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Crossfit for Skiers

Crossfit for Skiers

You’ve probably heard of it by now. Gyms are popping everywhere and fans swear by it. But what is Crossfit? And why does it make your pre-season training more efficient?
By Pip Hunt
posted: 09/09/2011
Pip-why crossfit

Crossfit mimics how we move in everyday life. Humans use multiple muscles to move; we engage our quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core to walk, pick up groceries, and get off the couch, even to get out of bed. How often do you find yourself bicep curling the milk to put it away or attempt to move your furniture laying on your back pushing with your legs? Crossfit is about creating usable strength, not just glamour muscles. 

Crossfit is an all-out, holy-crap-I-can’t-go-any-harder work out. Variety is the name of the game, with anything from plyometics (explosive movements that increase speed and power), to weightlifting, to running. It will challenge your stamina, strength, and stability, leaving you sweating in a matter of minutes. This may sound like hell, but it’s not—it’s fun. By using a time component in every workout, one day you might race the clock to finish the workout in the shortest amount of time, and the next day try to complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes, but either way, it’s a race to the finish line. The competitive environment makes every workout a game, like racing your friends to the bottom of the chair, or logging your vert throughout the day. Plus, most workouts take less than half an hour.

Crossfit is a perfect way to get in shape for the upcoming season. Many workouts feature specific lifts like squats and dead-lifts, which are key exercises to make you a stronger skier. Glutes, hamstrings, and quads are three of the most important muscles in a skier’s body. Learning how to squat and dead lift correctly will not only help you get down the mountain faster, but is essential to injury prevention too! Nothing ruins a season like a blown knee, and many torn ACLs are due to muscle imbalances such as over-developed quads and under-developed hamstrings. Properly executed squats and dead lifts eliminate these imbalances and keep you on the hill.

While many skiers in the gym already strive to keep their legs strong, skiing is a full-body activity. Core and arm strength are just as necessary. Skiing requires strength, agility, and uses short bursts of energy. When it comes to maneuvering through glades, pole planting on high angle terrain or making sure you’re not collapsing at the waist when ripping through moguls, every ounce of muscle in your body is working.

Sure, you need some endurance on the hill to ski bell to bell, but not the same kind of endurance you need to run a marathon. You also need strength, but unless you’re crushing gates like Bode, you don’t need a 400 lb. squat. Many professional athletes work out for hours on end; Olympic medalist Lindsay Vonn works out 8 hours a day to get ready for ski season! But with Crossfit, you don’t have to. By creating high intensity workouts that incorporate strength, cardio, and agility into one 20 minute session, you’re training your body across multiple planes. For example, many people follow the “one hour of cardio, one hour of weights” model.  Instead of taking breaks in between each set, then running at a moderate pace on the treadmill for an hour, take no breaks. If you do all of the sets unbroken I bet your heart rate will be higher than it is on the treadmill.

Setting yourself up for a successful winter season does take some work, so why not make it fun? Grab a buddy (or two) and race through box jumps and burpees, deadlifts or 200 m. sprints. Your heart may feel like it’s going to explode in the hot, September sun, but just think of the cool, blower pow you’ll be slashing first tracks through when you’re the first one to the top of the boot pack.

The bottom line? Crossfit focuses on making you the best athlete you can be, without hours of training. The week is no longer divided into cardio days or strength days, or trying to figure out how to get a two hour session in at the gym. Crossfit incorporates it all into short, 1 hour sessions. All you need is a willingness to work hard. Doesn’t that sound better than spending two hours in the gym, alternating leg extensions and bicep curls then limping into the lodge after the first day of the season with fried legs and a tight back?


Pip Hunt is a professional skier, writer, and personal trainer in Salt Lake City, UT. She is a level-one certified Crossfit trainer, currently works with private and group clients at SLC Crossfit, runs a Crossfit specific dryland class in the fall, and coaches the Alta-Bird Freeride team both on snow and off. When she’s not on the snow or at the gym, Pip trail runs, mountain bikes, reads, and cooks delectable, nutritious meals.

Check out her blog at for fitness stories and healthy recipes.

reviews of Crossfit for Skiers
This got me fired up to head back to the Gym for winter, I'll be looking for Crossfit in Sydney, Australia this fall
I appreciate how this is relatable to skiing, but the CrossFit propaganda and superiority complex is astounding. "Crossfit is about creating usable strength, not just glamour muscles." Excuse me? Please name a CrossFit only athlete who's won an Olympic medal. Or a World Championship? Or any worldwide sporting event? CrossFit is a means to complement a sport, but it does not reign supreme. Meaning that an individual must have underlying abilities or skills for an exercise program to be useful. If not, then explain why the top CrossFit athletes are not the worlds best skiers or football players or swimmers? Or any other sport for that matter? Because CrossFit can potentially boost a persons athletic ability, not make them a [insert sport here] phenom. Proper squat and deadlift form isn't universal in CrossFit. Just check Youtube. In regard to the 400lb squat comment - heavier skiers need heavier workouts to mimic the large forces imposed while carving, whether it's big vertical or lengthy runs. And "many people follow the “one hour of cardio, one hour of weights” model." Who does? Care to provide factual reference? "Crossfit is a perfect way to get in shape for the upcoming season." Doesn't the writer work for a CrossFit facility??? That's like saying Squaw Valley is the worlds best ski resort when you're the Squaw marketing director. Conflict of interest much? An interesting article, just too biased to be taken seriously.
The whole CrossFit craze sweeping the nation/world is a bit over the top, although the rumors floating around that CrossFit should be a sport is even more crazy. I am a private personal trainer in the Boston area and long-time pro ultra endurance mountain bike racer that never really bought into the CrossFit hype simply because workouts SHOULD NOT BE COMPETITIVE! I went to a local CrossFit with my girlfriend (who by the way has been injured 3 times from their workouts) to check it out one day. Sure the workout concept is great but I am sorry, performing a prescribed 21 kettle bell swings at 70lb's over your head as fast as you can is a slightly insane. I opted for a 35lb kettlebell even though I could lift 70lb's.. but 21 times as fast as you can? I don't know anyone who has not been injured at CrossFit and it's simply because you're lifting insane weights at insane speeds with lousy form. Sure they explain the entire workout during the first 30 minutes of class, which is GREAT! But all of that goes out the window when the clock starts and you are racing the person next to you. There is no way possible that you have perfect form and not injuring yourself when you are moving at those speeds in a competitive environment. Sure everyone is in great shape but why the torn quad, hamstring, or blown out shoulders from straight-arm squatting 190+ lb's?? Since the workouts last no longer than 15 - 20 minutes, you are training only power & strength with no endurance. I challenge any CrossFit athlete to last an entire day hiking, skiing bumps, or a race lasting longer than 2 hours. Bottom line.. sport is competitive, not exercise. Exercise is used to improve sport not the other way around.
Cross fit is a fitness training tool and should be viewed and practiced as such. Hopefully we all have enough intelligence to adapt the principles of cross fit to getting the best possible workout for strength, cardio and yes endurance as well. I crossfit at the fire station where I work. Most times my workout will elevate my HR to over my 100% target rate at the end of my mid point sets but I wait till my HR returns to 80% to 90% before resuming the next set. Sometimes it takes between 30 to 40 minutes to do my routine. But you get to a point where your cardio and muscle strength weaken together at just the right level. It's not about the weight you lift or the speed of your routine. Quality is job ONE. Just check your egos at the door. Get a heart rate monitor and compete against yourself. It should be about bettering yourself, not your ego.
All you nay sayers dont get it and shouldnt get it. I have been doing crossfit since March and I wish I would have found it years ago. I coach, teach and compete in ski racing and if you cant find relatable quality and strength building in these workouts then you should put your headphones back on and go back to your franchise gym. What other gym do you have fellow athletes cheering you on to finish strong? How many peoples name do you know at your gym? How many times have you bought a gym membership and hardly used it? I cant wait to get to the box and find out what the workout is....its gym class for adults and these adults are ripped! Bottom line is knowing your body, how much to start, and working your way up....If you're getting hurt, you're doing it wrong and perhaps the treadmill is best, for you.
I'll let the professionals chime in - The bottom line is that when you try and train for everything, you usually end up with nothing. If you want to get to a high level in any sport, you must focus your training on things that will specifically help you with the physical demands of your specific sport.
The support is amazing and the workouts are also just as beneficial only if you listen to your body and not push yourself beyond what you can handle, but I'm sorry in any competitive environment it's really hard to focus in your zone when you have people cheering for you to complete the 21st rep in the 3rd set of weight that was too heavy 30 reps prior. Someone I know who owns a crossfit here in New England just fractured her upper vertebrae probably from lifting well beyond her ability. Be smart, leave your ego at the door, and pay attention to technique at all times otherwise you will not like the end result. Capper interesting article and correct, however they are talking about linear movements such as a bench press not kettle bell swings or pull ups.
In response to the negative comments above, I'd like to say that: Working out and staying in shape should be fun, doing it with a good group of people is even better and so is a healthy level of competition. Not everyone is training to be a world class skier, but if they can effectively exercise and improve their general physical preparedness at least 3x/week, those days that they get to hit the slopes will be a whole lot more pleasant and safe than if all they did was run and bike for getting in shape to ski. If you need to prove that crossfit does not work by beating a cross fitter at skiing all day, make sure that you do that the day after they have done a hero workout because if they are rested, good luck... Those who bash crossfit, do not have a full picture and strike me as being slightly intimidated/threatened by the exercise, and the popular movement it is becoming. The only problem I see with crossfit(having done it for 2 years), is that it is addictive and can infringe on the number of days that I actually get into the mountains. I end up feeling weird when at least one area on my body is not sore. Backcountry skiing, skating or resort skiing is not as hard as it used to be when all I did to prepare was bike and run. If you are considering trying crossfit, here is some advice: Find an established Gym, one that has been open more than 1 or 2 years. Fact is, trainers are not all equal, programing is very critical to your experience and your safety. Avoid gyms that put out more than 1 named workout/week, i think it shows a lack of creativity in the programing. Workouts may last 20 minutes, but in reality, xfit classes take at least 1 hour. This means that if the trainer is only getting you warmed up, and then you are doing the workout, you may consider, either changing gyms, or coming in earlier to warm up properly. In an established gym, you should expect a dynamic warmup, some stretching, about 10 minutes of general instruction, a skill or weight lifting set w/ supervision, then the "met con" which will be the 5-30 minutes of cardio/lifting. Don't try to do workouts as prescribed until you find that the weights are so light that you are consistently at the top of the board. There is nothing wrong with doing overhead squats with a pvc pipe when the guy next to you is moving 135 pounds or twice that. Be careful with handstands, overhead squats, kettle bell swings, and kipping pull-ups- you need to be sure that your shoulders are very warm and stretched out before starting to add any weight or many reps. Don't try to get on a ghd machine or the rings until you have received the proper training. drink tons of water, about 3-4 l / day. Take all the rest you can bare.
And...they're back! With yet more arrogant statements (the entire third paragraph). If anyone wants to learn how to squat properly, check out EliteFitnessSystems U-tube page. More specifically, the "So You Think You Can Squat" series - Much much better than this 6-photo stuff.
Crossfit is great, especially with the comaraderie, but it does not get you ready for any specific sport. True you squat a lot of weight and so does Bode Miller but he does it because of how he skis. No one should race like bode, he puts much more muscle and energy because of what he tries to do. Skiing is a fun sport that requires some strength, but the idea of racing is the person who can exerte the least amount of energy and keep doing what he's doing. Crossfit is an amazing workout and you will be in great shape, but this will only help you in sports if you were in poor shape before. Once you are one of the best at a sport like Vonn and Miller your exercises become different because your almost always nursing injuries. Your workouts become smarter and more specific to what your doing. Crossfit doesn't do this. Crossfit wants you to go as hard as you can for as long as you can, but if your a real competitor than you have to focus on more specific things to prevent injury. I ski raced for a long time and have had many injuries and you have to focus on the little things even when doing squats. Is my foot pronating, knee moving at all, sholders slouching, or bending at the waist. These are typical tells for muscle discrepincies and areas you need to strengthen so you don't get hurt. But with Crossfit you will keep trying because of the pressure and support from the others there and won't focus on form. You might be really strong but if you have no small muscle strength you will get hurt. I won't say that either way is better. Personally I would do both. But if your not a racer just relax and enjoy what your doing. You don't need to exercise everyday or squat at all to ski all day evereyday. Skiing is more finess than brute strength, how to apply your strength more than how much you have. So stop worrying about it and just get out there and enjoy yourself.
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