Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ski Training - Functional Style

by Lauren Bunney

Ski season is just around the corner if not already in full swing depending on where in the world you are living. But, the majority of the season is still ahead so it is not too late to get into shape in order to get the most out of your season.

Whether you are a skier or snowboarder or even a snow "Bunney" (pun intended), everyone can stand to get into better physical conditioning. If you caught the Resort Guide 2011 edition of Ski Magazine, they featured a few variations of functional training exercise methods that will help get you into ski shape.

Functional training is by definition exercising in proper biomechanical form using the same movements you do in your every day function of life. For example, you sit in a chair and stand up, you are doing a squat. You pick stuff up off the floor, you are doing a deadlift. In a more traditional form of training, you might find yourself on a leg extension circuit training machine but, in real life you never sit in a chair and kick a ball, right? That's what I mean by functional training.

Every day all day long, you are constantly moving your own body weight through space so, why not train for your favorite sports and activities by lifting your own body weight? Use your overall body weight as your resistance as opposed to putting a pin in a weight stack and setting it to 40lbs, when you are lifting way more than 40lbs all day long.

Enough said, I'm not trying to beat a dead horse and you should get my point by now.

While skiing and boarding, we are standing on our feet moving through space resisting the effects of gravity and unstable ground. We sit and stand in and out of the chairlifts as well as a bigger range of motion should we fall and have to pick ourselves up off the ground.

We need to use our body for our own exercise training resistance by changing the angles of our body with gravity, self adjusting, or scaling the intensity of the various exercises we are performing for our training program in a commercial or home gym.

Here are a few exercises and their variations of scaling to meet the various needs of each individual based on their age, medical history, and current fitness level.

Let's start with the Air Squat. The Air Squat is a basic movement we use to sit in a chair and stand back up moving our ankles, knees, and hips similar to the movement and absorption of skiing and boarding.

Once we have met proper form and range of motion of the air squat, we can increase the intensity by doing a Jumping Squat - jumping off the ground at the end of each rep trying to defy gravity just as you would through a mogul field or turning with the fall line of the slope.

We can then take the air squat and the jumping squat to the next level by using weighted resistance and doing an exercise such as a Thruster or Wall Ball.

You can even take the same concept as the air squat and apply it to a Lunge movement. Great for telemark skiing.

Then we have to look at upper body training that believe it or not has a lot to do with skiing and boarding. There is stability and balance you have to worry about if you actually want to enjoy your ski run and not fall. Your upper body also plays a role as the timing mechanism for a pole plant for skiers, hip rotation, balance, and upper body stability for boarders.

Using your body weight for resistance works your core and improves your stability. You don't have to do 100 crunches a day to work your abdominals. Your abs work every rep for your body weight movements. We'll get back to your core in just a bit.

Moving right along, or I should say upwards, double jointed pushing and pulling movements will work your entire upper body. Yes, I am talking about Pull Ups and Push Ups. Everyone can do push ups and pull ups. You heard me right, EVERYONE!! All you have to do is learn the scaling options of those exercises to learn how to do them at your level.

You can also perform Shoulder Depression exercises to build up strength in your upper body which in turn you will see a direct effect poling across the flats.

Now that you have done a pulling movement for your upper body, you have to do a pushing movement to balance it out, working both the front and back of your torso. I'm talking about a simple Push Up scaled to your level.

Okay, so I mentioned that you do not have to do 100 crunches in order to work your core. But, I know there are still plenty of people out there who will still insist on doing a traditional sit up or crunch. So, if you are going to do them, do Ab-Mat Sit Ups.

Cardio training - do it!! But there is a variety of ways to get your cardio in. Yes you can go for a run or a bike ride but, you can also get a bigger bang for your buck, or time, by doing CrossFit.

CrossFit by definition is high intensity functional training with varying modalities where you merge your cardio and strength all together and it is completely scalable for all levels.

So let's take the exercises I just gave to you and put them together in a CrossFit training program.

             AMRAP = As Many Rounds As Possible of

                        1 round =
                               5 pull ups
                               10 push ups
                               15 squats

Start with AMRAP for 8 minutes then build to 12, 15, then 20 minutes. Keep repeating the 5, 10, 15 rep scheme as fast as you can for as many times as possible in the designated time. Be sure to maintain proper form or don't count the rep. It's about quality and integrity for the best benefit.

There is a wide variety of exercises that you can expand on but, the few that I mentioned will give you a good jump start.

Get fit and enjoy your season!!

Think Snow!!

Lauren Bunney is co-owner of Arenal Fitness, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.  She is an instructor in mulitple CrossFit specialties, as well as a certified specialist in conditioning exercise, post-rehab exercise, and medical exercise.  She is also an instructor and Senior Level Ski Patroller with the National Ski Patrol.  To find out more about Lauren and Arenal Fitness, visit


  1. The air squat is a great exercise for getting in good shape for the ski season. One of my favorites is the "ski jump cardio" exercise, working your glutes, quads and lower legs.

  2. I am 45 now and at my age, it's getting harder for me to exercise that much. we use to ski with my son before but now I can't go with him, afraid that I might have backpain. Anyways, your post is a lot of help except the push ups because I can't honestly do that anymore.

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  4. You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.


  5. Think you know how to snow ski? Think again! You have to check this out.

  6. Thanks for sharing.This is helpful in my preparations.I just started skiing two years ago and I want to improve my skills.I understand now what functional training is.

  7. Hello there, You have done a great job. when i read this article iv'e learned a lots.I am happy that you simply shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.