Skiing is a very physically-challenging activity. It’s also a sport with a high rate of injuries (1,2), especially to the knee. Novice skiers and women are at even greater risk (1), so it’s REALLY important to get yourself in shape before you go!
Did you know that you need to train your muscles differently to protect you from injury? It’s not good enough to just become strong or fit. Your muscles are the key protectors of your ligaments and joints so they need to be able to react and produce force quickly (3, 4). By knowing which exercise to perform and changing how you perform them, you can maximise your injury protection – and of course have a happy, injury-free holiday!
Here’s a list of the major muscles involved in skiing and the types of exercises that you can do to train them:
1. Quadriceps. This muscle group is comprised of 4 muscles (‘quad’). They mainly work to extend (straighten) the knee and control your knee motion as you lower yourself in a squat-type manoeuvre. These muscles are used a lot in skiing, working hard to maintain your bent-keen position.
Exercises to condition the quadriceps include: knee extensions; squats; leg-press and lunges.
2. Hamstrings. Thehamstrings are at the back of the leg, comprise of 3 muscles and have two important roles: to flex (bend) the knee and; to extend (straighten) the hip when they contract. During skiing these muscles are vitally important in controlling movement of your hip and knee. The hamstrings are the main protector of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), thus don’t forget these muscles in your pre-ski conditioning programme!
Exercises to condition the hamstrings include: knee flexions; straight-leg deadlifts and to some extent squats and leg-press.
3. Gluteals (gluteus maximus, minimus & medius).The muscle that you sit on – the gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in the body! It, combined with its smaller counterparts (medius & minimus) and the hamstrings work together to extend (straighten) and rotate the hip. Again, these muscles play an important role in stabilising your body position.
Exercises to condition the gluteals include: deadlifts; leg-press; straight-leg deadlifts.
4. Inner and Outer Thighs (hip adductor & abductor muscles). There are several muscles that control hip abduction and adduction. During skiing, the muscles on the inner thighs work very hard to keep your skis together. Your outer thighs keep your body stable and help you steer.
Exercises to condition these muscles include: diagonal/side lunges; inner thigh leg lifts; ab- & adductor machines; side-step squats.
5. Calf muscles (gastrocnemius & soleus). These muscles at the back of the lower leg point your toes when they contract. They also help you keep a stable ankle position as you’re fixed in to your ski boot when you’re leaning downhill.
Exercises to condition these muscles include: standing calf raises; machine calf raises; these muscles are also involved during any leg-pressing or squatting manoeuvre.
Don’t forget these muscles too:
Core (abdominal and back muscles). When you’re in a flexed position – leaning forward your back muscles have to work really hard to hold you there. Your abdominals also contribute and work during your continually adjusting pelvis position.
Exercises to condition these muscles include: the abdominal plank; leg raises; wood-chops; back extensions.
Arms/upper body. Your arms and upper body help push off with your poles – don’t forget to work your upper back, shoulders, biceps and triceps too.
1. Sulheim S, Holme I, Rødven A, et al. (2011). Risk factors for injuries in alpine skiing, telemark skiing and snowboarding – case-control study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 45(16) 1303-1309
2. Coury T, Napoli AM, Wilson M, et al. (2013). Injury Patterns in Recreational Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding at a Mountainside Clinic. Wilderness Environ Med.. pii: S1080-6032(13)00164-6. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2013.07.002. [Epub ahead of print]
3. Minshull C, Gleeson N, Walters-Edwards M, et al. (2007). Effects of fatigue on volitional and magnetically-evoked electromechanical delay of the knee flexors in males and females. European Journal of Applied Physiology 100(4): 469-478.
4. Minshull C, Eston R, Rees D, et al. (2012). Knee joint neuromuscular activation performance during muscle damage and superimposed fatigue. Journal of Sports Sciences. 30 (10) 1015-1024.