Strength and Conditioning for Skiing and Life

Elsbeth Vaino
Elsbeth Vaino

Elsbeth Vaino is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a certified personal trainer and a certified ski instructor. I first came across her over at the EpicSki forums and from there found her blog at I saw that like me, she's a fan of Mike Boyle, Gray Cook, Mike Robertson and other top strength and conditioning coaches, but unlike me she actually knows what she's talking about. In this interview, we talk about functional training and how that relates to skiing better and staying injury free. We also talk about the types of movements and exercises that are most effective in ... preparing us for sports, recovering from injury and staying healthy. We finish with her list of her top three things she wishes people would do less and the top three things she wishes people would do more in terms of fitness and training.

As we mention in the interview, Elsbeth will be starting up distance coaching in the winter of 2010, and you can contact her about that through her site. You can also find her at Ottawa Osteopathy and Sports Therapy and if you want to get a ski lesson from her as well as have her analyze your movement, you can book a lesson with her at her home area, Camp Fortune. You can see all of her credentials on her website's About page.


Do you know a ski instructor, guide, coach or trainer with ski expertise that I should interview? If so, drop me a line with their/your contact info.

Enjoy the interview! Scroll down below the player for links to resources mentioned in the interview.

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We talked about a lot of different trainers and techniques. Most of the techniques could be linked to more than one of the strength coaches we mentioned, but here are some resources to get you started if you want to go a step further with some of the stuff Elsbeth mentioned.

  • Strength Training with Elsbeth. This should be obvious. If you want to benefit from her knowledge and expertise, look her up and book a session. She mostly works in person, but beginning in February 2010, she's planning to start offering distance consultations as well. You can also find an action photo on her profile page. We aqlso mentioned that she's an active member over at EpicSki and TheSkiDiva, both good resources to know about in any case.
  • Early on we mention Gray Cook, creator of the Functional Movement Screen, a tool that Elsbeth uses a lot in training her clients.
  • Foam rolling is used to help with soft-tissue issues. I could point you to many resources here, but you might start with Mike Boyle's 2006 article on foam rolling. Coach Boyle includes video and a discussion of the whys, dos and don'ts of foam rolling. You can also see a ten-minute foam rolling video (below) from Eric Cressey, a younger but highly respected strength coach. Finally, Eric Cressy and Mike Robertson, who we also mentioned on the podcast, has a Magnificent Mobility DVD that covers foam rolling and other mobility work (scroll all the way down the product page to find the MM DVD). There's also a good foam rolling article over at Perform Better, which is also a great site for modern training techniques and products.
  • Speaking of Mike Robertson, I find his podcast excellent. He interviews top trainers and there's tons of great info there.
  • Elsbeth mentioned Pallof Presses as one exercise she uses to work core rotary stability. Essentially, the Pallof Press consists of standing so that the cable machine is straight out to one side. You grab the cable under tension close to the chest and then press it out to full extension of the arms. As the arms lengthen, that increases the leverage on your torso and the load on your internal and external obliques and other muscles that are important for rotational stability. It's a simple exercise that has the advantage of working rotational stability, without actually requiring rotation, making it both safe and effective. Here's a video:
  • Personally, I really like an exercise from my friend Hugo, an awesome personal trainer. It's a bit of an advanced exercise compared to the Pallof, but basically in consists of this: Start in a plank position on a stability ball, and then move one foot out to the side, keeping everything in the same horizontal plane. Like the Pallof, it's a great challenge for rotational stability, without actually rotating, since rotating under load can be very dangerous.
  • Finally, we talked about Core Performance, Mark Verstegen's site, which has tons of resources on training the core.
  • We also talked about Dr Stuart McGill and his work on the back. Dr McGill has a book on building a healthy back for sports performance and has done a lot of research on back health. He's the guy that convinced Mike Boyle to quit having his athletes do crunches (check out Episode 8 of the In the Trenches for a must-listen Mike Boyle interview). Listening to Mike Boyle has made me rethink doing crunches. On my core strength training page, I still recommend crunches on the stability ball (though last and least), but I'll take that off there when I get a chance.