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Prepare Your Legs to Ski Better and to Avoid Knee Injuries this Winter 

Posted on: December 9th, 2022 by Dan Sivertson

written by Andrea Burley (Physiotherapist, Pure Form Physio)

September skiing 2020!
September skiing 2020!

With the warm sunny days of “Augtober” behind us, we’re quickly shifting into ski season! Let’s get through this ski season injury free! Many common ski injuries can be minimized with strengthening prevention work, and some pre-season conditioning will help those burning leg muscles last longer and ski better.

The most common traumatic ski injuries occur to the knee. These usually include an MCL (medial collateral ligament) tear or an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear. These are both ligaments that stabilize our knee joint. The ACL is most commonly injured when landing a jump with our weight back (So that the back of the boot is pushing on the calf) or by a fall when the knee is twisted (ie. Your ski catches the snow).

Skiing and snowboarding have unpredictable terrain so our bodies need to be prepared for unpredictable impacts. This means getting our knees and hips ready to absorb all of the bumps and turns on the hill, whether in fresh powder or icy crust. Skiing is a quad dominant activity but we also need to balance out our quads by working on the hamstrings and glutes so that our joints are as solid as they can be.

Below are some exercises to kick start your ski season preparation- and don’t forget they are just as important to maintain during the season!

Check out our Instagram reels to see me do these exercises! 

Single Leg Deadlift

This exercise is great for both lengthening and strengthening the hamstrings. This is one of the main muscles that will help protect your ACL on the slopes.

With this exercise it’s important that you hinge at your hips, keeping your shoulders and hips square with the ground. Allow the standing leg to have some slight knee flexion. Try to bring your torso parallel to the floor

Step Downs

Step downs help with eccentric quad control which is what our knees need to have in order to absorb impacts on the hill. The important part here is to SLOWLY lower your heel to the floor and make sure your hips stay level throughout the whole movement.

Side Lunges

Lunges are a bread and butter exercise for skiing strength. These will fire up your quads, hamstrings, hip adductors, glutes, as well as working on core control. Adding a dumbbell in each hand can make this more challenging. If you really want to challenge your balance, try this using a bosu ball or even a folded up yoga mat for the moving leg to step onto.

Goblet Squats

This is a great squat variation to engage your glutes, quads, and core. You can use a dumbbell or kettlebell for this. Hold the weight close to your chest. Feet are shoulder-width apart. Lower to the point where thighs are parallel to the ground by pushing the hips backward and flexing the knees. Keep the chest up and back neutral.

Hip Clock Exercise

Balance is a big component of skiing. We need to be able to stay balanced over our skiis when we get pushed by the uneven terrain or maybe even the unexpected out of control skier. This exercise will help with balance but also knee and hip stability. If you don’t have a balance pad, use a folded up towel or yoga mat. You can make this more challenging with the use of a bosu ball.

Give them a try and we will follow up with some progressions into plyometrics–generating more power!

Here is me in one of my happy places!

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