Don’t miss another powder day with an injury or weak legs that can’t ski more than a half day!
Every time I read a skiing magazine or see another so called “expert” recommending ski-specific workouts, I have to cringe when I see some of the exercises recommended! After all, isn’t the goal of an effective skier fitness training routine to reduce injuries while simultaneously building incredible strength and endurance in your legs and core?
Of course that’s the goal… we all want to tear up the slopes as long as possible, avoid the dreaded “jello legs” that might cut our day of skiing short, and also prevent those nagging injuries that might cut our season short.
The problem I’ve seen with traditional workout routines that are being recommended for skiers are that they not only use inefficient exercises that don’t carry over that well to actual skiing movements, but also may even be setting you up for an injury. For example, if you’ve seen workout routines that are recommending machine leg presses, machine leg extensions, and machine leg curls, please run screaming from that workout recommendation as fast as you can! It will only set you up for injury, and won’t even help your goal of strength and endurance that’s actually applicable to skiing movements.
The same can be said if you see authors recommending smith machine squats or any smith machine exercises whatsoever… they should all be avoided as smith machine movements follow unnatural movement patterns (not biomechanically correct) that can create excessive stress on the back and possible injury there and/or in the knees.
Now what about wall squats (aka “wall sits”)? Well, although almost every skiing fitness program in existence seems to recommend this exercise for skiers, I don’t find it to be optimal. I will say that it’s a step in the right direction compared to the machine-based exercises that I mentioned previously. However, wall squats are still not a truly effective exercise that carries over directly to strength and endurance throughout the entire range of motion that the legs use during skiing. This exercise can be mildly effective since even an isometric exercise held for endurance in one joint angle will still carry over to a slightly wider range of motion, but I actually have at least a dozen exercises that are MUCH more effective than wall squats.
One of the other major faults that I’ve found with typical ski workout fitness routines is that they often neglect achieving a proper joint strength balance (proper strength ratios between quadriceps, hamstrings, etc). Although skiing demands a lot of work from your quadriceps and less work from your hamstrings and glutes, it is still vitally important for injury prevention to maintain proper strength ratios between all of the muscle groups of the lower body and also make sure the small stabilizer muscles around the joints are properly strengthened. This is yet another factor that’s lacking in most skier workout programs.