Why you should be lifting weights
Weights aren’t just for pro athletes, vain posers and muscle heads. If you want to ski and snowboard better you should add some lifting into your exercise routine.
Three-time Australian Winter Olympian (alpine/ski cross) and X-Games medallist Jenny Lyons (nee Owens) takes us through the key weights exercises you should be doing to get Winter Fit.
- Doing proper chin-ups
- Why leg-curl machines should largely be avoided
- Bench pressing – not so much for the ladies
- Calf work: ignore at your peril!
As a recreational skier or snowboarder it can be pretty easy to ignore the weights-room. A little stretching, some time on the stationary bike; the odd class – she’ll be right mate!
But this recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald revealed a lot. A study of nearly 200,000 Australians showed 90 per cent of them don’t do enough weight training – that is two times a week. And this is despite 60 per cent of Aussies saying they are in to some form of exercise.
Why do weights?
“The benefits of strength training to athletic performance are enormous,” says Jenny. “I don’t know a sport that doesn’t train some type of strength training. From speed and strength sports such as footballers, swimmers, tennis, track and field, cycling and soccer, to more pure endurance sports such as marathon running, ironman, triathletes.
“There are are range of different types of resistance training for each specific sport and age groups. Some of the benefits that come with resistance training are: helps prevent injuries, you’ll be healthier, be more productive, live longer, better balance and stability, handle stress better, build stronger bones and so on.”
So, what should I be doing for skiing or snowboarding? Jenny’s glad you asked! You can also click on individual headers for some handy video links to specific weights exercises:
“When done correctly, this will strengthen the glutes and legs. Most people do squats down to parallel which is fine but it’s also good to mix it up with some full squats if you have the range. I like full squats because when you get stuck/pulled down that far, you have the strength to pull yourself back up pretty quick! Squats are a pretty common exercise in all sports.”
“Make sure the palms of your hands are turned away from you. This makes the exercise harder because it uses different muscle groups. This type focuses more on your lats (latissimi dorsi), triceps, smaller biceps (biceps brachial ,brachio-radial, Brachioradialis) versus your biceps. If the chin ups/pull ups are to advanced, start with prone pull ups or lateral pull downs.”
“Hamstrings are usually forgotten about but they are a very important muscles. Strong hamstrings help balance out the leg muscles, making them more powerful but also help in preventing injuries such as torn ACLs. There are a range of exercises to do. I usually like to stay away from the hamstring curl machines because I find most people aren’t strong enough to use them properly. I like to start people on Single Leg Swiss Ball Curls, Single Leg Thrusters (feet up on a bench) or hip nordics.”
Bench Press (or push ups)
I like to get the athletes/men to do these but it isn’t an exercise I would give to a female for general fitness. There are better exercises for females to get a strong upper body (push ups for instance). Bench Press is a great exercise for skiers/snowboarders who are a little more serious than just your holiday goers. A lot of people get confused about why we work on upper body as much as we work on lower body since skiing/snowboarding is a lower limb sport. To stay balanced overall, your upper body needs to be strong. When the g-forces pull you, being strong in your core and upper body is essential.
Don’t always stick to two-legged exercises. It’s always good to alternate sessions to keep it different. Walking lunges is a are real burners if done with a light-ish weight (20kg for men, 10kg for women). Look at doing high reps such as 15-20 on each leg. This helps with those long ski runs!
Very important in skiing/snowboarding. I have never liked doing core, mostly because it’s my weakest area! There are tonnes of exercises to do from beginner to advanced. I like to do toes to hands, wood choppers, Russian twists just to name a few but a more basic one which can be harder if you need to add weight is using a Swiss ball. This give you full extension of the core which works all the areas.
Calves are also always forgotten about! Why do we do calf raises? How do you expect to flex your boots with a weak calf muscle? Again, it come down to having a balanced body of muscle which will give you the best performance on the ski hill.
Muscles need 38hrs recovery before they should do any type of lifting again so it’s best to just to do weights every second day. This allows the muscles to adapt, allowing you to become stronger. Lifting every day won’t allow for this to happen very well. Mixing it with cardio is fine. Crossfit is all about mixing strength and cardio, if it’s possible to do, definitely throw in a couple of 400m rows or runs after each set or between a set. There are no real rules with that one.
About Jenny Lyons
After the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, I retired for the second time after 23 years of competing internationally. I wanted to be able to give back to the sport in some way. I would have loved to coach but I didn’t want to spend 9 months away from home if I wasn’t going to be competing! I decided my time would be best spent in the gym, training/mentoring the kids aspiring to be athletes, working with development team athletes, masters racers, keen holidays skiers or anyone wanting to get fit/strong so I started up WinterFit in April 2015.
I help everyone reach their goals/benchmarks each year to give them the best opportunity when on snow. It’s an exciting role and very rewarding. I enjoy seeing the improvements and the gains they make!