A Dance-Inspired Workout for Ski Season
Skiing is a dance. We consulted a pro skier and former ballerina to find out how to train for it.
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Amie Engerbretson was skiing before her first birthday, thanks to her dad, ski photographer Jeff Engerbretson. By all accounts she was born into the sport, but at 13 she quit ski racing to pursue ballet. In her twenties, she came back to the rugged peaks surrounding Lake Tahoe and started her career as a professional skier. “My physical history is in dancing in the most extreme way,” she says. “I think that background has set up me well for skiing, because it’s all about awareness, discipline, and knowing where your body is.” Years of dancing honed her balance and stability and taught to use her body as a complete system instead of isolated muscles. She trains with that sensibility in mind. “I think it’s really important when you’re in preseason training to pay attention to your core, back, and stabilizers, not just your legs,” Engerbretson says.
We asked the Warren Miller athlete, who also has a background teaching barre and dance, to share her favorite dance-inspired workout routine. These do-anywhere exercises help with coordination and range of motion. If they feel easy, think like a ballerina and check your posture. Small-scale bodyweight movements take grace and control and build strength with contained repetitive motion—which means they’ll serve you well when you’re trying to snake through bumps or power through wet, heavy snow.
What it does: This modified bridge strengthens your posterior chain and hard-to-reach lower abdominal muscles.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels close to your glutes. Raise your hips into a bridge position and rapidly tuck your pelvis, engaging your abs and your butt, and keeping your pelvis elevated. Engerbretson repeats ten tucks to the center, ten right, and ten left for the duration of a song, or approximately 2.5 minutes. “It looks a little air-humpy but it’s good for low glutes and hamstrings,” she says.
Wide Second Position Side Crunch
What it does: A low squat strengthens your legs while standing crunches challenge your core and balance, key for skiing variable terrain.
How to do it: Drop into a wide-legged low squat with your toes turned out and your hips almost even with your knees (the stance is reminiscent of ballet’s second position). Be sure to maintain a neutral position in your lower back—it’s easy to let it curve deeply in this stance. With your hands behind your head, bend to the side, tapping your elbow to your knee. You should feel your quads working in the low squat. “Your core will get tired, but it’s really a balance challenge,” Engerbretson says. Do three sets of 20 reps on each side.
Sumo Squat with Knee Lift
What it does: This full-body exercise builds cardiovascular endurance, coordination, and core strength—particularly in the obliques.
How to do it: With your hands behind your head and your elbows wide, go down into a deep sumo squat with your toes turned out and your knees wider than your hips. Come up and bring your right knee up to meet your right elbow as you do, keeping your back straight. “It’s dynamic and feels dancy,” she says. Do three sets of 20 reps on each side.
What it does: This move mimics the extended side-to-side force of skiing bumps, building quad strength and endurance.
How to do it: On a doubled-up yoga mat, kneel with the tops of your feet flat on the floor and your hands in prayer position. Hover your butt a few inches above your heels. “You’re going to do little rocking dance motion,” she says. “Crunch your right booty for ten, then your left booty for ten, and then do ten to the center. Repeat it for a whole song. Make sure you keep your shoulders over your hips, and don’t lean forward.”
Side Arm Plank Crunch
What it does: Dancers and skiers both need strong cores for stability and back support. This jacked-up side plank works obliques and builds rotational strength.
How to do it: In side plank position, with your top hand behind your head and your elbow out, dip your hip to the floor, return to the top of the plank, then crunch forward to tap your upper elbow to the mat. Do two sets of 12 reps on each side.