The ski season is finally upon us! How well prepared are you to get the most out of your holiday on the slopes? Muscle fatigue & lack of strength and flexibility can lead to poor skiing technique, especially towards the end of the day. This can result in a significantly greater injury risk along with a decline in your performance. Injuries are also commonly attributed to the fact that skiing and snowboarding use completely different muscle groups to other, more conventional types of exercise. Ultimately a lack of preparation can mean a far less enjoyable trip to the slopes. Doing some simple and regular exercises and stretches in the weeks leading up to a ski trip, as well as while on your holiday, can help to improve your ski performance and to prevent strains, pains and aching joints. An effective pre-conditioning program should include four components: strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance.
Strong muscles improve every skier’s performance, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced. When starting a strength program, you should always make sure that each exercise is done with the correct body alignment, and that the muscle that you are supposed to be targeting is actually being worked- most of our bodies are very good at compensating or cheating! The following muscle groups should all be targeted in a pre-ski training program:
The Core: Your core muscles, which include your transversus abdominus, help you to maintain balance, enable a much more stable & efficient skiing style, and allow for quick & precise movements on the slopes.
Gluteals: Your gluteal complex (buttocks), which includes the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, as well as your deep hip rotators, are some of the most essential muscle groups used in skiing. These muscles need to be strong to allow powerful hip movements side to side, helping to perform the rotary movements that steer your skis for your turns while also acting as pelvis & hip stabilisers.
Quadriceps: Your quadriceps (the front of the thigh) are the workhorses of your skiing. You need strength and endurance both concentrically & especially eccentrically in these muscles, so training needs to involve these two components. They also help to stabilize your knee joint and assist in protecting the ligaments of your knee.
Hamstrings: Your hamstrings (back of the thigh) help absorb the ground-impact forces of skiing. When your hamstrings perform properly, they also help to protect the important knee ligament commonly injured or torn during skiing, the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).
Adductors: The hip adductors (inner thigh muscles) work to control the width of your legs while also providing some pelvic and hip support. If you lose control of your skis and they begin parting in two different directions, you’ll need strength in the adductors to bring your legs back towards each other before ending up in the “Bambi” position!
Foot, Ankle and Calf Muscles: Your foot and ankle muscle group help with the edging, pressure and rotational movements used in skiing, and your calf muscles, particularly your soleus, get used a lot due to the sustained and dynamic positions of your ankles and knees. Flexibility of the ankle is also very important to help prevent injury.
Upper Body: A lot of people forget about working on arm strength leading up to a ski trip. If you fall your arms are vital to help you get back up again!
Examples of good ski strength exercises include: squats (especially on an unstable surface such as a BOSU), jumping squats, lunges, step ups, step downs, bridges, calf raises, as well as Pilates exercises for the core, the “scooter” Reformer exercise, and “skating” exercise, which can be done on the Reformer or CoreAlign®.
Flexibility focusing on the lower body and trunk are vital for injury prevention specific for skiing. A foam roller and/or spikey massage ball are great to help maintain flexibility, & they can also be packed and taken away with you to help you prepare & recover each day you are on the slopes.
BALANCE & PROPRIOCEPTION:
Good balance is extremely important for skiing, as well as to help avoid & prevent injuries. Practicing balance can be as simple as standing on one leg every time you brush your teeth (hover a hand over a stable surface to grab if you lose your balance). Also try to include balancing on unstable surfaces and with your eyes closed to work on your proprioception. Proprioception is your body’s positional sense, and working on this is one of the best preventative measures when it comes to injury, helping to improve your reaction speed when falling, and can be particularly important for skiing in bad visibility.
The fitter you are, the longer you will enjoy your day on the slopes. You can build up your general cardiovascular fitness with any of these activities: brisk walking (including hills), running, stairs, cycling, swimming, cross trainer, skipping rope.
Clinical Pilates is a great way to help strengthen all of the muscles needed for skiing, while also improving your flexibility, balance and proprioception. Pilates can additionally correct any imbalances and alignment issues within your body, helping to prevent or manage any injuries or pain you may be at risk of/currently suffer from. At Fix and Flex, our physiotherapists can develop an individualized targeted program specific to getting you as prepared as possible for your next ski trip, so book in now!