The Samsara experience is a better way to train to ski

Samsara Experience and the end of “Ski Fit”


WORDS AND PICTURES • Andy Cochrane


Like most of you, Zahan Billimoria did not come from a family of professional athletes. As the son of Indian immigrants living in Switzerland, he found his own way in the mountains, with no family pedigree to guide him. It wasn’t until he moved to Jackson, Wyoming after college that he honed his high mountain skills. Today, almost two decades later, he has become one of the most knowledgeable skiers in the world.

Billimoria’s resume grew rapidly once he started guiding in 2004, with a number of first runs in the Tetons. He was part of the US National Ski Mountaineering Team in 2008 and later became the lead guide for Teton Gravity Research, taking professional freeskiers and filmmakers further and further into the iconic lineup. He’s a unicorn in the industry, bridging the gap between world-class freeskiers and distant expeditions across the globe.

Eight years ago Z, as most friends call him, founded Samsara Experience, a training program that incorporates a heavy dose of research in human biology, physiology and architecture. His new methodology aims to improve the performance of the world’s best skiers and mountain athletes, including freeskiers Sam Smoothy and Michelle Parker, snowboarding legend Jeremy Jones and World Cup racer Steve Nyman, to name a few. -a, by challenging long-held assumptions about training. , strength and skill development.

Most skiers don’t know the word Samsara straight away, but they are often focused on its meaning – the world, which is built on the cyclicality of life and death that punctuates the lives of many who spend their holidays. days in the mountains. An important factor in staying alive when the safety margins get thin is developing athleticism that will allow you to adapt quickly and perform in all kinds of mountain conditions.

Ideology: Anti Ski Fit

Freeskiing is one of the least well-served sports in terms of off-season training programs. Most are a cocktail of lift plans and endurance training imported from ski racing, which, as Z will frankly tell you, does not – and in many cases is in fact detrimental – to improve skiers focused on major mountaineering and freeride goals.

“There is very little thought about applying a modern understanding of physiology and biomechanics to the big mountain skiing experience. Skiing is a sport of agility, like basketball or gymnastics. It’s about quick changes of direction, a high degree of competence and quick responses. Most ski fit programs don’t do much to improve all of this, ”says Z.

Take, for example, professional basketball players. If the NBA stars want to get better in the offseason, they focus on athletics: jump higher, run faster, release their shot faster, or acquire a new movement to get around a defender. Z believes skiers should do the same, learning to be more explosive, faster and more precise through exercises that focus on smaller movements. You might ask, don’t skiers already do this? The answer is more complex than it seems.

Samsara

A considerable amount of pre-season training for most skiers, including myself, is spent training to exhaustion. The image of leaving the gym covered in sweat is enshrined in our visual lexicon as the best way to prepare for the season. “The type of exercise in which you leave everything on the floor is the problem,” says Z. “The research is very clear: skill building and fatigue are absolute enemies. You can’t do both. If coordination is at the heart of a high level skier, you have to stop training to failure.

Off-season training goals

The Samsara Method is unique in that it doesn’t care if you are building bigger muscles. Instead, Z and his team of trainers aim to improve the control you have over your entire body, showing you how to recruit a higher portion of the muscles you already have. Z hopes to break the narrative that fatigue equals high, especially for sports that rely on skill building or the ability to move. “It’s an absolutely disastrous idea when you’re trying to perfect a new pattern of movement,” says Z.

Based on his research into human biology and other training methods that skiers were using at the time, Z decided to start Samsara. The methodology focuses on three key elements: absolute strength, the maximum strength you can exert in a very short period of time, aerobic capacity, the ability to endure for very long periods and athletic IQ, which covers the elements. intangible and unique bodily movements. “The production of strength, endurance, balance, coordination, reflexes, stability and explosion are all ingredients of success,” Z explains, “the key is to remember that the brain is the The ultimate arbiter of it all. He decides which muscles we recruit and how it all works together. Our process is more focused on training the brain than just one muscle. “

So what’s the problem ?

Taking it all summer may be better than doing two-dimensional movements (like a deadlift) until exhaustion, according to Z. Sure, you’ll come out of this workout plan in shape, but your skills won’t improve. not – in fact, there is strong data to suggest that you will decline in your ability to coordinate and move. “Skill and speed are only improved when the body is allowed to function at its peak, which you cannot achieve when you are tired. Training should reflect this, with quick reps that never fail. “

Samsara

Samsara athletes measure their progress using an evaluation matrix that targets three movement patterns: leaping, pushing and pulling. Because skiing has almost endless variables, from terrain to styles, progress is not linear, easy to chart on a graph or compare from person to person. Instead, the program examines basic metrics such as reaction time, lateral force production, and ground contact time.

The first step, Z says, is to forget about building muscle and looking a certain way. This chase harms performance more than it helps. Too much emphasis on large, bulky muscles neglects the fascia and tendons, the smallest keystones of our body that promote confidence and faster reactions when navigating large mountain terrain. “This is a complete misconception of strength. Throw deadlifts and calf raises. Coordination exercises repeated to failure are the worst for improving skiing skills and performance.

All the equipment you need

The Samsara program can be started with nothing but floor space, doing the exercises with your body weight. For those on a budget, there are a few things that can be helpful in improving performance: weights (Z suggests 35-65 lbs for most athletes), a pull-up bar, and rings. The program is based on a three-month block, divided into sequential four-week phases, detailed below.

Samsara

For those new to off-season ski training, Samsara Basecamp, a new online platform, could be a good basic alternative. It covers the fundamentals of the Samsara Method, including the process, assessment tools, and resources, and is available on a monthly subscription plan. While Basecamp doesn’t offer you any interaction with the athlete or coach community every week, you still have access to the same body of knowledge to help you improve your skiing. For the full experience, apply for the Athlete Team, which is open to everyone, not just professional athletes.

An example of samsara: three key exercises

The key to the program is understanding your body and the right load to stimulate change. “Even the sexiest workout won’t do anything if you mess it up,” Z says.

Phase 1: Tissue capacity

Exercise: Isometric of the forefoot.

This is an extended isometric that loads all of the tissues in the locomotion pattern of your front feet. This should put stress on the Achilles tendon and kneecap and down to the buttocks. By holding this position for 30-40 seconds, isometric strain on these tissues will help them reshape and strengthen. This is good for both rehabilitation and preparation for high load labor that will come later in the program. It also has an equilibrium component because isometric movements are inherently unstable.

Phase 2: Maximum strength

Exercise: One-leg squat.

Start with a high load, low reps, and your heel on the floor. This will load the front of the knee, which is responsible for slowing and breaking forces, like landing from a jump or stomping on a cliff. By varying the angle of the joint, you strengthen the front part of the leg. It is not useful to stand up. Try to stay in an engaged position, just like you would when skiing. It’s a great maximum strength exercise, but don’t fail. Choose a weight that you can do four reps with and only do three. Getting the right load is crucial.

Phase 3: Speed ​​and specificity

Exercise: Flying kneeling jump.

Skiers must start jumping again during the off-season. It is an extremely complex expression of power and coordination, and defines much of the sport. The jump is in two parts: the upward propulsion and the absorption of the body returning to Earth. For this exercise, change your position in the air by generating airtime to change and then return to the original positions. The flying knee jump requires a huge blast, which is built from the previous phases.

Samsara

At first glance, Samsara may seem similar to many ski fit programs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The methodology behind Samsara is based, above all, on improving agility, skills and your general athleticism, not two-dimensional strength like most. Plus, by applying cutting edge research and working with a great team of athletes, this is a collaborative and ever-evolving process, much like modern science today.

To learn more about the Samsara Experience and start your training, Click here.


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