Guide to your pre-season ski fitness program

Written by Mark from Peak Condition

In order to get the most from your ski performance program there are a few vital principles that make all the difference between messing about in the gym and getting lasting results that will enable you to ski better, have more fun on the slopes (whatever your level) and vastly reduce the chances of getting injured while on your skis.

Firstly, it is vital that you follow the exercises on the videos as accurately as possible as deviating from the technique shown makes big differences when it comes to the outcomes of those exercises. I have seen too many times people performing exercises with poor form actually making their body less functional while increasing the chances of injury while in the gym – even under the “watchful eye” of their personal trainer or strength coach!

In the early stages, I always advise people to perform as many of the exercises in front of the mirror as possible because where a person thinks their body is in space can actually be vastly different from where it actually is. Getting visual input can vastly improve form and, therefore, results.

The other great option is to video oneself doing the exercise and then watch it back to make sure it looks the same as prescribed. This can be done from different angles so that we see other things that you may not notice in the mirror.

Now, we are going to go through the meanings of each of the “acute exercise variables” from your program, which have a huge impact on results.

We are going to run through the definitions of each acute exercise variable and then go through what it means to you.

Exercise – This is the name of the exercise so you don’t need to put much focus on this as you will have a video to watch.

Form – This describes how you will perform the exercise and could be written as Left/Right, Bilateral or Alternating. It will become clear when watching the video of each exercise.

Repetitions (Reps) – For example, 1 squat = 1 repetition. This is a pretty simple concept but is obviously important.

The number of repetitions to be performed are massively linked to the amount of load (weight) you will move. You will notice that at no point do I mention how much weight you should lift as this is completely individual to you and what is too light to make a difference to one person would hugely overload another.

What you need to be aware of is that weight is directly related to the number of repetitions you can perform!!!!!! If I ask you to perform a set of squats, the number you will able to perform will be vastly different if you performed it body weight compared to if I put a 100kg bar on your shoulders!

The bottom line is this; if the indicated repetition (rep) range is 12 to 15 then you should choose a weight where you cannot do any more repetitions (WITH GOOD FORM) at 12 to 15 reps!!!!!! The reason there is a repetition “window” between 12 to 15 is that if you get to 12 repetitions and feel your muscles are fully fatigued then you won’t feel the need to do another 3 bad repetitions to get to 15. Good form is vital to good results and I allow nothing less from my clients and athletes!

In this case, if you choose a weight and fatigue by 10 reps then just reduce the weight so as you manage to reach the repetition window.

Intensity – This can be written in a couple of different ways and I will explain them to you here. You will often see an intensity level of -1 or -2. This means perform 1 or 2 fewer repetitions than you could if you were to work to full muscular fatigue.

The other way this is often expressed is in terms of time. You will sometimes see an intensity of -0:05 which means stop 5 seconds before you completely run out of energy. This will usually only be used when we are looking at exercises where you have to hold a certain position for a given period of time.

The reason for this buffer zone is to make sure you don’t hurt yourself and that your form remains good, which is the key to motor programming and, therefore, good technique and results. This is a commonly misunderstood but absolutely vital concept.

The brain remembers the last repetition or 2 more than any of the others so remember this when being tempted to push one extra “messy” repetition.

Sets – 1 set is a given number of repetitions performed one after the other. For instance, 20 squats performed consecutively with no rest = 1 set of squats.

You will always see a set range and the reason for this is that you need to progress as you get stronger and better at a given exercise. The first time you undertake your program you may only do 2 sets as even this low number will have the desired effect on your body. However, after a few sessions performing the exercise, you will need to build up to a higher number of sets (4 to 5 for instance) to continue to get a physical response.

You should only increase the amount of load (weight) you use once you can do the full number of repetitions and sets without feeling lots of pain afterward. Contrary to what a lot of personal trainers and strength coaches think, the aim is not to create huge amounts of pain but to create a training response within the muscle tissue. This does not require you to be unable to move for 3 days after you train and it is not a badge of honor to be as such! Let’s train smarter, not harder! If you do feel lots of muscular pain then you have done too much work or lifted too much weight. When the pain subsides you will have learned a lesson.

Tempo – This is the speed at which an exercise should be performed. A squat may be performed at a 2.1.2 tempo, which would indicate that you start in a standing position, lower down into the squat for 2 seconds, hold the position at the bottom of the squat for 1 second and then raise to a standing position again for 2 seconds. Therefore, in this simple example, 1 repetition of the squat would take 5 seconds to perform at a 2.1.2 tempo.

Where you see the “X” symbol this means you perform the exercise explosively or as fast as you can. Don’t worry, you won’t see any explosive exercises until your last training phase when your body will hopefully be well enough conditioned (if you have followed your program correctly and you don’t have underlying injuries or imbalances).

Rest – A pretty simple concept but has a vital effect on the physiological response to exercise. It can be written as a simple time or it can be indicated by an arrow. The time is obvious but an arrow indicates that you are performing that exercise with no rest before doing the next one. If you do 2 exercises back to back this called a superset. If you do more than 2 exercises without rest this is a circuit. See the section in the table below for an example.

Below is an example of what your program will look like in written format:

Exercise Form Repetitions Intensity SetsTempo Rest
Squat Bilateral 17 to 20 -2 2 to 4 2.1.2
Lunge Left/Right 12 to 15 -2 2 to 4 2.0.1 1:00
Alternating 6 to 8 -0:05 3 to 5 0:10

Ready to get started? Click here for program 1

Having assessed and worked with many skiers I have discovered that often the biggest issue affecting ski performance and pain issues are flexibility limitations and imbalances.

Metaphorically, the body is like a bicycle wheel; if some of the spokes of the wheel become too short then this will buckle the wheel; it will no longer run smoothly and is far more susceptible to damage if it hits a pothole or rut.

When working with clients face to face the first thing I do is assess and effectively address flexibility issues. Without this no strength and conditioning program will be effective.

My goal is to help skiers all over the world; so how to help them improve their individual flexibility when not face to face?

I gave it much thought and came up with the Ski Flexibility Self-Assessment.

I offer you the most important stretch assessments I see skiers needing. By going through the assessments you will feel exactly where your flexibility issues are.

You then use the assessments as stretches to redress the flexibility issues, enabling you to perform better on the slopes and often get rid of chronic joint and muscular pain that is detracting from your ski enjoyment. All this from the comfort of your own home, minimal equipment needed and just a few minutes a day at most.

For a one-off investment of £150 you will have access to the Ski Flexibility Self-Assessment.

You will also be given access to my 3-stage Ski Performance Program. This program is perfect for anyone who wants to ensure they get the most from their time on the slopes and will have the best effect once you have assessed and redressed your own flexibility issues.

Together the Ski Flexibility Self-Assessment and the Ski performance Program will get you in Peak Condition for the ski season.

Just click the link to take your skiing to the next level