If you love to ski but hate the soreness you experience after the first day on the slopes, performing exercises designed to enhance ski performance just might be what you need. Not only will these exercises help get your "ski legs," they could also help you become a more fit, well-rounded winter athlete.
Best Types of Skiing Exercises
Consider the movement requirements of the sport. If you observe a good skier in action, you will notice:
- He has excellent dynamic balance
- His movements are fluid
- The movements are initiated in the feet
In contrast to yoga, which involves a series of poses, skiing involves balance in motion. In skiing, you are concerned with the transitional balance, or the ability to keep your balance in between movements. As such, training programs like Pilates and balance ball workouts are ideal for skiing because they incorporate dynamic balance challenges while enhancing fluidity of movement.
Correcting muscular imbalance is crucial to proper skiing form and injury prevention. Most women and many men have greater strength in their quadriceps (the front of the thigh) than their hamstrings (the back of the leg). This can cause problems in skiing. The hamstrings are responsible for flexing the legs, whereas the quadricepses are responsible for extension. If the legs are extending more than flexing, it leads to what is called "backseat skiing." In other words, it is skiing with your butt sticking out. This alignment is not only unattractive and inefficient; it's downright dangerous. Backseat skiing can lead to backward falls, which can cause severe injuries.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
The stability ball hamstring curl is probably one of the best skiing exercises. It works the hamstrings, the core muscles and the glutes. This exercise is also a great way to test the tracking ability of your knees. If they can't extend in a straight line when your feet are on the ball, you will probably have the same problems on your skis. Here's how it's done:
- Lie on your back with your heels on the ball, your knees fully extended
- Separate your feet to pelvic width apart, which is a natural skiing stance
- Make sure that the top of your head is lined up with the base of your spine, and that your weight is equally distributed throughout your body
- Lift each vertebra off the floor, until your spine is in a "bridge" position and you're forming a straight line from your shoulder blades to your heels
- Exhale as you tighten your hamstrings and bend your knees, rolling the ball toward your hips
- Inhale as you reverse the movement and roll the ball away from your body, extending your knees
- Repeat the exercise 10 to 12 times
The Primary Movements of Skiing
Many people mistakenly believe that skiing is all about leg strength. You've seen these people on the slopes. They are the ones who are "muscling" their movements. Skiing movements actually begin in the feet. Any ski instructor will tell you that there are three primary movements of skiing:
- Edging: You initiate a turn by shifting your weight to the pinky toe of your downhill leg
- Pressure: Adding pressure allows you to control the turn
- Rotary: Rotary movements allow the skier to change direction
"Train the chain" is a current catch phrase in the sport conditioning industry. The "chain" refers to the kinetic chain, which describes the muscular sequence of a given movement pattern. Sports medicine experts believe that the best skiing exercises will mimic the movement patterns of the sport.
Exercise Disc Feet Shifting
As previously mentioned, skiing movements are initiated in your feet. Fortunately, it's easy to mimic the edge and pressure movements by using two exercise discs.
- Make sure that the discs are at the same level of inflation
- Stand with one foot on each disc, taking a moment to get your balance
- Shift your weight so that you are balancing on the little toe of your right foot and the big toe of your left foot
- Pause, and add a bit of pressure to your right little toe
- Make a smooth transition and repeat on the other side
You can use rotator discs to train for rotary movements. While they are available at physical therapy and Pilates equipment supplies, you might occasionally find them for a much cheaper price at stores like Marshall's. The ability to turn your feet without rotating your upper body is one of the most challenging skills in skiing. Practicing rotary exercises on the discs can help your brain memorize this sensation. Stand on two discs, and hold on to the top of a chair. This will keep your upper body "quiet." Using smooth movements, rotate your feet to the right and to the left.
Practicing skiing exercises can lead to many happy turns on the slopes. Set up a program now!