Today's Workout - Power Cleans and Chinups, Oh My!

Lately I've been really into Power Cleans, which may have replaced Deadlifts as my favorite ski-oriented exercise. Research has shown that no other weightlifting exercise correlates as well to vertical jump ability. Since vertical jump is strongly correlated with the ability to develop explosive power in the legs, it's a great indicator of alpine ski fitness. It's also, of course, a great ski-specific strength builder.

If you don't know, a Deadlift is when you grab a bar on the ground in front of you, and stand up. With Power Cleans, you get the bar moving quickly so that you can bring it all the way up until it's resting on the clavicle (i.e. shoulder blades).

Deadlifts absolutely rock for ski fitness. No question. But Power Cleans have some advantages and disadvantages:

  • Explosive force. Power cleans require building speed to get the bar moving so you can throw past the weak point and get it up on your shoulders.
  • More muscles. Power cleans add in shoulder shrug and a calf raise. So it's even more full-body than a deadlift.
  • Less weight. On the downside, Power Cleans won't let you pull as much weight and I find this means less of a workout on the lower traps (i.e. the upper back, rather than the neck/shoulders).
  • More dangerous. If form matters on Deadlifts, form is absolutely crucial on Power Cleans. Because you're trying to develop speed in your lift, it is easier to get out of form and risk injuring the back.

One last note on this workout. Skiing in all it's forms is essentially an "interval" activity rather than a steady-state activity like, say, running on the flats. That's because even skate-skiing you typically get a great rest on the downhills. The big difference is that alpine intervals are usually less than 2 minutes, so they're primarily taxing your anaerobic fuel systems. In skate skiing, the intervals can be reeeaaallll long (our local area has an uninterrupted 4-mile uphill), so you're taxing aerobic systems.

In any case, intervals of some sort are good for training for running, of course, but all the more so for skiing.

So this workout is meant to be done pretty quickly, moving from execise to exercise without a lot of rest. Some of the exercises (Power Cleans, Jumping Jacks, Mountain Climbers) will get your heart rate way up. Other exercises (curls, pushups, pullups) that involve fewer big muscles, will let the heart rate come down. But in general, this is strength and interval training, full-body workout, so it will give some excellent strength training benefits, but also some aerobic training benefit and would be decent for weight loss too.

Each group consists of 2-3 exercises done in alternation (e.g. 1-2-1-2) without rest, keeping heart rate up. Short drink break after each group (less than 1 minute; heart rate stays up).

Warmup - just enough to break a sweat and get the heart going.

  • Rowing machine 5 mins.
  • Jumping Jacks - 1 min
  • Pushups - 20
  • Jumping Jacks with 3-pound dumbells - 1 min

Drink break (less than 1 minute after each complex set)

Group 1: Powercleans and pullups. 2 sets each. (so PC -> PU -> PC ->PU without rest, keeping heart rate up).

Group 2. Mountain Climbers and curls. 2 sets. Mt Climbers in 1 minute sets. Second set is crossbody (i.e. left knee moves toward right shoulder).

Group 3. Jumping Jacks (1 min sets), pushups, single-leg squats holding dumbells. Substitute anything high intensity for the JJs (jump rope, whatever) as pushups and single-legs squats will let your heart rate come down too much.

Group 4. Plate shelvers, spiders. Plate shelvers