Ski season in Colorado is an exhilarating time for winter sports enthusiasts eager to take on the snowy mountains. The breathtaking views and adrenaline-pumping descents are just two of the many reasons that draw skiers from all over the world to our beautiful slopes!
However, the physical demands of skiing require you to be in top physical shape. To make the most of this season and avoid injury, it’s essential to prepare physically, focusing on leg strength.
Leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, play a crucial role in skiing. They are the primary driving force that allows you to maneuver and control your skis while descending the slopes. Not only do these muscles provide stability during skiing, but they also control and power the turns and maneuvers.
At Axis Sports Medicine in Summit County and Eagle County, Colorado, we work with individuals every day who want to make sure their skiing experience is top-notch. Our physical therapists are experts in helping skiers reach their goals quickly and safely with a personalized plan tailored to their abilities, needs, and challenges.
Based on our experience, we’ve pulled together this guide to help all levels of skiers get the most out of their skiing experience!
What Muscles Are Used in Skiing?
Skiing requires muscles in the legs, glutes, back, and core to generate power and maintain control while skiing. The most important muscles for skiing are the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and hip abductors – muscles that help you go up and down the slopes. Stronger muscles lead to increased stability, power for quick turns, and improved control over your skis.
Knowing the right leg exercises to prep your body for skiing is key to preventing injury and helping you perform your best. Let’s break down some of the exercises and techniques that will help you ski better.
Exercise 1: Squats
Squats strengthen your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings – the muscles that power you down the slopes. These muscles engage both when you’re skiing and while navigating the snow-covered terrain. Squat exercises can build strength while helping you maintain proper form and alignment.
Squats for Skiing
An example routine might include three sets of 10 squats with a light weight or no weight at all. When doing squats for skiing, focus on the movement and proper form.
- Step 1: Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
- Step 2: Slowly lower yourself into a squat, keeping your spine and shoulders in alignment. Try to maintain your shins and back parallel without dropping your knees forward of your toes.
- Step 3: Push through the heels of your feet to return to standing position.
Repeat this exercise for three sets of 10 repetitions. As you become stronger, you can gradually increase the weight or reps as needed. Squats are an excellent way to stay in shape for skiing and can help you maintain proper form, alignment, and strength while on the slopes.
Exercise 2: Forward Lunges
Lunges strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core – all essential for powerful skiing. Lunges mimic the motion of walking through deep snow, working the muscles you use to push off and propel yourself forward. Include them in your training to build lower body endurance for skiing down long trails.
Lunges for Skiing
Try 3 sets of 10-12 lunges per leg. Step forward into a lunge, keeping the front knee behind the toe. Bend both knees to about 90 degrees. Push back up through the front heel to the starting position. Repeat on each side. Focus on proper form and control.
- Step 1: Stand tall. Take a large step forward with your left leg.
- Step 2: Bend knees until the left thigh is parallel to the floor and the right knee almost touches the floor.
- Step 3: Drive through the left heel to push back to the starting position.
Complete the reps on one side before switching. Add weight once you build strength. Lunges improve stability and power to help you tackle those black diamond runs!
Exercise 3: Lateral Lunges
Lateral lunges target your inner/outer thighs and strengthen muscles for edge control while carving turns. Pushing outward into a lateral lunge and back mimics the movements required for turning and controlling your edges on skis. Include these to build strength for quick direction changes.
Lateral Lunges for Skiing
Try 2-3 sets of 10-12 alternating reps. Stand tall, take a wide step to the side, bending the knee and hip while keeping the other leg straight. Push back through the working leg to return to center.
- Step 1: Stand tall with feet together and a soft bend in your knees.
- Step 2: Take a wide step to the right side, bending the right knee and hip while the left leg stays straight. Keep your chest upright as if you are looking down the slope.
- Step 3: Push through the right heel to return to center.
Repeat for specified reps on each side. Over time, you can add weights for increased intensity. Lateral lunges improve balance and edge control for smooth carving down the mountain.
Exercise 4: Calf Raises
Calf raises strengthen your gastrocnemius and soleus – the powerful calf muscles that help propel you forward as you push off with each stride on skis. This exercise improves ankle stability and plantarflexion power for skiing.
Calf Raises for Skiing
Aim for 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps. Use a step or block to lift heels up and isolate the calf muscles. Raise up onto toes, lifting heels as high as possible. Slowly lower back down with control.
- Step 1: Place balls of feet on the edge of the step, heels hanging off.
- Step 2: Raise up onto toes, lifting heels as high as possible.
- Step 3: Slowly lower heels back down toward floor.
Perform controlled reps, holding briefly at the top to maximize calf activation. Calf strength helps you maintain balance and power when navigating variable snow conditions.
Exercise 5: Fire Hydrants
Fire hydrants strengthen your hips, glutes, abductors and core – stabilizing the joints for the dynamic movements involved in skiing. This exercise enhances balance, endurance and lateral strength to help you tackle bumps and turns with precision.
Fire Hydrants for Skiing
Shoot for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps per leg. On hands and knees, lift one leg straight out to the side without rotating your hip. Bring knee to chest, opening hip. Reverse back to start.
- Step 1: Kneel on floor on hands and knees.
- Step 2: Lift right leg straight out to right side, keeping knee bent at 90 degrees.
- Step 3: Bring right knee in
- Step 4: repeat.
Repeat on each side, maintaining stability in the core. The motions mimic lateral lunging and twisting movements used in skiing. Fire hydrants build hip strength for edge control, and can improve stability, agility and coordination. Perform the exercise regularly to increase your body’s ability to handle varying terrain and conditions on the slopes.
The Role of Physical Therapy in Ski Season Preparation
Physical therapy can significantly contribute to ski season readiness, especially for those with existing injuries or weaknesses.
For instance, if a skier has a prior knee injury, a physical therapist can devise a program that strengthens the muscles around the knee, enhancing stability and reducing the risk of re-injury. This personalized approach ensures that the exercise program is tailored to the skier’s needs and abilities, maximizing its effectiveness.
A physical therapist can design personalized exercise programs to improve strength, flexibility, and balance, which are vital for skiing. These programs can incorporate various exercises and techniques, from resistance training to improve muscle strength to balance exercises that enhance stability and control on the slopes.
Enhance Your Form and Recovery with Axis Sports Medicine
Ski season in Colorado is one of the best times of the year – but it can also take its toll on our bodies. Axis Sports Medicine can help you maintain your form and fitness level throughout the season with personalized assessments, treatments, recovery programs, nutrition guidance and more. Let us be part of your ski team this winter!
By adding strength training exercises such as squats, lunges, and hip fire hydrants to your regular routine, you can improve your overall skiing performance. But even with the best pre-skiing preparation, injuries and soreness can still occur. If pain presents, our expert team of physical therapists and sports medicine experts can help you recover quickly and get back on the slopes!
Visit us today to learn more about our personalized sports medicine programs and how we can help you reach your skiing goals this winter. With the right guidance, you’ll be ready to conquer any mountain!