Work It Out: Winter dryland training for the gym and home |

Work It Out: Winter dryland training for the gym and home

Fit woman is performing box jumps at gym
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Winter is coming, and, sadly, binging on “Game of Thrones” reruns won’t prepare you for the first powder day of the season.

No matter your age or ability, a regular regimen of dryland (aka off-snow) training before ski season will make you a better, stronger skier or snowboarder once November arrives. It can also ward off injuries, especially for aging powder hounds.

And, even if you spent the majority of summer biking or hiking or running, a dryland strength workout is key for trainers like Doug Roessel, owner of Elevation Fitness in Dillon. He’s a major proponent of total-body strength in the transition months between summer and winter, when folks are tempted to take a few weeks off to sit back, relax and — more often than not when lounging on the couch — lose a bit of hard-earned fitness.

“I always like to throw in a little upper body work because most cyclists and skiers don’t want to or just don’t think about it,” he said. “I’m a big proponent of total-body strength. That’s what will keep you stronger and healthier for any sport.”

To prep for winter, he built two workouts for any skier or snowboarder: One for gym rats and one for homebodies. Both can be tweaked to fit any ability, and fitness level.


Begin with 10-15 minutes of your preferred cardio activity (run, bike, row, jumping rope and the like). Unlike a cardio program, your warmup is the one time Roessel doesn’t recommend following an interval program. This is simply to elevate your heart rate and get ready for the strength exercises to come.


1. Weighted squats

Ah, a good, old-fashioned squat. The staple of pro athletes is a stellar multi-muscle exercise, hitting glutes, quads, calves and core muscles. When worked together, those muscles boost stability and balance. Begin with a weight that’s comfortable but enough to max out after 15 reps.

Form: Keep your back straight and bend legs at 90 degrees, with feet spaced comfortably at shoulder width and knees angled slightly outward, not inward.

Alternates: Add another set or increase weight when the exercise is too easy.

Set: 3-4 sets, 15 reps

2. Romanian deadlifts

Like squats, deadlifts are a go-to strength exercise for any high-level athlete. Multiple sets with high reps can boost your glute, quad and hamstring strength — the body’s muscular engine on and off the ski hill. It also builds power in your lower back.

Form: Start standing straight, with your shoulders back, eyes up and knees slightly bent. Slowly bend forward at the waist until the weight bar or dumbells are slightly below your knees. Explode back up, maintaining a straight back as you squeeze through your glutes.

Alternates: Add another set or increase weight. If a weight bar feels awkward, try dumbells.

Set: 3-4 sets, 15 reps

3. Box jumps

Along with strength training, Roessel is also a proponent of athletic exercises like box jumps. Box jumps don’t build pure muscle like squats, but instead use the same muscles to bolster power and stability. After all, skiing is a dynamic sport — your training should be just as dynamic.

Form: Find a box that’s tall enough to be challenging over 15-25 reps per set. Face the box and squat down, then explode up to jump on the box, keeping your eyes on your landing. Stand straight to finish the movement and step back down (don’t jump) to the starting position.

Alternates: If you don’t have a box, get creative. Concrete ledges and benches work in a pinch, but don’t take unnecessary risks. Chairs and tables are trouble.

Set: 3-4 sets, 15-25 reps

4. Pull-up or

lat pull-down

Pull-ups and lat pull-downs are essentially the same exercise. Both work your shoulders, arms, upper back and traps. The only difference is weight: Pull-ups rely solely on your body weight (weight belts are optional), while lat pull-downs can be adjusted based on the machine. These are a good option for newcomers.

Form: Keep your eyes forward and extend your arms fully, with no bend to your elbows. Slowly pull up through your arms and back until your chin barely comes over the bar. Don’t swing. Drop back to the start position in a controlled motion.

Alternates: Increase reps when a set is too easy.

Set: 3-4 sets, 15-20 reps


1. Body squats

A body squat is the same movement as a weighted squat with a minor tweak: No weights or weight bar. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re easier. When exercising at home, make up for less resistance by moving quickly through reps and sets. Roessel suggests pausing only 20-30 seconds between each.

“You should be able to bump this out real quick because you don’t have the weight, but you still need to watch your form,” he said.

Form: See weighted squat.

Alternates: Try single-leg squats. Prop one leg up on a platform (i.e. chair or stool) and perform sets with 10 reps on each leg.

Set: 3 sets, 20 reps

2. Jump lunges

Similar to box jumps, jump lunges take a relatively static movement (the lunge) and adds a dynamic element. Jumping between lunges builds power and agility, along with balance.

Form: Begin in a lunge position with one leg forward and the other back, with both knees bent at 90-degree angles. From here, powerfully jump up and reverse legs in the air to land in the lunge position.

Alternates: Add weight. Hold dumbbells to your sides and keep arms down as you jump.

Set: 3 sets, 15 reps each leg (30 total)

3. Glute slide

The glute slide is a favorite at Elevation Fitness. It’s a relatively simple body-weight exercise — but appearances can be deceiving. The movement gets exponentially more difficult with proper form and higher reps.

Form: Begin on a slick surface like a wood or tile floor. Lie on your back, with hands to your sides and knees bent at 90 degrees. Place a towel beneath your feet. Pull your feet into your glutes and press your hips to the sky in a slow, controlled movement.

Set: 3-4 sets, 15-20 reps

4. Calf raises

Calf raises are a simple and straightforward way to build strength and stability for your entire leg. They’re also invaluable for snowboarders prone to ankle injury.

Form: Starting on the ground or a stair step, stand on your toes and push up in a controlled motion. Return to the ground with your heels hovering above the ground.

Set: 3-4 sets, 15-20 reps

5. Push-up

Much like body squats and pull-ups, push-ups are a classic body-weight exercise just about anyone can do just about anywhere. Enough said.

Form: Place your hands slightly beyond shoulder width. Squeeze your core and glutes throughout the exercise, dropping down in a controlled motion before exploding powerfully back to the top.

Set: 3-4 sets, 15-25 reps

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