Right, let’s cut to the chase. In this article we’re going to focus on muscle resistance exercise to build up your fast, strong muscle capacity; the capacity that’s going to protect us in an emergency and protect us from injury.
There’s no secret, it’s very simple. The fast muscle fibres and motor units are used when work against a heavy resistance for a short duration. This first step to building up your fast, strong capacity, is to get these motor units firing and working together, then they’ll start to grow.
- 3-5 Repetitions Maximum
- 3-5 sets
- 2-minutes rest between sets
3-5 repetitions maximum:
Means you lift a weight for up to 5 reps only, BUT importantly it’s a weight that you can’t lift 6 times? Get it? You’re working very hard for a very short period of time. You’re working to failure.
Repeat this exercise up to 5 times. If you’re already an accomplished resistance trainer, then 5 sets might be good for you, however start at 3 sets if you’re relatively new to this and build up over the weeks.
2 minutes rest:
The fast fibres fatigue (tire) very quickly, but luckily recovery relatively quickly too. Make sure you take a full 2-3 minutes rest to recover and get the most out of each set you perform.
Follow this rule…
…over a range of lower limb exercises, aim for at least 3 different exercises per session and 2 sessions per week if you can manage it. Just remember to take it easy in your first couple of sessions if you’re not used to this; you’ll feel sore for a couple of days after each session so avoid the temptation over an over-eager approach on your first session.
Here’s a good example. To work the hamstrings, which are really important in protecting the knee joint use you could a knee flexion machine (see below). To make the exercise even more effective, perform the exercises single-legged. This way, each leg receives the same training stimulus, even if one leg is stronger than the other.
Set the resistance to a weight that can only be lifted approximately 5 times (by one leg) and off you go:
Once you’re well into your training programme and your muscles have adapted, you can make this exercise even more effective. We’re going to change the way in which the muscles work.
- Pick a weight that is slightly heavier than your normal 1-legged weight
- Lift the weight with both legs
- Lower the weight with one leg
You’re not strong enough to lift the weight with one leg, but you are strong enough to lower it in a controlled manner. It feels a little weird at first, but you’ll get used to it. In case you’re interested, this is called eccentric muscle activation; the muscle is lengthening whilst developing force. What’s great about this type of muscle activation (contraction) is that this involves the fast muscle capacity even more.
Just a word of caution here – you will feel sore after doing this for the first time. So again, go easy on the first couple of sessions. Soreness is entirely normal and indicates that the muscles need to rebuild and adapt.
There’s a way to make this exercise even more effective – by letting the weight drop and then rapidly bringing your other leg back in just before the weight crashes at the bottom. Here we’re working on speed of muscle response as well as the force; he whole rep will take about a second. The weight is even heavier than in the exercise above, thus it falls much more quickly. You apply a fast and very strong force as the weight starts to drop then stop the weight from dropping completely by using the other leg at the end. It’s a really quick and technical exercise that needs a bit of practice. Once you get it, however, it’s really effective. Our research shows that it’s very effective at improving muscle response times.
So, there we have it. Apply the principles of resistance training outlined about to all weight-based exercises to build the foundations for a fast, strong muscle capacity. And if you’re planning a skiing holiday, sign yourself up to a gym!
Next time – Part III we get a little more dynamic…!
For more information on skiing and injuries see previous articles: here, here and here or for a tailored programme of injury prevention and conditioning or get in touch. Happy skiing!