Be Strong, Ski Strong - Part 1
If you’re reading this article you’re obviously starting to think about the ski season ahead. No doubt you’ve been checking out the all the latest skis and high tech boots in hope of getting a better ride out there on the hills. And sure a decent set of gear helps when looking for performance, but realistically if you want to ski your best this season and stay injury-free, it’s time to get serious. Strength, agility, balance, co-ordination and fitness are the true elements of successful skiing. So this year try investing a little time into self-preparation and avoid those burning thighs, low back pain or sore knees holding you back.
Many of the aches and pains that commonly afflict skiers can be avoided and risk of serious injury reduced with a little commitment to preparation. Skiing is a unique sport that requires strength but also challenges our agility, co-ordination, balance, fitness, endurance and ability to perform each of these simultaneously in order to adapt to the ever-changing terrain and forces we encounter.
The following training regime can be performed at home and has been designed to specifically address each function of skiing both independently and in combination to get you in top condition for the season ahead.
Skiing by its very nature places large and unpredictable forces through our legs and trunk. It is important we have sufficient strength to support and protect our joints against these forces allowing us to stay in maximal control of our skis through turns and avoid injury.
Try these exercises to improve leg strength, core stability, power and endurance.
1. Squats (Figure 1)
This exercise should be a fundamental part of any skiers exercise program. Importantly squats promote simultaneous contraction of quadriceps and hamstrings. When these muscles work together they provide increased support and protection to our knee joints.
Squats should be performed at a slow tempo. Ensure your back remains straight throughout the exercise and do no descend passed ninety degrees of knee flexion. Descend over a count of 5 seconds and ascend over 5 seconds to improve endurance. Begin with 3 sets of 10. This exercise can be performed with dumbbells for resistance and progress by increasing number of repetitions.
2. Lunges (Figure 2)
Lunges are a dynamic exercise to simultaneously strengthen and co-ordinate the use of our quadriceps hamstrings and gluts. This exercise will also improve core strength, balance and power.
From a standing position take a large step forward into a lunge (see photo) leading with alternate legs, and then powerfully push off the front leg returning to a standing position. In the lunge position both knees should be at right angles with weight shared evenly between them. Take care the front knee does not travel forward beyond the front foot and your trunk remains vertical. Perform initially in 3 sets of 10 paying particular attention to form. Increase repetitions or add resistance with dumbbells to progress exercise.
Core control is essential to stabilise our pelvis and trunk, which in turn provides a solid foundation for the legs and shoulders girdle to operate from while we ski.
3. Single Leg Bridge (Figure 4)
Bridging is a great exercise to strengthen hamstrings, gluts and lower back muscles while also activating the smaller stabilising muscles around our hips and pelvis.
When performing this exercise ensure your pelvis remains level and a straight line exists between your shoulders and knees working the leg in contact with the ground. Some individuals may need to begin with two legs for a start. Hold bridge for 10-15 seconds 10 times each leg. Increase repetitions as able.
4. The Plank (Figure 3).
The plank is a common exercise that improves abdominal strength and co-contraction of the abdominal wall. Hold a straight body position, supported on the elbows and toes. Brace the abs and hold a straight position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times gradually increasing the time of your hold.
BALANCE AND PROPRIOCEPTION.
Proprioception is a key element of balance. It is essentially our ability to control the position of our joints and is dependant on fine motor control and co-ordination of the muscles surrounding the particular joint in question.
To train proprioception for skiing try standing on one leg, knee and hip bent to about 25 degrees, replicating the position of skiing. Hold this position while throwing a ball to a partner of against a wall. Dedicate 2-3 minutes to each leg. The further you are forced to reach the harder this exercise is so push yourself.
For maximal benefit perform these exercises minimum three times weekly. To improve endurance gradually reduce the resting time between sets and try performing exercises back to back. It is important to develop a solid platform of strength before progression to the power and endurance exercises featured in the next addition.
Finally remember to dedicate some time to stretching before and after exercise. If you are unsure about any old or existing injuries or experience discomfort beyond normal muscle soreness please consult a sports physiotherapist for advice.
Shay McLeod is an APA Physiotherapist at the Hoppers Crossing clinic for Advance Healthcare. Shay has a keen interest in sports and spinal injuries and rehabilitation.
The Advance Healthcare Hoppers Crossing clinic services nearby areas such as Point Cook and Altona with high quality physiotherapy, psychology and multidisciplinary pain management services.