I know you probably don't want to hear this (unless you're a winter sports buff) but winter is on the way. So it's time to start planning for any Ski Conditioning or Winter Sports Conditioning programs/clinics that you are going to host.
Here's some tips to designing a private or group program for any Winter sport. If you manage a group of trainers, forward this to them to file and use as a template for all future program design.
You don’t need to be an expert at a sport to train someone to excel in that sport. You just need to understand physiology, anatomy and ask a lot of the right questions. Here’s a system for designing a Winter Sports Conditioning program for any type of activity:
1. Define the goals of the client – how you train a recreational versus highly competitive athlete will be very different. Your expectations will be different as well as the types of movements you incorporate. Obviously a client who wants to be able to ski the greens without getting exhausted by the end of the day will require a different approach than one who wants to aggressively ski the diamonds, moguls and jumps.
2. Define the commitment of the client – Find out how long, how frequent and how hard your client wants to train before designing the program. Adherence will falter greatly if your expectations fall outside of what the client is willing or able to do.
3. Define the demands of the sport/activity – avoid the “one size fits all” approach – See more info below.
4. Identify strengths and weakness of the client related to the demands of the sport – This is where the ‘personal’ in Personal Training comes in. Customize your program based on the client and any imbalances that you assess.
5. Design a program to increase muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular fitness, agility, power, balance and flexibility – avoid overemphasizing one area when another area may be more important. Most athletes will benefit from addressing all fitness components with a primary focus on those specific to that sport.
6. Avoid overstepping your boundaries! Avoid exactly mimicking a certain sport movement with a heavy resistance which can be detrimental to performance and cause injury. Work in combination with the coach if possible.
Let’s review a system for easily defining the demands of the sport/activity.
Step One: Start by determining the predominant metabolic energy system and CV needs. Does the sport utilize primarily the Creatine Phosphate, Anaerobic glycolysis, Aerobic glycolysis, or Fatty acid oxidation or a strong combination of all systems. Ask yourself questions such as for how long will my client have to perform at any given time – is it seconds, minutes, hours? Are there Intervals, Periods, Shifts or a consistent energy output? This will determine how you design the cardio program and any intervals you incorporate into the training program. If the sport requires intense bursts of activity lasting about 45 seconds, guess what you’ll be doing in the training program?!
Step Two: Analyze the lower body, upper body and torso movement patterns and determine the specific muscular strength and endurance requirements. For example, does the sport require Skating, Jumping (one or two legs), hopping (one or two legs), Squatting, lunging, rotating/swinging, pushing, pulling…Watch the body during the activity to determine where your focus will be. That said, most athletes are going to benefit from a full body program and a strong core.
Step Three: Analyze the object to be moved. Will the athlete be on a board, skis or sled? Will be they be required to push against an opponent? Addressing some of these demands will be very important in the program.
Step Four: Determine movement patterns, agility, speed and power needs. A sport that requires an athlete to move straight ahead from point A to Z as quickly as possible will require a different approach than an activity that has the athlete moving quickly side to side, backwards and forwards.
Step Five: Determine balance needs. Most winter sports incorporate a high level of balance – some more than others and some just in different ways that others. For example, how you train a figure skater will be different than how you train a bob-sledder. There are differences even within a certain type of sport. For example, the balance requirements for a solo skater are different than a pairs or speed skater. Or you’ll train a freestyle boarder different than a boadercross, alpine or slalom boarder.
Step Six: Determine flexibility needs. Clearly a figure skater will require a higher level of flexibility than a cross country skier.
Step Seven: Determine areas that hold a high risk for injury and associated strategies for minimizing risk. Find out how athletes in the specific sport usually get injured and program to accommodate that to lessen the risk.
Step Eight: Determine which exercises, tools and drills will address each need – be sure to assess your clients’ strengths and weaknesses. This is the fun part!
Here’s how we might approach a Ski Conditioning program:
• Energy system: Anaerobic Glycolysis/Aerobic Glycolysis
• Lower Body tucks and squats, Lateral weight transfer, torso stabilization and rotation, quiet upper body
• Moving the body on skis
• Requires linear and lateral movement strength, agility, speed and power
• Requires high level of dynamic balance
• Flexibility requirements low for performance (high for reduced risk of injury)
• Risk areas – knee, back
– Requires Hamstring/Gluteal strength, Core stabilization and flexibility
– Balancing on a ProFitter/Wobble Board, BOSU Trainer using two/one legged dynamic/static positions, Slide training, Squats, leg presses, lunges, plyometric leg training, Rotational throws with a medicine ball, rotation/pushing with exercise tubes, agility training through cones, one or two leg jump training, AT/sprint training, stepping while holding a full glass of water
Putting it all together. Here is what a workout template might look like for this type of athlete.
• Compound lower body exercise
• Compound upper body exercise
• Compound full-body movement
• Upright torso movement
• Agility/speed/power drill
• Balance drill
• Repeat 6-10x with different exercises
• Cool-down and stretch
Here is a list of useful training tools for Winter Sports Conditioning:
• Coloured tape for agility marking
• Wobble boards/Extreme Balance boards/Bongo boards/BOSU Trainers
• Foam Rollers
• Medicine balls/Stability Balls
• 2 x 4 balance board
Here is a list of effective agility drills for Winter Sports Conditioning:
• Stop/Go drill
• Right/Left/Backwards/Forwards drill
• Square drill - shuffle, sprint forwards, shuffle, sprint backwards 10xR/L
• Figure 8 running
• Carioca drills
• Good ole "Suicides"
• Lateral side to side drills
• Shuffling drills - add medicine ball
• Reaction Time catching
• Step drills
• Hurdling over Steps - one leg/two legs
• Jumping over the step - one leg/two legs/on the spot/moving
• Fast out and in
• Fast tap ups
• Over the step (1/2/3 fast)
• Ski jumps onto step - on the spot/moving forward
• T-Tape/Tube drills - one leg/two legs, out/in, jumping one leg/two legs
• Cone drills
• Bouncing balls in/out cones
• Jumping over followed by sprint
• Agility ladder drills
Here is a list of effective power drills for Winter Sports Conditioning:
• Vertical jumps
• Step Power lunges - forwards/backwards + adding lateral movement
• Power jumps up/down onto step
• Knee tucks
• Broad jumps
• Exercuff tube drills
– side to side steps
– side to side jumps
– hip extension
– knee lifts
• Treadmill running against tubed resistance
• Partner Resisted Runs/Pulls
Here is a list of sample balance drills for Winter Sports Conditioning:
• One leg drills - eyes open/closed/bouncing a ball/catching a ball
• BOSU Trainer / Wobble board drills - 2 feet/1 foot/performing exercises
• Extreme board drills - squats catching ball
• Bongo board drills
• Profitter drills - add medicine ball
• 2 x 4 drills
• Balance drills are effective as warm-up, cool-down or recovery exercises
Sample Torso Exercises for Winter Sports Conditioning:
• Throwing drills with medicine ball - forwards/overheads (single/double)/sideways
• Torso rotation with tubes/med balls
• Table top/Plank variations
• Tripod/Dipod variations
• Push-ups on medicine ball/wobble board
• Full sits with medicine ball
• V-sits with medicine ball with rotation
• BOSU/Stability ball torso exercises
I hope this provides you a system for being able to help any type of winter athlete.
Yours in health, fitness and business,