Season is starting, but are you (physically) ready??

By Luca on 5 December 2013 · 5

Training is the key
Training is the key

This is my first post, so I'll briefly introduce myself. My name is Luca Zattoni, I'm an Italian freerider and extreme skier. I spend my winter in Monte Rosa and Monte Bianco and I have my "HQ" in Gressoney La Trinité. I ski there with some pretty crazy friends who are mountain lovers just like me but a few are also mountain guides.

Injuries early season

It's during early season that a lot of injuries happen because you are not in the best shape to start skiing as “badass” as you were used to. If you don't do a lot of sport or specific training during off season, you can't ask your body to be as prepared as it was last season. Obviously this could end badly for you and your season will end instead of starting.... That's why I never underestimate off-season physical preparation and I work very hard during summer to avoid injuries during early season.

What kind of exercise?

Surfing the net you can find infinite discussions about ski training and everyone has different ideas. That's because the art of skiing isn't the same for everyone. You can space from downhill skiing, to skitouring, to freeride, extreme skiing, monoskiing.... As those are different thing you will need a different preparation and you must also learn new abilities if you're passing from downhill skiing to freeride or mountaineering.

I don't want to arrogate the right to speak for everyone so I'll just report my specific training for freeride and extreme skiing. This works fine for me and maybe for someone else too. You will see that I don't just do some running or weight lifting but also rock and ice climbing, I follow seminars and tutorials and when possible I always ski with friends mountain guides or just with friends; remember that skiing alone is a bet on your life.

I have to say that I never stop training. Also during winter, when I'm home, I try to go to the gym to increase muscular mass and power in my legs.

Here is my summer program

Monday / Wednesday / Friday

  • Weight lifting at the gym

  • Squats

  • Leg press

  • Leg curl

  • Leg extension

  • Deadlift

  • Lat machine

  • Upper back

  • Dumbbell triceps and biceps

  • Shoulder press

  • Pulley

  • Abdominals

As you can see I put a lot of effort on weight lifting training, because this way you can easily become stronger and more powerful. That's really important to have the energy necessary to ski down. Furthermore I don't underestimate the upper body training because when I fall I usually fall really hard, so I need my muscles to absorb the impact without braking or dislocating anything. So it's not true that the upper body isn't relevant when skiing! Your upper body is your first defense against getting hurt or smashing your head into rocks, so it must be prepared properly! In my case it's also important when I have to climb: I need to carry heavy weights on my back, that's why I need strong arms, shoulders and back.

After EVERY workout I always do some stretching to relax ligaments, joints and tendons of my legs. This part of the training is very important in order to have flexy legs and avoid injuries!

Tuesday / Thursday / Week-end

Those days I focus on cardio and resistance training and I also try to improve my climbing skills on rock and ice. So on those days I run 40 minutes, cross country or mountain running. I never run on the streets because it's bad for the knees and it's flat; so there is no purpose doing that when you will have to skin and climb to reach the top of a summit. Running uphill makes your calves and thighs stronger and more resistant so when you starting skinning you will notice the benefit.


If I can't run I go to the gym and jump on the cyclette (unfortunately I crashed my MTB). I have noticed that nobody does the pre-set programs on the cyclette, that's a shame because they are very effective. I usually search for the hardest program and I sweat on that for 30 minutes, then when my legs are sore for the pain I choose an easier program and I cycle on that for 10 minutes. When you choose the program you'll be asked to choose also a difficulty level. I usually cycle on level 15, for the last 30 seconds I try to increase to the maximum level

Usually on week-ends I run or if possible I climb. Unfortunately I'm not that much of a climber... Currently my climbing level is 5c at max. This winter i'm going to start icefalls climbing, because it could often happen the necessity to climb ice to reach a summit.

Hope this program will work also for you and see you in the Alps!



  • FreshPow
    FreshPow op 5 December 2013 · 16:40
    Nice article Luca! Very well balanced I think. I also follow a strength routine during the week. I do balance it a little differently between lower body, upper body and core. (main movement regions, which are also important for skiing) What I usually do is make a superset where I train very intens for a little over an hour:

    - 3x set1: chest excersize 10x, back 10x, squat or lunge exersize 10x and immidiatly after the legs I take sprints on either stairs or a incline (2x) No rest in between excercises.

    - 3x set 2: same muscle groups, different routines.

    - core exercises: 3 sets

    - Shoulders 3 sets

    And on my cardio days (because I live in the city) I try to interval running or bootcamp. And to keep myself motivated to stay in shape in summer I join obstacle races with friends where you need both strength, agility and endurance. See embedded video of one of those races:

    Do you also watch your diet to improve on recovery?
    Life starts at the end of your comfort zone
  • KlasRydstrand
    KlasRydstrand op 6 December 2013 · 10:26
    Great entry Luca and good thing to bring this up! We're in the midst of our final workout preparations before we arrive in Alagna on December 22nd. Aiming for Legs of Steel!
  • Luca
    Luca op 31 December 2013 · 10:23
    @FreshPow @KlasRydstrand sorry but i didn't noticed your comments!

    @FreshPow from what i read I can see that you too take your training program very seriously! That's important! I just avoided a bad injury thanks to that! I hitted a rock right under the knee but thanks to the muscles i avoided braking the bones.
    I see that you try to focus all your strength exercise in one hour; i used to do the same but now i can't do that no more because i added some weight to my exercises so the effort is more and i need longer resting pause between exercises.
    i also see that you participate in tough mudder!! that's TOUGH! and also perfect to stay in shape.
    As for the diet i tried to stay on a controlled regime but I didn't last very long.... Now i try to eat at every meal carbohydrates and proteins with vegetables or fruit. When skiing i increase the quantity of carbohydrates to maintain energy levels at their maximum.
    After a workout i usually drink a protein shake at the gym.
    Luca -
  • FreshPow
    FreshPow op 31 December 2013 · 14:10
    @Luca: Again a cool article! You must be getting enough action now with all the snow that has fallen in the Monta Rosa area right?

    Yes I started to. I was training a lot before, but getting older I started noticing my results were getting less. So I approached a personal trainer that had a lot of experience with professional athletes and I trained with him about once a month where he would push me and give me a routine. What I now do is follow three routines a week of supersets and do the bootcamp training one day and running on another day.

    I also add the weights in my training and you are right that it is very challenging to get everything done in an hour. That is where the PT came in, because I had the tendency to stay in my comfort zone. 😃 He would kick my ass and usually I am dead after that hour. But it provides the perfect balance between anaerobic and aerobic training. I would definably recommend it. But of course it also has to fit with your physic. I am already a quite big and heavy guy, so with skiing I am not the athletic acrobat type. I weigh about 97 kg. So for me it is more for the hiking, preventing injuries, like you say and to have enough strength when I encounter unexpected terrain.

    I pretty much follow the same diet as you do. And also take a protein shake after training.
    Life starts at the end of your comfort zone
  • Luca
    Luca op 31 December 2013 · 14:19
    @FreshPow yes tons of snow in monte rosa! we had around 2 meters of fresh snow!
    Luca -


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