), bringing them toward each other without actually touching. Then, as you lower the dumbbells, have a spotter add to the force by steadily pushing down on your biceps.

Photographs by Michael Johnson
Copyright 1996, Outside magazine

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