Be Strong, Ski Strong - Part 2
Part two of this article follows on from Shay's recent Part 1 blog on strength training for skiing.
Skiing by its very nature exposes our bodies to large and unpredictable forces. The loads placed on our legs and back are often several times our body weight. To better absorb these loads and improve skiing performance, strengthening exercises have obvious importance and remain the backbone of any good skiers training program. It is essential however, to appreciate that the physical demands of skiing are multifaceted. Skiing requires not only strength but also a combination of agility, co-ordination, balance, fitness and endurance. Any comprehensive training regime should be specifically tailored to meet all these demands. In Part 1 of this program we addressed strength, core-stability and balance or proprioception. Exercises included squats, lunges, bridging, and single leg balance drills, providing a solid foundation of strength from which we can now introduce power and endurance training.
Power training is especially beneficial for more advanced skiers, who need the explosive strength to tackle demanding terrain. Although often overlooked endurance training is another essential element of any comprehensive training regime. A huge number of skiing injuries occur as a result of fatigue. As our muscles fatigue they quickly loose the strength and co-ordination necessary to control our skis and protect our joints from injury. We have all no doubt experienced this. If we are lucky we manage to pull up before falling, stop, compose ourselves, rest our burning thighs and then carry-on. If we are not lucky we fall and risk potential injury. Even if we don’t fall, no one wants to be the guy constantly waited on by their mates at the lift while they rest. By putting in a bit of effort now you can avoid this, because trust me, on a powder day they won’t wait long!
The following exercises will improve strength, power and stability. By gradually reducing the rest times between exercises we are improving endurance and preparing our muscles for the short bursts of high intensity work we require of them to get down the hill. These exercises should be performed preceding two sets of the exercises featured in Part 1 of this program. This will again improve endurance and provide an adequate warm-up before more intense power training.
1. Lateral Jumps
This is a plyometric exercise to improve explosive power of the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluts for skiing. Start in a skiing stance with pressure evenly through feet. This exercise requires you to explosively jump or bound sideways. Your muscles should absorb the force when landing again by bending at the knees and hips, returning to the skiing position before repeating the process, arriving where you started. Start by performing 12 jumps at 75% power, gradually increasing over 3 sets. You can jump over an imaginary line or if confident enough a small object or box. Progress this exercise by increasing the number of repetitions and reducing the rest time between sets. Ensure your technique is good and your back remains straight.
2. Lunge with a twist.
This exercise is a progression of the lunge in Part 1. By adding a twist we not only strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluts but also activate the abdominals and small muscles supporting the pelvis and hips to improve core control.
Start with a ball outstretched above your head. Lunge right leg forward bringing the ball diagonally across the face of your body to along side your right hip. Remember to keep your trunk vertical and both knees should be at right angles in the lunge position. Now, while still in the lunge keeping both arms outstretched, rotate through your trunk and shoulders allowing the ball to travel across the face of your body to beside your left hip. Push off and return to starting position ready to repeat this time leading with the right. Experts can perform with a medicine ball for resistance.
Repeat alternately 10-12 times in 3 sets.
3. Single Leg Squats.
Single leg squats help eliminate discrepancies in strength between right and left legs. They also challenge our balance and provide proprioceptive stimulation. When performing this exercise take care to ensure your knee travels vertically inline with your hip and ankle and doesn’t drift inwards as you squat. Keep your pelvis level and trunk upright throughout. Perform three sets of 10-12 on each leg. This exercise is often carried-out on a mini-tramp or wobble board to further enhance proprioceptive stimulation. Experts can try this at home by standing on old cushion, pillow or rolled towel to produce a similar effect.
4. Side Plank
This is an advanced core control exercise to activate the abdominals, especially obliques and quadratus lumborum.
Similar to ‘the plank’ the idea is to lie on your side ensuring the top hip is above the bottom hip. Push up until there is a straight bodyline through the feet, hips and head. Keep the elbow directly below the shoulder. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat three times gradually increasing the length of hold.
Once again these exercises should be performed in conjunction with the exercises featured in Part 1 providing a comprehensive exercise regime to cater for the multifaceted demands of skiing. Try reducing rest times between sets or performing exercises back to back to improve endurance. Pay particular attention to form and 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 an appropriate health professional for advice.
Finally, remember to ski sensibly this season. Ensure all your gear is in good order and please ski to the conditions.
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.