Once again, we’re shaking up the Pro Workout series by giving busy skiers a chance to add some simple weight training (simple in principle, harder in practice) to their fitness regimens. This is the second “quick” workout in a series about gym exercises. We started with Canadian Senior World Cup team member Perianne Jones, and now it’s on to U.S. Ski Team veteran Andy Newell (with the help of Simi Hamilton as a model).
With the Tour de Ski consuming his life for the better part of the next two weeks, Andy Newell will likely lay off strength training for a while. But before the first period of the World Cup ended and the 11-day Tour began, Newell wrote in an email that he was hitting the gym hard in Europe — even if the facilities weren’t ideal on the road.
In late November, Newell wrote from Davos, Switzerland, that he was lifting a few times a week to build a power base for the rest of the season. Doing so could be challenging, especially with races every weekend.
“We try to pick and choose the days when we do strength so we’re not too sore for the weekends,” Newell wrote. “I will usually keep up with a pretty tough strength plan up until around Christmas time when we will switch over to more of a maintenance routine for the rest of the winter.”
For those still waiting to get on snow or experience their first real ski of the season, Newell’s training tips could be perfect for this time of year. A barren and brown landscape makes it easier to work out indoors, even if it is in a dark and dingy gym.
Newell provided a few examples of his power-based strength plan for the first part of the season. (Note: Weights are based on Newell, an Olympic cross-country skier. Proceed with caution and rational adjustments).
1. Loosen up: “I start each session with a warm up and some mobility stuff to strengthen the hips and external rotation of the shoulders,” Newell wrote.
Also known as a dynamic warm up, this usually takes 5-10 minutes and involves stretching to avoid injury. The idea is to get the blood moving to the joints, so try movements like arm circles, leg swings, knee hugs and squats without weight. Spine positioning and posture is also important to practice and maintain when lifting.
2. Power cleans: Newell does 3 sets of 3 cleans with 145-165 pounds on a weighted barbell (start with medium and progress toward heavier weight).
With feet hip-width apart, bend the knees slightly and pick bar off the ground like you would for a deadlift. Pull the bar up in one, fast movement and carefully catch/cushion it on your shoulders (by the collarbone). Slowly return bar to to ground. That’s one clean.
“It’s better to go a little lighter so that they are explosive,” Newell wrote. “Rest as much as you need.” He rests for about two minutes between sets.
3. Weighted-squat jump super set with body-weight squat jumps: This sounds intense, but Newell broke it down:
– Three weighted jumps with 60 pounds on a barbell, or with two 30-pound dumbbells.
– Then 5 body-weight jumps.
– Rest two minutes. Repeat three times.
4. Ski bounds: 4 sets of 20 explosive bounds, classic or skate technique.
Newell recommended doing these in an open gym or outside if the ground isn’t too uneven. Try to be quick off the ground (think big air and lots of hang time), and rest a few minutes between each set.
5. Weighted pull up super set with medicine ball throw:
– Three pull ups with 90 pounds (attached to Newell’s waist)
– Then 8 explosive double-pole ball throws into the ground.
– Rest two minutes. Repeat three times.
If you’re new to pull ups, attempt one without weight. Use two hands to throw medicine ball downward with such force that it bounces back up to you.
6. Dumbbell tricep or a cable pulldown:
This works the triceps. Newell recommended heavier weight for 3 sets of 5.
Ensure good posture by doing this standing exercise near a mirror. Elbows should remain near your ribcage once bar or dumbbells are in place at about chest level.
(See photo at right).
7. Core work: Newell finishes each workout with at least three abdominal/back strengthening exercises. His usually depend on what gym tools are available. Here are a few examples.
– Weighted planks: With 45 pounds on his back, he holds the plank position for 45 seconds. Rest, repeat.
– Hanging leg lifts: 3 sets of 10. Dangling from a pull-up bar, hinge at the waist and bring straight legs up together until they are parallel with the ground for 3 sets of 10.
– Weighted back extension: 3 sets of 12. Usually on some kind of back-extension machine, like a roman chair. Hold a plate weight against chest with crossed arms.
– Sit-up medicine ball throws: With a partner, who should be standing the whole time.
Of course, athletes like Newell often have to adapt. If a fitness center doesn’t have your favorite machine, do what the U.S. Ski Team would do:
“Sometimes we do weighted pull ups with weights piled in a backpack,” Newell wrote. “Or explosive push ups if there is not much equipment to use. Definitely have to be creative sometimes. I’ve actually seen the girls squat each other before when there’s been no weights around.”
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.