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November 8, 2020

How We Progress Strength Training For Winter Performance

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Leaves are off the trees, snow is on the ground, and winter is in the air here in the Tetons! As we put our bikes and summer hiking shoes away for the season, we’re starting to transition our clients into their next programming cycles to get them ready for an awesome winter of skiing and snowboarding ahead. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how we prepare our clients for their winter sports through individualized progressions in their programming - and why this is not a 6-week-one-size-fits-all-ski-fit program. 


Anyone who loves to participate in 2-plank or 1-plank winter sports should consider preparing physically for the upcoming winter season. Individual progression-based training allows anyone to participate at a level that meets them where they are, while providing season-specific training. We believe this is the BEST way to maximize physical potential and durability throughout the year. 

<img src="" alt="B Medvec Pow Skiing in Wydaho, photo by Cecilia Roy" />

B Medvec Pow Skiing in Wydaho, photo by Cecilia Roy

<img src="" alt="Evan Roy Snowboard Slash Turn in the Tetons photo by Cecilia Roy" />

Evan Roy Snowboard Slash Turn in the Tetons photo by Cecilia Roy


Transitions are key to optimizing training adaptations. After CRUSHING the summer, the natural rhythm of shorter days and colder weather slows the mind and body down. Utilizing this time to restore and reorganize movement patterns prepares the client for new training demands. 

Fitness requirements for mountain biking differ from what is required for ski fitness. The way we prepare our clients for new sport participation starts with assessing overused patterns and weaknesses that occurred over the summer. 

For example, mountain biking or cycling is largely driven by “concentric contractions” in our muscle tissues - meaning muscle fibers are mostly just shortening and contracting when performing a pedal stroke. We typically see a lot of quad-dominance, weak lower backs and glutes, and upper back instability at the end of a biking season. 

Skiing Pow in Wydaho   Photo by Cecilia Roy
On the other hand, skiing and snowboarding demand more “eccentric contractions” and loading patterns - meaning muscle fibers lengthen under load and tension. Think about the lowering phase of a squat, or absorbing moguls, or making dynamic movements for 4000 vertical feet. This type of demand REQUIRES a training plan that improves joint function first, and then works on ligament and tendon strength through increasing time under tension on the muscles needed for skiing. 

We want to progress towards explosive and dynamic movement patterns (eccentric loading) to best prepare our muscles, joints, and tendons for these powerful movements - and to be able to fully enjoy a long winter of pow days and fun! 

Coach Robin Lyons Creating A Programming Progression at MTN LAB

From our assessments, we create individualized progressions for each client based on 5 factors: 
The client’s training history: how long they have been training The client’s biological ageThe client’s current fitness level and capacity The client’s lifestyle: stress management, nourishment, sleepThe client’s time and motivation level


Progression is key! This is how we set you up for success.  Intensity in any form is EARNED, not given. There is intention and an order in fitness training - it shouldn’t be random and unintentional. Long term performance isn't gained with short term planning. We want to be active, functional, and competent in our activities for as long as we can! 

Below is an illustration of how we lead an individual through a training progression to prepare for the upcoming season. Each phase is created to set the client up for the next phase. The length in each phase depends on the individual's ability to adapt and progress.  

MTN LAB Individual Training Phases for Winter Strength Progressions.png
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Phase 1: Develop Motor Patterns 

  • Introduce movements and train patterns 
  • Develop body and limb awareness and overall proprioception
  • Restore and build joint function 

Movement example: CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations) - active rotational movements at the end ranges of mobility. These help increase mobility, improve function, rebalance the athlete, and reintegrate movement patterns. 

Jordan Salmon Hip Hovers at MTN LAB Performance Coaching Onsite in Teton Valley. Photo by Cecilia Roy

Phase 2: Build Muscle Endurance

  • Increase capacity through repetition
  • Increase time under tension in movement patterns
  • Work toward strength endurance 

Movement example: Wallsits - these increase time under tension and endurance for a squat position. Builds control, stamina, and muscle endurance.

Coach Lacey VandeBunte Wallsit at MTN LAB Performance Coaching Photo by Cecilia Roy.JPG

Expect to spend 4-6 weeks in Phases 1 & 2

Phase 3: Build Strength 

  • Overcome resistance
  • Progressively load movements
  • Reduce time under tension and increase load 
  • Reps will dictate load, so decrease reps to increase load

Movement example: Weighted squats or step-ups - progressively increasing loads to build strength.

Michael Kettlebell Front Rack Stepups at MTN LAB Performance Coaching  Photo by Cecilia Roy.JPG

Expect to spend 4-6 weeks in Phases 2 & 3

Phase 4: Power

  • Train to overcome resistance with speed
  • Develop explosive strength with plyometrics and jumping 
  • Strengthen connective tissues and ligaments 

Movement example: Jump squats or box jumps - creating explosivity and power in our movement patterns. 

Dugan Merrill Box Jump at MTN LAB Performance Coaching. Photo by Cecilia Roy.JPG

Expect to spend 2-4 weeks in Phases 3 & 4

And then it’s time to shred! Stay tuned for a behind-the-scenes of our in-season training, featuring mobility and stability work, coming in December. 

A lot of thought and intention goes into our training programs. From building a base of motor control patterns to establishing power, to stress management and nourishment, we want to set our clients up for success and help them live their most authentic lives. 

If you’re looking for an individualized, holistic approach to maximize your training and upcoming season, set up a free consult to find out what MTN LAB can do for you - our doors are always open. 

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