Skiing and snowboarding employ all major muscle groups, but the movements place peculiar demands on the musculoskeletal system. Poor form and unprepared muscles are part of the recipe for wipeout. Common imbalances – like a weak hamstring opposing a stronger quadriceps – lead to overcompensation and, sometimes, injury.
So start now. Strengthen your legs and core, work on the balance you need and prepare your lungs for intense bursts (at high altitude, remember). Cross-country skiing, one of the best full-body exercises, takes endurance and cardiovascular training far different from what downhill skiing requires.
Heather Roberts, a ski instructor and personal trainer, praises Pilates for the core strength it develops and yoga for its balance benefits, but she also suggests exercises to build muscles you will need.
A strong, supple core is where we recruit power, balance and change of direction. It helps keep us in control so our limbs can stay relaxed, as they should to handle bumps and turns.
To build the important deep muscles of the stomach, well below the six-pack abs, Roberts suggests getting into a push-up position with knees on a stability ball. Try to roll the ball up, using your knees and ab muscles, until it is beneath your chest. Then start over. To activate the oblique muscles, twist to one side as you roll the ball up.
Quads, hamstrings and glutes activate when doing turns and absorbing moguls. If those muscles aren’t ready, skiers often cheat and initiate turns with their hips. Exercises that focus on explosive movements are helpful, too.
Roberts has clients do one-legged lunges while the top of the foot of the other leg rests on a chair or stability ball. Another approach: Kneel on the stability ball for several seconds and feel the muscles activate to keep you balanced.
Many poor skiers, Roberts says, believe they have to force their movements, pushing and pulling and twisting rather than realizing that skis are tools designed to make things easier. She implores grace along with strength. "Taking lessons doesn’t hurt," she says. "You can watch skiers and tell immediately who is relaxed and balanced and who is not."
FLEXIBILITY AND CARDIO WORK
Doctor Kevin Creeland invented the Quadmill, a mechanized, rolling platform that works the core, quads and buns, with skiing in mind. One Olympic trainer told Creeland that skiing is 80 percent eccentric work by the legs and low back because they are continually absorbing downward forces.
"Even though any general conditioning through other sports helps tremendously, it’s this need for eccentric training that makes ski conditioning different," Creeland says.
Creeland says walking or running downhill helps, too, especially when you do an occasional "ski turn," but make sure you have good ankle support. Think about taking an elevator up a tall building and walking down the stairs, two steps at a time, but keep the impact of your landing soft.
Ski expert Jake Moe likes the Quadmill and suggests using mini-trampolines and stairs and doing wall squats (your back against a wall, you make like a chair). Check your health club to see if it offers classes geared toward fine-tuning ski muscles.
Also, remember that your training continues to the very day you’re on the slopes. Warm up before going all out.
© 2005, The Seattle Times.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.