Who’s the Fittest?

Ryan Brandt

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Freeskier Seth Morrison, 30, thinks nothing of hucking off 60-foot mountain ledges. Snowboarder Keir Dillon, 26, routinely performs McTwists 15 feet above halfpipe lips. Speed skater Derek Parra, 33, powers around an ice oval at 25 miles per hour. All three are superb athletes, but which of them is the fittest? We put their training plans under the microscope of Werner Hoeger, an exercise physiologist at Boise State University, in Idaho. Do any of these guys meet his standards of cardiovascular endurance, power, and coordination? Read on.


Morrison’s death-defying stunts have appeared in 21 ski flicks. To prep for his next role—in Ski Movie V, shooting this month—the Frisco, ColoradoÐbased athlete hit the gym to shore up his muscles and connective tissue for injury prevention, and engaged in a variety of sports to develop his agility and reaction time.
THE PROGRAM: Morrison follows his own plan. Five times a week, two to five hours a day, he plays tennis, soccer, or basketball, or mountain-bikes. He spends 20 minutes each morning and evening on a stability ball, working through basic leg stretches and core-strengthening exercises. Three to five times a week, he completes a lifting program of three sets of ten reps to build his leg strength.
HOEGER’S VERDICT: “His biking is great for the heart—he may have a slight edge over Dillon and Parra—but it’s not specific enough to help his sport. For the skiing Seth does, he needs an impact exercise, like running, that works the same quad muscles. And he should add a couple of weeks of lifting heavier weights with fewer reps. If he doesn’t, he’ll actually lose strength.”


Next month, Dillon, one of the top snowboarders in the world, will compete at the U.S. Open in Stratton, Vermont, looking to dominate the halfpipe. To get ready, the Vancouver-based Dillon hired Shaun Karp, who regularly trains NHL players, to design a regimen of cardio work plus balance and power drills.
THE PROGRAM: Five days a week, Dillon spends 30 minutes working on flexibility with a series of stability-ball exercises. Three of those days, he follows this work with 25 minutes of cardio intervals on a stationary bike. Three times a week, when not spinning, Dillon does 20 minutes of plyometric jumping drills to build explosive power, knocking off up to 150 spinning 360-degree jumps over a two-foot-high hurdle. On non-jumping days, he spends an hour, twice a week, working through balance drills, such as kneeling on a stability ball while curling 25-pound dumbbells.
HOEGER’S VERDICT: “Changing up his routine with a constant variety of drills is great for snowboarding; however, his cardio intervals aren’t enough exercise. But of the three athletes, Keir probably has the best dynamic balance.”


At five foot four and 140 pounds, speed skater Parra won gold in the 1,500 meters at the 2002 Olympics, helped by a specialized 32-exercise strength program that focuses on his sport’s demands—power, speed, and endurance.
THE PROGRAM: Six times a week, Parra works on cardio, mixing speed intervals on the ice with long-distance skates, 12-mile runs, and a 100-mile bike ride. Twice a week, he tackles his four-hour strength routine—a series of sport-specific moves all executed in a speed skater’s crouch—while wearing a 40-pound weight vest. Included are squat jumps and two- to four-minute walks in his crouch. He begins with five reps of each, building to 30 reps over the course of five months.
HOEGER’S VERDICT: “Derek’s routine is an excellent example of building endurance, then power, then speed. He could incorporate a bit more muscle balance into his workout, because his program is almost too sport-specific. But overall, DEREK IS THE FITTEST. He has greater strength and aerobic components wrapped into his workout.”