Program Design: 3-Week “Wounded Skier” Cycle

Steven, Tommy, and Resi work a Chassis Integrity ART Circuit on Monday.

By Rob Shaul


In March 2018, I had three US Ski Team athletes, all injured at or just prior to that year’s Olympics, training with us at MTI for a short, hard, 3-week cycle.

Male downhillers Steven Nyman and Tommy Biesemeyer, and female slalom specialist, Resi Stiegler are the working through the cycle.

Steve and Resi both suffered knee injuries. Tommy popped his achilles tendon in a violent crash. All three were still in physical therapy for their respective injuries, and this cycle was not designed as a rehab to their injuries, but rather to train the rest of their body around the injury.

It’s a short, 3-week “base fitness” cycle, focused on general conditioning and strength-based durability. I’m actually “lab ratting” these elite athletes for a coming update to our current Training Plan for Athletes Suffering a Leg Injury.

The “wounded skier” cycle concurrently trains 4 fitness attributes:

– Lower Body Strength (single limb)

– Upper Body Hypertrophy (mass)

– Chassis Integrity (MTI’s core strength programming)

– Work Capacity (gym-based, multi-mode)


Strength Training

I deployed assessment-based, density strength training with the skiers. Below are the four strength assessments they completed on Session 1:


6RM 1-Leg Box Squat (15″ Box) with Good Leg

We used kettlebells for the loading, and I decided to go with a 6 Rep Max assessment for this cycle. These athletes, as you can imagine, are super strong, and I simply would not have had heavy enough kettlebells for them to find a 3RM, let alone 1RM max. My intention was to deploy a version of our Big 24 programming for the follow-on progressions in density format. Simply, I’ll drop down one kettlebell size from their 6RM load, and have them complete 6 Rounds of 6 reps every 90 seconds. Over the course of the cycle I’ll progress the loading, hopefully having them finish the cycle 1 kettlebell size larger then their initial 6RM assessment. With the box squats, I’m targeting their good-leg quad.


1RM 1-Leg Hinge/Dead Lift with Good Leg

These ski racers are all familiar with this exercise, and I decided to use the barbell and proceed with a 1RM effort. I’ll deploy our standard Density Progression – and for the first level, have them complete 6 Rounds of 4x Reps at 80% of 1RM every 90 seconds. By the end of this short cycle, I’ll hope to progress them to 90 or 95% of 1RM for 6 Rounds of 4 reps.


1RM Bench Press

While conducting this assessment, Steve – a 15-year US Ski Team veteran said he’s never completed a 1 Rep Max bench press assessment! Ski racing, unlike ski mountaineering, does not have an uphill element and thus, in my mind, ski racers can benefit from upper body mass – not only to enhance gravity’s effect, but also to have upper body muscle for durability. Although we conducted a 1RM assessment, I’m using 6 Rounds of 8 Reps for the density progression. Sets of 8-15 reps train hypertrophy. We began the progression at 60% of 1RM, but I found it light for these athletes, and will jump to 75% for their level 2 effort. I’d hope to progress them to 6 Rounds of 8 reps at 85% 1RM by the end of cycle. For high bench press training age athletes, this would be too ambitious, but these athletes have a relatively low upper body strength training age – and it may be possible.


Max Rep Body Weight Pull Ups

I’m balancing the upper body press (bench press) in this cycle with simple bodyweight pull ups for an upper body pull exercise. We conducted a max rep effort Day 1, and used 6 rounds at 40% of max reps on a 75-second interval for their level-1 progression. We’ve used this progression several times with success.

Progressed Density training based on these assessments will be trained two times per week. Each strength 1/2 session the skiers train Lower and Upper body strength.

See the video below for a quick clip of the density 1-leg box squat and 1-leg hinge lift density rounds.


Chassis Integrity

Four, 1/2 sessions/week which means the wounded skiers will train their midsection every day. Monday/Wednesdays will be a circuit consisting of a Anti-Rotation. Rotation, and Total Core exercises (ART). Tues/Thursdays they’ll train the low back/extension exclusively. This cycle has a heavy and intense mid-section strength component.


Work Capacity

Multi-mode, gym-based, working around their injured legs. Three Durations … 10 + 10, 20 minutes and 30 minutes. Think 1-leg rowing, 1-leg airdyne, 1-leg burpees, 1-leg sled pushes, sit ups, push ups, etc. 

This week they completed a 10 + 10 work cap hit on Tuesday and a 20 minute work cap hit on Thursday. 


Tuesday’s efforts: 

(1) 3 Rounds

  • 1 Minute 1-Leg Row
  • 1 Minute 1-Leg Airdyne
  • 1 Minute EO’s
  • 20 seconds to move between stations


(2) 10 Minutes ….

  • 1-Leg Sled Push (Men, 60 Feet, Resi 30 Feet)


Thursday’s Effort:

(1) 20 Minute Grind …

  • 3x Seated Sandbag Clean & Press @ 20/40#
  • 20 Foot All-4’s Forward Sandbag Drag
  • 3x Seated Sandbag Clean & Press @ 20/40#
  • 20 Foot All-4’s Backward Sandbag Drag


Weekly Schedule:

  • Monday: Strength, Chassis Integrity (ART)
  • Tuesday: Work Capacity, Chassis Integrity (Low Back)
  • WednesdayStrength, Chassis Integrity (ART)
  • ThursdayWork Capacity, Chassis Integrity (Low Back)
  • Friday-Sunday: Rest


Wounded Leg Work

We’re using big rubber bands to train the skiers’ wounded legs two times/week. Using bands, and laying the athletes on the floor, on their backs, we’ve been able to get in some wounded leg work without affecting the injured joints.

We can train both a pull and a push using the bands and I’m deploying a simple interval format. Today they completed three rounds 40 seconds of work pulling or pressing against the band with their bad legs, and 20 seconds rest. Simple but hard. The goal is to safely, but directly work the wounded leg’s muscles. One of the major issues is muscle atrophy, and any direct work we can sneak in will hold a little of this off.

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