How Squats and a Strong Core Can Improve Your Ski Season

By Rad Dad and Fitness Expert Oct 16, 2018
Ensure you're in the best shape before the season begins. Hint: it starts with legs and core strength.
How Squats and a Strong Core Can Improve Your Ski Season

We all know nothing can truly prepare us for a big pow day other than lots of skiing, but what if you could be more prepared this year than ever before? Chances are it's not too late, and if you've been doing even some form of training you're better off then not at all. But hey, if you are not in that boat don't stress, you still have time. So how do you get into skiing shape?  

Legs, it’s all about the legs. But the reality is that no matter how strong our legs are if we don't have anything to support them we function at a fraction of our capacity. So what do we need to support them? Our core. Coming from the fitness guy I generally can't stand the term “core”. It's often overused, and many people assume they have core strength, but may not have it in a productive manner. So how about we use the term midline. Even cooler, midline strength. Let's take a moment to define what midline strength is. It's basically your pelvis and spine welded together.  Any deviation from this like having a round back or even overextending is a loss of midline stability. This is where things could potentially get unsafe in a loaded environment, but for our topic of conversation you're much less efficient riding when you don’t have midline stability

When it comes to bombing long runs in deep pow or cruising groomers and truly carving a turn, the more engaged your midline is, the more your legs can do the work. Here's the good news. If you do compound movements like a squat you're automatically going to be working your midline. Especially if you're mindful of keeping your back in a neutral position. The more we load the squat, the more it will demand both leg strength and midline stability. The same can be said for single leg work like lunges or box step ups. The key to this is using an appropriate load. In order for us to make progress, we have to load our system. This can come in a variety of ways. First off and the most simple is just your body weight. This generally means you will be doing higher repetition sets since there is no external loading. When you do introduce some kind of load, don't complicate things. If you're in a traditional gym setting it could be something like a barbell, set of dumbbells, or even kettlebells if you have access to them. If you don't have these things accessible, or you're short on time, something as simple as a homemade sandbag can also do the trick.

Regardless of what implement you use, there's a simple charter that we should follow.

1. Mechanics

This simply means that we are moving correctly. What is that for a squat?

-Midline stability like we mentioned before, so keep that back flat and chest up.
-Weight should stay in your heels. Imagine a piece of paper under your heel as you're moving, someone shouldn’t be able to pull it out.
-Your knees should track over your toes. Don't stress so much about what direction your toes are pointing, rather the fact that your knees are tracking in line with your them.
-Depth should be hip crease below the knee.

I know, it's a bit of a debate, isn't it. Truth is we should be strong through the full anatomical range of motion in our joints. For hips, ankles, and knees this is a large range of motion. To clear the air and give you a bit of a debunk think about your kids. If any of us have ever had toddlers or watch them play it's obvious that they squat down with their hips below parallel. No one teaches them this. It's natural position for them, comfortable, and a place that they play on a frequent basis. Don't think of it as a place we shouldn't go, perhaps a place that we haven't been in a while. Plus if you are a tele skier, chances are most of your turns have your hip crease below your knee.  Even if you lock your heel down or snowboard, we may do some hiking or boot packing to get in some additional turns. Many times we find ourselves with our hip crease below our knee while hiking steeper terrain.  

2. Consistency

You should be able to do the movement well, repeatedly.  This comes with both mindful practice and building our strength and conditioning.

3. Intensity

This simply means we do the movements faster to accomplish more work in less time. Not all of our workouts have to include this, but it’s a good option if we are short on time and looking for results.  

So what do we do for these workouts?

There're all sorts of resources out there that you can utilize. Some of it boils down to the time that you have, the equipment, or where you may complete your workouts. Many of us get stumped when it comes to programming. If you're one of those people you can always check out some of the online programming options available. One of my favorites requiring a minimal amount of equipment, time, and that applies extremely well to everyday activities and skiing or snowboarding is  Most of the equipment needed if not nearly all of it is something that can be made from Home Depot. If you're already a member at the gym chances are likely that they will have everything you need. These workouts have a variety of movements but are very simple. They won't require you to have any personal training sessions to know how to do the movements well. It truly is what it sounds like, grunt work.

Here is an example:

Complete 3 rounds
400 meter run with a sandbag
20 squats with a sandbag
200 meter single arm sandbag carry (alternate arms as needed)
10 sandbag ground to shoulder
(use a moderate weight for all exercises)

If you have some more time on your hands and a bit more income I highly suggest a CrossFit gym. It's okay to be picky here. Do your research, look online, and see if you can visit them and what the sign-up process requires. If you find yourself in a good quality gym, with a good community I will guarantee you see results for the ski season. You can even get the workouts for free on  The only downside to this is that you may not know many of the movements and they can be difficult to learn at times. 

And if all else fails, start moving. Incorporate squats in a variety of rep schemes, with different loadings and coupled with different exercises. Things as simple as running, push-ups, burpees, pull-ups, or any other multi-joint movement you can think of will generally give you the most bang for your buck.

My encouragement to you is don't over complicate things. We're often looking for the perfect key to get us prepped and ready to shred this season. The reality is, if you do the movements suggested, you work hard and you're consistent, you will be ready for the ski season. Looking for tips on getting your kiddo ready for the season? Look no further!