Ski season is right around the corner. The first day of the season is always full of excitement as you pull out your equipment and hit the slopes. Skiing uses different muscles than most summer activities, so it is not uncommon to definitely feel soreness after the first few days on the slopes. It’s important to get your body in shape before putting on your boots. Ski conditioning will not only mitigate soreness, but it also helps prevent a ski injury. In this article, sports medicine doctor Richard Cunningham, MD discusses exercises to help you prepare for the ski season. Please note: if you are being treated for a medical condition, it is important to consult your medical provider to be sure these activities are safe for you.
1. Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise is important to help get your cardiovascular system ready for a day on the hill. Cycling, hiking, or jogging are three easy aerobic exercises that can be done in or outside of the gym. It is recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. If you intend to ski for a full day, we recommend that you do considerably more aerobic exercise than this in a given week ahead of ski season. A lot of ski injuries occur when you’re fatigued, so focusing on your cardiovascular endurance will help prevent a season ending injury.
2. Lower Body Strengthening
Strengthening your legs is key to getting through a full day on the hill – especially a powder day. Below are a few foundational movements to strengthen your lower body.
- Squats: A squat is performed by standing with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart. This movement can be performed weighted or unweighted. For weighted exercises, utilize a squat rack or have a dumbbell in each hand. Lower toward a seated position but don’t go beyond a 90 degree angle with your knees. Keep your heels grounded and your knees pushed behind your toes. When performing the movement make sure you are maintaining a strong core. Repeat this movement 10 times and do 3 sets of this exercise.
- Hamstring Curls: Lay flat on a hamstring curl machine and bend your knees against resistance thereby working your hamstring musculature. Repeat this movement 10 times and do 3 sets of this exercise.
- Alternating Lunges: Set your feet shoulder-width apart and step one foot forward into a lunge position. Keep the front leg bent at 90 degrees, and your back leg is almost touching the ground behind you. Pushing off your front heel, return to the starting position with your feet apart. Repeat this movement 10 times or alternate legs. Do 10 reps for each leg and do 3 sets of this exercise.
- Dead lift: Set your feet shoulder-width apart. Slightly bend your knees. With a weighted bar, flex at the waist letting while always maintaining an arched back, and let the weight bar gently approach the floor. Then slowly pull the weight back up to a standing position. Be careful to not let your spine roll forward with the weight and instead keep a lordotic curvature or an arched back at all times. Do 10 reps and do 3 sets of this exercise.
- Calf raises: On a calf raise machine, slowly let your heels drop under a given weight and then slowly push down on the ball of your foot to raise your heel back up. Do 10 reps for each leg and do 3 sets of this exercise.
- Hip and Gluteal strengthening: With a thick rubber resistance band around both forefeet, abduct or lift your leg out away from your body, plant your foot, and bring your other foot along so your feet are together again. Repeat as you walk sideways across a room. Then change directions so you work your hip abductors on the other side. Do 3 sets of this exercise.
3. Core Strengthening
The best core strengthening are focused on preventing your spine from rotating while subjected to a load. Instead of rotating through your spine, rotate through your hips. Strong core muscles help keep you stable and centered over your skis so you do not fall into the back seat and put your knee at risk of injury. In addition, a strong core can help improve your turns, as it keeps your weight centered. A tight core can also reduce the risk of lower back injuries from skiing. Below are a few core strengthening exercises:
- Planks: Get in a pushup position. Then rest your elbows on the ground. The focus of this movement is to hold your body as straight and flat as a plank for as long as you can. This exercise encompasses all muscles strengthening your core. It is important to have a flat back during this movement.
- Cable rotations: With a resistance band or with a cable attached to a weight, make the same motion as a baseball player would when hitting a baseball only go much slower. Rotate through your hips (while keeping your spine stable) against the resistance. Do one side and then switch and do the other side for 10 reps. Do 3 sets of this exercise.
These are a few exercises to help you get ready for the ski season. If a ski accident does occur on the mountain and you sustain a shoulder and/or knee injury on the hill, reach out to Dr. Cunningham and his team today: (970) 569-3240.