You don’t need us to tell you that each member of your family is wired differently. What you might not know is that, despite your differences, each of you—including your can’t-sit-still 9-year-old and your teenage X-Box addict—can tune up for the slopes with the same workout, and enjoy your ski vacation more because of it.
When it comes to ski fitness, men, women, children and teens each have specific elements they should be sure to include in their workout programs. But none are exclusive: The other family members can benefit from them as well. Here, we address the ski-prep needs of each family member and provide a dryland routine to meet them. Whether you train together or separately, a preseason regimen can ensure that each of you gets the most out of your time on the mountain. Check it out here.
WOMEN (OR MOM)
Many experts agree that women are at greater risk than men for ACL injuries. But nobody seems to be able to explain why or determine what to do about it.
“There’s so much we still don’t know,” especially when it comes to skiers, says Dr. Timothy Sell, coordinator of the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. Some studies suggest that specific strength and plyometric training reduces injury risk for female basketball and soccer players. Sell—who has helped design injury-prevention programs for athletes and military personnel—speculates that such training approaches could pay off for skiers.
“If I had a daughter who wanted to ski, I’d like to see her doing the types of things done in these programs: building explosive power, strengthening her hamstrings, strengthening the muscles around her hips,” Sell says.
In addition, women should focus on building and maintaining muscle balance, including a proper quad-to-hamstring ratio. While men can aim for equal strength in the two muscle groups, women’s hamstrings should be about 80 percent as strong as their quads, says Brian Zeller, an associate professor at Minnesota’s Winona State University who studies physiological differences between men and women.
MEN (OR DAD)
Men, in general, are less flexible than women. And studies show that their limited range of motion can raise their risk of injury. The solution is not to stretch before you ski—which might actually limit muscle performance—but rather to perform dynamic range-of-motion exercises before workouts and static stretching (holding a stretch position for a period of time) afterward.
Research also suggests that men tend to be the weaker sex when it comes to balance skills. You can buck the trend by doing single-leg, free-weight or medicine-ball drills instead of seated or machine-based ones. Also incorporate exercises that will build a strong core, which is essential for balance.
CHILDREN AND TEENS
Is it necessary for kids to train for skiing? No. “But it would be helpful,” says Dr. Bareket Falk, an associate professor of physical education and kinesiology at Brock University in Ontario. For many years it was commonly thought that resistance training and other sport-prep methods could stunt kids’ growth and make their muscles slow. But due to research by Falk and others, the American Academy of Pediatrics now considers resistance training to be good for children when supervised and done correctly.
“The major rationale behind preseason conditioning would be to protect the joints from overstrain,” says McMaster University’s Dr. Cameron Blimkie, who specializes in pediatric development and exercise research. “Even if a child is active, the types of loads on their tendons and ligaments and muscles in day-to-day activities is quite different from
the loads placed on them in skiing.”
Pre-ski training may be even more important for teens than children because they’re statistically more likely to be sedentary. Even teens who play other sports can get a performance boost from a ski-prep program.
Ski-prep workouts can provide kids and teens the same benefits they provide adults: increased muscle strength; power and endurance; better balance and coordination; more bone mass; improved body composition. But that doesn’t mean you should view children as little adults during training.
“If you take the fun out of a workout, you take the kids out, too,” says Dr. Avery Faigenbaum, a professor at The College of New Jersey and author of several books about children’s fitness. He suggests two days a week of resistance training and two days a week of less structured physical activity, such as tag or soccer.
This family-friendly training regimen begins with a dynamic warm-up and continues with plyometrics and functional, full-body exercises that build balance and core strength. (Many of them are adapted from Dr. Avery Faigenbaum’s books Progressive Plyometrics for Kids and Medicine Ball for All.) Begin with the easiest iteration of each drill, and progress slowly over six to 12 weeks (two to three days per week). Adjust the load and number of reps for each of the exercises to accommodate the needs of each family member. (For example, kids can substitute a playground ball for a medicine ball.) Afterward, cool down and stretch.
- SKI MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 2008