Back to Basics- The 4 Fundamentals of Skiing that Everyone Always Overlooks
I think it’s safe to say that winter is officially here! We all know that snow during the winter months is inevitable here in Wisconsin. With a winter that drags on seemingly forever, we know that many of you like to pass these long winters by spending time on the slopes! Whether you hit up the local slopes or head out west to hit the big slopes, it is important to be physically prepared for ski (and snowboard!) season. John Hopkins Medicine estimates that nearly 600,000 Americans are injured on the slopes every year₁, so we’re here to help you reduce your chances of being one of them. Strength training is super important when it comes to skiing because your muscles need to be able to perform at a high level for long periods of time, while also being able to adapt to the different snow conditions. This applies especially if you kids who ski on their high school’s ski team (or any other form of competitive skiing) - even though they may be highly trained it is still imperative that they have a strong foundation. Have them add these exercises into their daily training regimen. Read below for the exercises that are essential for getting your body prepared and will also build strength to help improve your performance on the slopes and hopefully prevent injury this ski season.
Core Strength and Stability
Skiers and snowboarders need to have the core stability to be ready for anything because snow surfaces are ever-changing- you could go from a groomed corduroy to knee deep powder in one run. This means that we must prepare our stabilization muscles to be able to respond efficiently to these changes. Did you know that your core is not just comprised of your abdominal muscles, but also the muscles in your back, hips, and butt? This means that it is important to train the muscles in ALL of these areas, and not just your abdominals. A majorly overlooked area when it comes to ski training are the core muscles of the hip. Your hip muscles not only provide the foundation for your trunk and upper body, but also control the side to side movement at both the knee and ankle joints. If you think about it, that side-to-side movement is a major part of skiing but the hips are one of the most common areas of muscle weakness that we see in the clinic. Because they are stabilization muscles, weakness in this area is actually one of the biggest culprits of back and knee injuries. We believe that single-leg and multi-directional movements are the best way to strengthen your gluteus medius and maximus, which are the key muscles of the hip. Check out our Ski Strength Training Freebie below for some exercises we recommend for hip strengthening:
Another critical component of preparing your body for ski season is muscle endurance. You’ve probably felt what it’s like after a long day of skiing and your turns start to get a little sloppy and you get lazy with your technique because your legs are starting to feel like jello. This is due to muscle fatigue. Muscle fatigue leads to poor body mechanics, which puts you at a higher risk for injury. Research has actually found that differences in muscle endurance are related to skill level in skiers and that high-level alpine skiers are better able to maintain proper ski posture because they do not experience muscle fatigue as quickly as intermediate skiers.₂ You will need to train your quadricep and core muscles, which are the most important endurance muscles for skiers. Isometric exercises paired with high repetition exercise is the best way to train the muscles for the demands that skiing places on them. Check out the PDF Freebie for some exercises you can do if you want to get yourself in tip top shape to last all day on those longer runs.
Dynamic Strength and Power
Just as we need stability to keep us upright and endurance to keep us going all day long, we also need eccentric strength so that our muscles are able to respond quickly and powerfully to the different types of terrain we will encounter while skiing. While this may apply more so to those who ski mountainous terrain since it is more unknown and can change from top to bottom, eccentric strength is important to have regardless. Eccentric strength is essentially the ability of a muscle to adapt to any outside forces placed on it (i.e. absorbing bumps along a run, moguls). This is also super important if you or your kids like to hang out in the terrain park- when you do tricks and and jumps, it is important to have proper body control during landings in order to avoid injury. We recommend doing plyometric/ jump training, such as power skipping, tuck jumps, and squat jumps are a great way to simulate some of the demands placed on our body while skiing. Check out the PDF Freebie as well as the video below for some more ideas for plyometric exercises.
Train on the Mountain
Now that we have covered the key components of stability, endurance and strength training, it is important that we do not overlook the fact that our training should not end once we reach the slopes! The key is to start out slow. When you arrive at the hill or mountain, don’t head straight to the double black diamonds or to the highest elevation. Take a few green runs to warm those muscles up before you dive into it. Even with the added stability, strength, and endurance from doing your exercises, your brain still needs time to warm back up the movements. Make sure you get your technique down on those easier runs before hitting the more challenging terrain. Be patient, ski smart, don’t forget to wear your helmet, and have a blast out there on the slopes this season. And don’t forget to take a break every once and awhile to STRETCH your muscles. Happy shredding!
If you would like a printable PDF of the full Exercise Freebie, click the button below!
If you are interested in additional exercises, or have a nagging injury that you want to get taken care of before you hit the slopes, please do not hesitate to contact us!
Helmets Save Lives of Skiers and Snowboarders – 11/12/2012. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/helmets_save_lives_of_skiers_and_snowboarders. Accessed November 13, 2016.
Kiryu T, Murayama T, Ushiyama Y. Influence of muscular fatigue on skiing performance during parallel turns. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2011;2011:8187-8190.doi:10.1109/IEMBS.2011.6092019.
For more exercise demonstration videos and other ski tips, check out our skiing playlist on YouTube here.