Getting Ready for the Slopes: Ski ConditioningMedical Expertise
Chalon Lefebvre is the Clinical Manager and Coordinator for Education at ONS Physical Therapy. Chalon is from Vermont where she was a ski racer and continues to lecture on ski injury prevention, the following is her expert advice for the season:
Certain exercises come to mind when I think about growing up as a ski racer in Vermont. Wall sits, crunches, push-ups, lateral bounds and lots and lots of box jumps got me into shape but were they really the best exercises for ski conditioning? Not necessarily, but they were on the right track. As a physical therapist, I now understand skiing and the biomechanics that go along with the sport. I understand the appropriate exercises that help to prevent injury while conditioning people so they are ready to enjoy the season.
Skiing can be broken down into concentric (muscles shorten/lifting portion of the movement against gravity) and eccentric (lowering portion while lengthening) movements. Skiing starts at the top of the mountain, as you ski down, you perform eccentric movements the entire way, resisting gravity’s pull by controlling your body’s movements. EMG studies have shown that throughout the ski turn, the prime movers and stabilizers change at different points in the turn and therefore it is important to work your muscles in functional patterns consistent with the sport.
1) Lunges are an amazing exercise for skiers. Lunges work the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings. Both your legs are working independently of one another in concentric and eccentric motions. To perform a good lunch, stand with both feet positioned shoulder width apart and step forward with one foot making sure to step far enough so that your knee does not extend past your toes and your shin is nearly vertical, and then step back into the start position. This exercise can progress to walking lunges or by lunging while holding dumbbells in your hands. Once you are proficient, you can make these a plyometric exercise by jumping in between each lunge.
2) Squats, whether one footed and two footed, work your quadriceps and glutes. Start with your feet shoulder width apart with your back slightly arched. Initiate the squat by sitting back and down keeping your weight through your heels. Lower yourself so that your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can) being careful not to let your knees fall in front of your toes. This exercise should be done at high repetitions for endurance.
3) The Romanian deadlift is one of the best and most functional hamstring exercises. ACL tears often occur because people have a strength imbalance between their quadriceps and hamstrings. Stand holding a barbell or a dumbbell in each hand with your feet shoulder width apart. Maintain the lordosis in your lower back and keep a slight bend in your knees, lower the weight towards the floor until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings. Reverse the movement by contracting your hamstrings and glutes and push your hips forward as you return to the starting position. This exercise can also be done on one.
4) Planks and side planks work your abdominals, erector spinae, and glutes. Both of these exercises will provide you with the core strength that you need to be able to hold yourself upright while skiing. Lie on your stomach; place your hands at either side of your chest and tuck your elbows in at your sides. Keep your back flat, and push up onto your toes and elbows so that your body is off the floor. Pull your abdominals into your spine and try to maintain this position for 10 seconds to two minutes. If this is too challenging, this can also be down on your knees. A side plank is done using one arm and on one side at a time.
5) Lateral bounds work on agility and reaction time and when done consecutively will carry over to your ski turns. They can be done one footed or two footed. Create a line on the floor and jump sideways across the line, when your feet land, immediately jump back to the other side. This can be done for time as well as number of repetitions.
Although this is just a taste of what I would include in a ski conditioning program but are some of my favorite exercises for keeping my clients injury free and having fun on the mountain.