Ski Conditioning

Skiing provides great enjoyment for everyone who participates in it, either as a recreational activity or as a sport. But the physical demands placed upon the body by the daily exertion, and the environmental factors, can stretch even the strongest personal constitution. There is nothing worse than having a great day skiing and looking forward to the next day, but on waking up you have great difficulty in getting out of bed due to muscle soreness!

By undertaking a movement and muscle specific exercise program at your local gym before your ski trip, you can reduce the aches and pains and increase the fun on the slopes. Also pre-ski training should reduce your chances of having an injury, which can put a damper on even a weekend ski break. Through my personal experience skiing, and reading related articles on the subject I have some suggestions concerning the exercise program you could undertake in your gym.

Lower Body

Muscle GroupInvolvement in SkiingExercise Suggestions
Tibialis AnteriorTibialis Anterior is used in the ski boot to pull your body forward when you feel that you are falling backwards.Low Pulley Dorsiflexion; Rowing with your feet strapped in firmly so on the recovery stroke you recruit Tib Ant.
SoleusAs most skiing is carried out with the knees bent, Gastronemius can't effectively operate. Soleus is used often to stop you from falling forwards.Seated Calf Raises
QuadricepsThe quads are used constantly in downhill skiing isometrically, eccentrically and concentrically. To preserve the integrity of the knee, the quads should be strengthened.ISOLATED: Leg Extension. COMPOUND: Squats, Leg Press, Lunges, and Step-ups.
Gluteus Maximus and the HamstringsThe flexion at the hip in skiing is maintained by Glut Max and the Hamstrings working through both Isotonic contraction modes, and Isometrically to maintain stability and absorb shock.ISOLATED: Butt Blaster, Leg Curl (both standing and lying) COMPOUND: Squats, Leg Press, Lunges and Step-ups.
Hip AdductorsThe 3 Adductors are used (especially in beginners) to control the width of your ski track, and strength here is very important.Low pulley Adduction, Lower leg raises, Lying Bench adduction, Seated hip Adduction machines, and the standing multi-hip machines.
Hip AbductorsThe 2 Abductors are excellent hip stabilisers, and assist in some steering manoeuvres.Low Pulley Abduction, Side leg raises, Seated Hip Abduction machines and the standing multi-hip machines.
Hip Rotators (Internal and External)The hip rotators are a very important muscle group for beginners and are still used by more advanced skiers. They are the fine steering control muscles.Low Pulley Hip Rotation. Isometric hip rotation strengthening exercises in a doorway.

Most of the above muscles are worked when you do aerobic work like cycling, rowing, stepping, running, skipping, swimming, aerobics and slide. This will be covered later in this article, but I believe specific strengthening of these muscles must be undertaken as well.

Upper Body

Muscle GroupInvolvement in SkiingExercise Suggestions
Erector SpinaeBecause of the trunk flexion stance that most people undertake when skiing downhill, the lower back muscles are working overtime, so specific strengthening will help reduce back ache.Back contractions, alternate arm-leg raises, back extension on the roman chair and the 45 degree back extension.
Rectus Abdominis and ObliquesBy strengthening the abdominals we can increase intra-abdominal pressure and support the spine from the front. Keeping these postural muscles strong is important.Abdominal Curls, Crunches, Oblique crunches, Cross-over reverse crunches, Opposite crunches, Hip raises.
Latissimus DorsiThe Lats are used for the strong poling needed to travel over smooth ground or for moving uphill. Strengthening them in ski specific exercises such as low pulley row is needed.Lat Pulldown, Reverse Pulldown, Low Pulley row, Dumbbell Single are bench row, T-bar row, and bent over row.
Triceps brachiiThe Triceps are used in the final phase of the poling pushoff as the arm is extended behind the body, and through forceful elbow extension a final push is applied before recovery for the next stroke.High pulley Tricep pushdown, Dumbbell Tricep kickbacks, Lying Tricep extension ('the skull crusher') French Press.
Biceps brachiiIn conjunction with the lats, the biceps assist in forward movement by doing some elbow flexion and while contracting, stabilise the shoulder joint through force applied by the long head of Biceps through the bicipital groove.Reverse Pulldown, Dumbbell Concentration curls, Barbell bicep Curls, Hammer curls, Low Pulley row.

Reps and Load

When doing your selection of the above muscular conditioning exercises, you need to remember two things. You need strength in movement related ski muscles like the hip rotators, and endurance in the postural muscles. So do a MSS ( multiple set system ) for strength (low reps, heavy resistance ) and a lighter weight and increased reps for the muscular endurance.

Stamina

Cardiovascular fitness is necessary in skiing, not so much for performance, but more for the central body endurance you need to last a full day's skiing. More ski accidents happen in the afternoon than in the morning, due to people becoming fatigued in the afternoon and not concentrating enough to prevent accidents.

Choosing weight bearing exercises is more specific than non-weight bearing exercises. So running, the stepper and slide are preferred to cycling and rowing. Also any aerobic exercise that involves lateral movements would assist as well. The slide, and roller blading are especially recommended. One exercise that is highly regarded by American Personal Trainers and Ski followers is using the stepper backwards, trying to do it with your eyes closed to improve your balance centres and 'edging' on the step to try and approximate the movements in readiness for the slope.

Individual Considerations

As with any exercise programme, you must always take into account, personal differences. In fitness levels and injuries, each of us is different. So remember this and 'tailor' the programme around your ( or your clients ) injuries and fitness. While the above exercises are ski specific they are guidelines only and your ability to carry out these exercises safely depends on guidance and supervision from a trained fitness instructor. Use this sheet to advise them of what you want to achieve.

By Peter Mellow. Used by permission.
Peter Mellow is Senior Lecturer, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand, Sport and Health Science Department.


This information and other information on this site is intended for general reference purposes only and is not intended to address specific medical conditions. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Prior to participating in any exercise program or activity, you should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.