What’s the Best Fitness Gear?
Just in time for ski season, we present the only fitness tools you need to get strong for the slopes
We all know the feeling that strikes midway through the first run of ski season. Our quads are killing us, our backs ache, and we wonder why we didn’t do more pre-shred training during the off-season. If that’s already happened to you, don’t fret. There’s still time to get your legs and core strong before the heart of ski season arrives. To find out what gear to use and which exercises to do, I called Connie Sciolino, owner of Alpine Training Center in Boulder, Colorado. Here are her top five gear and training tips.
“Your bare-bones basic training starts [with dumbbells],” Sciolino says. “They are easy to use and easy to store.” If you don’t know what size to get, Sciolino suggests 25-pound dumbbells, like the Rogue Hex Dumbbells, for men and 15-pound versions, like the Rogue Hex Dumbbells, for women.
Exercises: Sciolino suggests dumbbell lunges. Hold both dumbbells at your sides and step forward into a lunge, with your back knee just touching the ground. You can do this exercise in place or take a step forward with each rep.
Benefit: These lunges strengthen your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, which will help with skiing and skinning.
I have a Perfect Multi-Gym Pull-Up Bar, and it may be the most useful piece of fitness equipment I own. It’s withstood daily pull-ups and left my door frame scratch-free.
Exercises: Sciolino suggests hanging for as long as you can with your arms straight, as well as doing leg raises. For the raises, bring your legs (either bent or straight) up toward your chest as high as your core will allow.
Benefit: These exercises build shoulder, core, and hip strength. Shoulder strength is important if you fall. “The first thing people often do [when they fall] is stick their hand out to protect themselves,” Sciolino says. “The impact there is going to move up the arm, and if it doesn’t break the wrist, it will injure the shoulder.”
If you’re industrious, you can build your own plyo box. For the less handy, Rogue Fitness has good options, like the Rogue Games Box, which rotates to offer 20-, 24-, and 30-inch platforms so you can progress in your jumps.
Exercises: To do a box jump, jump with both feet (don’t launch off one or the other) and land on the box with both feet. Then stand up, step off, and repeat.
Benefit: This exercise strengthens your hip flexors and glutes and is good for building form. “If you think about skiing powder, crud, or bumps, the true motion of skiing is to keep your upper body as still as possible while you move your legs side to side. The box jump allows you to practice that rapid pull-up of your knees without the upper body,” Sciolino says. The jumps are also good at teaching skiers how to absorb an impact. “A skier will be better off using muscles rather than joints to absorb impact. You are much less likely to injure muscles than joints,” Sciolino says.
Medicine balls are relatively inexpensive and very versatile. I have a Dynamax Standard 18-pound ball that’s been a daily part of my routine for months now.
Exercise: Sciolino suggests the Russian twist. Sitting with your butt and feet flat on ground and your knees bent, grab the ball with both hands and rotate back and forth, touching the ball to the ground each time you change sides.
Benefit: Sciolino likes this exercise because it mimics the kind of rotation you do in your hips and core on the slopes. It also stresses a lot of abdominal muscles at the same time, so you get an effective, efficient workout. You can also use a medicine ball to change up everyday exercises. “Trying to do push-ups on a medicine ball really challenges the core,” Sciolino says.
The weight you want will depend on your current level of fitness. Sciolino suggests 60-pound sandbags for men and 45-pound bags for women. “That weight will be tough in the beginning, but when you grow into it, you can use it for a long time for a lot of different stuff,” Sciolino says. She uses Ultimate Sandbags at the Alpine Training Center because they come with handles and she can adjust their weight.
Exercises: Sciolino likes to have her classes do sandbag squats. Start by lifting the bag onto one shoulder. Then, maneuver the bag to the back of your shoulders, just behind neck, and perform a traditional squat.
Benefit: The sandbag squat works your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core, all of which are important for ski conditioning. The sandbags also help build balance because they’re tricky to hold.