Note: If you experience any form of discomfort or pain during any of the following exercises, stop the exercise and see a Chiropractor for help.
Are you fit for skiing?
Ski fitness: how to get fit for the slopes
Wall squats, cycling and sit-ups will not get you fit for the ski season. Here are the best exercises and fitness tips from our ski and snowboard expert...
Work out your biomechanics
Be your own body’s mechanic by training it to move in the most efficient way. Start by standing in front of the mirror in shorts with feet parallel, in a skiing position and check the following:
Knees: Look at how your knees line up. Draw an imaginary dot on the centre of your knee cap and make a vertical line down to the floor. This line should land in a central position between your second and third toe. In most people the line will drop closer to the big toe or even onto the floor between the feet.
This means you won’t be able to carve properly on the slopes, in particular the uphill ski will not hold an edge, and it can cause problems with the knee cap joint. Do 30 reps of the corrected alignment every day, moving your knees up and out so that they are central, until it becomes your default form.
Pelvis: Examine your body from the side. Make sure your bottom is not sticking out too much or tucked in too far. You need to find the neutral position of the pelvis, the position in which your muscles work best, keeping your upper body relaxed.
To find the neutral stance, stick your bottom out and up so that your imaginary tail points upwards – this is one extreme of the movement. Then tuck your bottom right under, taking your imaginary tail between your legs – this is the other extreme. Your pelvic neutral is half way between these movements. Practice bending your knees into a skiing position maintaining pelvic neutrality – 30 reps every day until it feels natural.
Your weight should be balanced over the centre of your skis. Most people sit down too much, putting excessive strain through the quads muscles and knees and taking the weight into the back of the skis, causing loss of control.
Bend your knees into a skiing position, keeping your pelvis neutral and see where your hips move to. Stand up again and this time as you bend your knees make sure the weight is coming forwards, as if you are going to tip over. You should not have any body weight on the front of your ski boots but by balancing the weight forwards from your core you are ensuring your weight is balanced over the centre of your skis, affording maximum control and ability to turn the skis smoothly.
Strength and power
The quadriceps (front of your thigh) and gluteal muscles (back of your thigh) are the main power muscles used during skiing. These can be trained with exercises such as lunges, split squats, step ups, deep squats and cycling. Try not to use wall squats, which can translate into skiing with weight on the heels.
Quads training is an often neglected element of strength. The quads work in two ways on the slopes. Not only do they help straighten the knee but also control it from a straight position into a bentslow release is called eccentric strengthening and is a fundamental part of ski training. (The quads are not worked eccentrically in cycling – it is the hamstrings that bend the knee when cycling.) Doing step downs off a step is a perfect way of working your quads eccentrically. Make sure your alignment is perfect – as stated earlier. Start with 30 reps and add weight when it begins to feel easy to do.
Next, work the lateral hip muscles - eg, the gluteus medius. There is no sport that relies on external hip rotation as much as skiing does, so the importance of training these muscles cannot be underestimated. The ‘clam’ exercise is a classic one: lie on your side with your hips and knees in a skiing position. Keep your ankles together and your hips steady as you lift your top knee, like a clam opening and closing. You should feel the muscle working in the outside of your buttock. Repeat 30 times and then practise the same movement in a standing position, so you can learn to use those muscles while skiing.
Once you have built up your strength and fitness, move onto propulsive movements. A good place to begin is jumping sideways on and off a step, starting with a low step and gradually making it higher – this will particularly help on steep narrow slopes where fast movements are essential. Always make sure your alignment is perfect.
This is your body’s positional sense and is particularly important for skiing in bad visibility. It's also one of the best preventative measures when it comes to injury. Stand on one leg with your eyes closed for two minutes twice a day. Then add some small movements while you do it, such as little knee bends or brushing your teeth. Make sure you hover your hands over a stable surface to grab if you lose your balance.
If your alignment is correct, your body works so efficiently you can get away with a lower level of cardiovascular fitness. However, for those of us still on the path to perfection, interval training is the most efficient form of cardiovascular training. Try cycling or a step machine to work some of the muscles used in skiing. Remember to build up slowly and incrementally.
Skiing does not require too much flexibility – you only really need to be flexible when you fall over. Some people might have particular muscle groups that are tight, often it's the calfs and hips. It's useful to stretch these areas out but remember never do static stretching before exercise – dynamic stretching is vastly superior.