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Preseason Training: Mountain Athlete Training Center With Kim Havell

Rob Shaul’s Mountain Athlete Gym in Jackson, Wyoming, is where backcountry.com athletes like Kim Havell, Griffin Post, and Pip Hunt develop the strength and endurance required for high-stakes mountain sports. The Backcountry video crew dropped in to witness a fast-paced training session and capture the essence of the Mountain Athlete approach to fitness. The video below focuses on the history and training philosophy of the Mountain Athlete Gym.

The Mountain Chassis

To forge a direct correlation between gym training and performance in the mountains, Rob likes to build workouts focused on what he calls the “mountain chassis.” Below, Rob and Kim share three strength-building mountain chassis exercises that are easy to do at home. All you’ll need is a 16-inch bench and a pair of dumbbells. Rob recommends a 15-pound set for women and a 25-pound set for men.

Seated Russian Twists



Men: 25lb dumbbell
Women: 15lb dumbbell

The Workout:

Reps: 10 per side or 20 total
Sets: 3

This is one of Rob’s favorite core trainers and is easy to do just about anywhere. In a seated position with your feet held slightly off the ground, hold one dumbbell with both hands and twist to either side, tapping the ground with the dumbbell at the end of each twist. Rob recommends 10 reps on each side, adding up to 20 total twists.

Scotty Bobs



Men: 25lb dumbbells
Women: 15lb dumbbells

The Workout:

Reps: 3-5 per side or 6-10 total
Sets: 3

The Scotty Bob combines a push-up with a row, creating an exercise that focuses on both the upper body and the core. Using both dumbbells, do a push-up followed by a row with the right arm, then a push-up with a row on the left arm. Rob likes to start women with three on either side, six push-ups total, and men with five on either side, 10 push-ups total.



Men: 25lb dumbbell
Women: 15lb dumbbell
16in-high bench

The Workout:

To Start Off: 300 reps
Goal: 1000 reps

As Rob says, step-ups can be complete drudgery, but if done diligently, will pay big dividends when you’re post holing up a mountain in the backcountry. Drop a single dumbbell in a backpack, and step up on the bench, making sure your hips come to full extension at the top of each step-up. Step down with the same leg you stepped up with, and then alternate legs for the following rep. Big repetition is everything with step-ups; Rob suggests starting with 300 and working your way up to 1000.

Cross Training Outside of the Gym

Kim mountain bikes, climbs, and does open-water swimming in order to help get her body ready for freeskiing and ski mountaineering. In the video below, she talks about the importance of cross training for well-rounded athleticism, and then dons a wetsuit for some laps in String Lake.

Want to subscribe to Mountain Athlete’s sport-specific online training programs? Visit mountainathlete.com.