Shred Good Or Eat Wood - The 7 Essential Elements You Need to Add to Your Pre-Season Prep.
Updated: Nov 27
The temps have dropped, there’s snow on the ground in the city and much more in the Mountains; skinny tire mountain bikes and summer runners have been traded for fat bikes and studded running shoes (yes those are things when you live in Calgary). So now what do you do? Sure the first ski hills are open, but let’s be honest the real deal is still a few months away. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your position) the season for seeking pow is longer than it’s summer cousin, and can be a fair bit more rigorous on the body depending on your approach. So why not hit the gym with some purpose for the ridiculously fun season that is upon us?
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of exercises to get you prepped for the skiing and snowboarding season, rather I’d like to highlight some considerations when putting a program together either on your own or with a strength coach.
Baseline cardio - For the love of God get a base, especially if you’re ski touring, but even when the terrain is lift accessed a good base of cardio can mean the difference in prolonging fatigue at the end of the day when you’re 3 pints deep and your legs are like rubber. Hopefully you can take advantage of all that running and biking this summer so this part of the program is an easy transition. Don’t let it go to waste!
HIIT exercise - High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a pretty common catch phrase these days but it serves an important purpose in training our recovery systems. It’s basically really intense exercise for a short period, followed by a short rest, then repeat until you want to puke. Not many of us are able to send 3000’ powder lines without taking breaks. This type of training builds our ability to make the most of those rest breaks before sending it again. A good cardio base will also make this type of training a bit more tolerable. It’s also easy to wear yourself down quickly with this type of training so proper recovery between sessions is key.
Core exercises. What’s a core exercise? Any exercise where you are engaging your core - maintain a neutral pelvis while you move - if you can’t, or have no idea what this means, then you need help. This is not an element that can be skipped so here's one of our favourite resources for an ass-kicking HIIT workout. Enjoy!
Upper/lower body separation exercises - not just for golfers, this concept is essential to skiing and snowboarding as we often need the upper body to be doing something different than the lower body, especially in tight technical terrain. Like when you are bushwhacking through tight trees because you pushed it just a little to far in the slack country and you need to get back to the resort without being impaled. Basic core stability is an absolute prerequisite for these types of exercises, which is why they can’t be skipped.
Build the brakes! We often think about generating forces to move us but what about to stop us? Getting pulled down a mountain presents an interesting scenario where gravity provides a significant assistance and helps us gain speed, eventually though we need to either stop or change direction. This requires some sort of braking force and sometimes it’s planned, sometimes it’s not. The brakes get us out of trouble when shit hits the fan so it’s always good to make sure this system is on point. Plyometrics are a good way to help build the brakes (among other things), but get creative and remember that there is more to plyos than just jumping straight up and down.
Posterior chain strengthening - strengthen the back of the body, all of it, if you can’t see it, strengthen it! This helps stop the spread of knees to chest disease, or worse, knees to face disease and forever being immortalized in a Jerry of the Day post. (click the link, trust us.)
Unstable surfaces. Fine but not ideal - we get stability through engaging the ground, unstable surfaces teach how to be stable on something unstable; last I stood on a snowboard it didn’t feel all that unstable (the same would be true on skis), and neither did the ground underneath it. In fact, the more pressure I put through it, the more stable it felt. Exercises on solid ground are going to help us engage the ground better. That said, unstable surface training can be useful for park rats out there hitting the boxes and rails. For the rest of us though, it’s probably not super relevant.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to be a program, nor is it the Commandments of strengthening for skiing/snowboarding. Different athletes have different requirements and there are many effective ways to produce the same results. These are just things to think about if you’re trying to hit the gym with some purpose before the season truly gets going. If these ideas give you more questions than answers, seeing a qualified strength coach is a good idea (we have those by the way, and it’s way more effective than Instagram). The most important thing to remember is that more time in the gym will mean way less time in the clinic.