To be at the top of your game, skiing more doesn’t cut it. You will only get there by doing ski conditioning exercises year-round. It’s far easier to stay in shape, than to get into shape. It’s also the recipe for injury prevention. Take a page from the pros: they have an off-season, pre-season, and in-season. Just because you aren’t skiing around the world doesn’t mean you can’t plan and prepare like one-in fact it’s better if you do. Today we’re going to cover how to take your skiing to the next level in spite of your age.
Disclaimer: we are not ski coaches. We didn’t go to the Olympics in skiing. The information provided is to help your body be ready and perform at the highest level for skiing. This article will not be talking about skiing technique as that is out of our scope.
In a meta-analysis of ACL-specific prevention studies, researchers found that the most successful programs that made the greatest difference in ACL injury prevention were those that incorporated plyometrics (i.e., jumping and landing), strength training, and balance ski conditioning exercises.
This forms the backbone of our ski conditioning programs and our suggestions for you in this article. By first taking care of the injury-prevention issues we can then have a solid foundation with which to improve performance, especially as we age.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably aced the beginner assessments and are ready for something more challenging.
To keep skiing like you are in your 30’s well into your 80’s you’ve got to be more dynamic with power, balance, strength conditioning, and core stability.
We will give you a few of our favorite ski conditioning exercises in each of those categories.
Advanced Ski Conditioning Exercises
The following is not meant to be exhaustive. There are numerous ways and methods for ski conditioning. What follows is simply some suggestions and ideas to add into your routine to help further improve your ability to ski.
Power: Jumping and Landing
If this isn’t in your program you are greatly increasing your risk of injury. As we age we tend to stop moving explosively and quickly. This is a shame because things like that are the golden ticket to keeping yourself young. You need that power-the ability to move forcefully and quickly-to ski…even if you aren’t planning on going off any jumps. Each turn is in essence a jump. The magnitude of force is the only thing that changes depending on how quickly you ski, and how quickly you turn.
Multi-planar hops with Gaze Stabilization
This is a very ski-specific drill that incorporates jumping and land mechanics that simulate a ski turn and that also incorporates a bit of balance as you challenge your inner ear with different head positions similar to skiing.
The key is to take off completely before attempting to make the turn. You don’t want to start twisting if your feet aren’t cleared from the ground. Another key point when performing the exercise is to ALWAYS, ALWAYS be aware of your landing position. Don’t allow excessive forward knee landing or the knee to collapse to the inside.
You’ll also notice that this drill is done in 2 segments. First, you keep your head stationary and turn your body ‘blind’ in that you aren’t looking where you’re going. The purpose is to challenge your inner ear’s ability to tell your body where you are in space. This increases your body’s ability to tell where you are in space-a crucial sport skill. The second segment, has you moving your head to where you will be jumping and then bringing the body around.
The Hop, Stop & Stick
If you are hurt/injured you can’t perform your sport. This exercise will help reinforce good landing mechanics which will help reduce your risk of an ACL or knee-related injury.
When you blow your ACL one way that happens is when your lower leg is planted on the ground, but your body keeps moving forward. As you can see in this video you’ll be jumping forward and sticking the landing. It’s imperative to watch that the knee doesn’t drop in, and that the knee doesn’t continue too far over the knee. Think ‘sit down and back’ as you land.
The Single-leg lateral reaches are a great way to challenge your balance and hip stability. Researchers have shown that, “deficits in the ability to control the body’s core during external perturbations predict knee injury with 90% sensitivity and 56% specificity”.
One common reason for knee injuries during skiing is that the quads (front thigh muscles) are overly strong when compared with the hamstring muscles (back of upper thigh). This is a hugely effective exercise at reducing injuries of the hamstrings, but also creating a more ideal strength ratio between the 2 muscle groups.
You also know that it’s a great skiing exercise with the word ‘nordic’ being in the title.
There are a couple way to do this exercise. Keep in mind-this is a VERY hard exercise. It’s very common to experience some cramping the first couple times you do this.
To keep things easy, we recommend leaning as far forward, with your body in a straight line, as you can being able to reverse the motion and come back to the starting position. If you don’t have something to trap your heels under-grab a friend.
As you can see from the picture, a valgus knee, also called knee abduction. You don’t have to remember the name, just know that it’s a common way the knee gets injured. This is a problem because that knee position looks VERY similar to your skiing position.
Given most people’s ‘quad dominance’, coupled with weak hip stability, this is a great exercise that will put the work into your hips/glutes instead of just your knees. The glutes help stabilize the hips and core as well as help with knee position.
Keep you knees pushed out the entire time. Small steps are ok-even preferred. Do 20-30 reps one direction before coming back. You should feel a nice burn in the backside.
Single-Leg Toe Taps
Researchers have found this small muscle in the front of the shin to be one of the main muscles of the lower leg needed for skiing. This makes sense because this muscle actively pulls you over your skis into a solid skiing position.
To perform this exercise, stand with one foot in front of the other slightly. Keeping the front heel on the ground, tap the toes as quickly AND with the biggest range of motion as possible. Try to keep up the tempo for a full 60 seconds. Good luck!