It’s that time of year again! The weather is cooling down and snow is starting to pile up in the mountains- ski season is officially upon us. Downhill skiing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, spend time with friends and get a great workout.
However, the forces of nature on a ski hill can put you at risk for injury so it’s important to be prepared. As your foot and ankle are locked into one position in your boot, they are unable to move and adapt as you go down the hill. The knee becomes the first point of movement when the body needs to change direction and, because of this, is the site of many ski injuries.
Preventative exercises that focus on core stability, balance and overall leg strength will help you get the most out of your ski season and allow you to enjoy all the powder we hopefully have in store.
Having a strong core is key to an injury-free ski season. It will increase your control over your lower body as well as help to support your back while in a low, bent over position as you ski.
Here are two exercises to help you develop better core strength:
1. Side plank with hip taps
Lie on your side with your elbow directly under your shoulder. Stack your feet one on top of the other. Lift your hip up off the ground to create a straight line through shoulders, hips and knees. Keep your hips forward as you drop your hip down to tap the ground and bring back up to re-create the straight line. Perform 10 times on each side and repeat for 3 sets.
2. Medicine ball oblique passes on a Bosu
Place a Bosu ball near a ball and stand with both legs balancing on it. Using a medicine ball, do an oblique side pass into the wall and let it rebound to you. Keep the hips facing forwards and use your core to brace. Repeat 10 times per side, repeat 3 sets.
Balance is another important factor for safe skiing. When the visibility is low, or the hill is icy, good balance and stability will give you better control for last minute turns and will decrease the strain on the ligaments around your knees.
Give these two exercises a try to test your balance:
1. Bosu single leg gluteal bridges
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place 1 foot on top of the round side of a Bosu ball. Straighten the other leg and raise it straight in the air. Cross your arms over your chest and lift your pelvis up off the ground. Hold for 3 seconds at the top. Perform 10 times with each leg, repeat 3 sets.
2. Single leg deadlift
Stand on one leg with the knee gently bent. Hinge forward at the hips, allowing the upper body to fall forward as your other leg extends backwards. Maintain a straight back as you move until your upper body is horizontal. Repeat 10 times per leg and repeat 3 sets.
Build gluteal, hamstring and quad strength
Strong legs give you a strong foundation for skiing. By the afternoon it’s all too common for the legs to be tired and burning, which often leads to less control and precision. Strengthening your legs before the season will help you with the last few runs to keep those knees safe.
Build gluteal, hamstring and quad strength with these two exercises:
1. Stability ball hip thrusters
Sit on a stability ball and walk your feet out until only your head and shoulders are supported on the ball. Keeping your knees bent, ensure your ankles are directly under your knees, and your hips create a straight line from shoulders to knees. Keeping your core tight and glutes squeezed, lower your hips down, then push down through your heels and squeeze your glutes while you lift your hips back up to that straight line. Repeat 10 times, for 3 sets. To increase difficulty, add a dumbbell on your hips.
2. Bench ½ lateral step-down
Step laterally(sideways) onto a tall step or bench. Hang one leg straight down off the side of the bench. Squat down until your hanging leg touches the floor. Push through the heel of the leg on the bench and use your glutes and quads to bring yourself back to upright.
For a more extensive program to prepare for the season, or to keep in shape between ski days, consider booking a session with a Registered Kinesiologist. Kinesiology is covered on some extended health plans, check yours to find out.
I’m at Alaia Physiotherapy on Wednesdays and Fridays and would be happy to work with you on improving your strength and conditioning for the season ahead.
If any of the above exercises aggravate your knees, back, or hips, book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists.