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Winter is here

Symmetry Physio - Friday, July 14, 2017

The slopes are hoping for a big dump this weekend. Check out some exercises 

Be Strong, Ski Strong

If you want to ski your best this season and stay injury-free, it's time to get serious. Strength, agility, balance, co-ordination and fitness are the true elements of successful skiing. Invest some time in self-preparation and avoid those burning thighs, low back pain or sore knees holding you back.

The following regime can be performed at home and has been designed to specifically address each function of skiing both independently and in combination to get you in top condition for the season ahead.


Skiing by its very nature places large and unpredictable forces through our legs and trunk. It is important we have sufficient strength to support and protect our joints against these forces allowing us to stay in maximal control of our skis through turns and avoid injury. Try these exercises to improve leg strength, core stability, power and endurance.

1. Squats (Figure 1)

This exercise should be a fundamental part of any skiers exercise program. Importantly squats promote simultaneous contraction of quadriceps and hamstrings. When these muscles work together they provide increased support and protect our knee joints. Squats should be performed at a slow tempo. Ensure your back remains straight throughout the exercise and do not descend passed ninety degrees of knee flexion. Descend over a count of 5 seconds and ascend over 5 seconds to improve endurance. Begin with 3 sets of 10. This exercise can be performed with dumbells for resistance and progress by increasing the number of repetitions.

2. Lunges (Figure 2)

Lunges are a dynamic exercise to simultaneously strengthen and coordinate the use of our quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. This exercise will also improve core strength, balance and power. From a standing position take a large step forward into a lunge (see photo) Leading with alternate legs and then powerfully push off the front leg returning to a standing position. In the lunge position, both knees should be at right angles with weight shared evenly between them. Take care the front knee does not travel forward beyond the front foot and your trunk remains vertical. Perform initially 3 set of 10 paying particular attention to form. Increase repetitions or add resistance with dumbbells to progress exercise.


Core control is essential to stabilise our pelvis and trunk, which in turn provides a solid foundation for the legs and shoulders girdle to operate from while we ski.

3. The Plank (Figure 3)

The plank is a common exercise that improves abdominal strength and co-contraction of the abdominal wall. Hold a straight body position, supported on the elbows and toes. Brace the abs and hold a straight position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times gradually increasing the time of your hold.

4. Single Leg Bridge (Figure 4)

Bridging is a great exercise to strengthen hamstrings, glutes and lower back muscles while also activating the smaller stabilising muscles around our hips and pelvis. When performing this exercise ensure your pelvis remains level and a straight line exists between your shoulders and knees working the leg in contact with the ground. Some individuals may need to begin with two legs for a start. Hold bridge for 10-15 seconds 10 times each leg. Increase repetitions as able.


Proprioception is a key element of balance. It is essentially our ability to control the position of our joints and is dependent on fine motor control and coordination of the muscles surrounding the particular joint in question. To train proprioception for skiing try standing on one leg, knee and hip bent at about 25 degrees, replicating the position of skiing. Holds this position while throwing a ball to a partner or against the wall. Dedicate 2-3 minutes to each leg. The further you are forced to reach the harder this exercise is, so push yourself.

For maximal benefit perform these exercises minimum three times weekly. To improve endurance gradually reduce the resting time between sets and try performing exercises back to back. It is important to develop a solid platform of strength before progression to the power and endurance exercises below.

Skiing by its very nature exposes our bodies to large and unpredictable forces. The loads placed on our legs and back often several times our body weight. To better absorb these loads and improve skiing performance, strengthening exercises have obvious importance and remain the backbone of any good skiers training program. It is essential, however, to appreciate that the physical demands of skiing are multifaceted. Skiing requires not only strength but also a combination of agility, coordination, balance, fitness and endurance. Any comprehensive training regime should be specifically tailored to meet all these demands. 

Power training is especially beneficial for more advanced skiers, who need the explosive strength to tackle the demanding terrain. Although often overlooked endurance training is another essential element of any comprehensive training regime. A huge number of skiing injuries occur as a result of fatigue. As our muscles fatigue, they quickly lose the strength and coordination necessary to control our skis and protect our joints from injury. We have all no doubt experienced this. If we are lucky we manage to pull up before falling, stop, compose ourselves, rest our burning thighs and then carry-on. If we are it lucky we fall and risk potential injury. Even if we don't fall, no one wants to be the guy constantly waited on by their mates at the lift while they rest. By putting in a bit of effort now you can avoid this because trust me on a powder day they won't wait long!


The following exercises will improve strength, power and stability. By gradually reducing the rest times between exercises we are improving endurance and preparing our muscles for the short bursts of high-intensity work we require of them to get down the hill. These exercises should be performed preceding two sets of the exercises featured above. This will again improve endurance and provide an adequate warm-up before more intense power training.

5. Lateral Jumps

This is a polymetric exercise to improve the explosive power of the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes for skiing. Start in a skiing stance with pressure evenly through feet. This exercise requires you to explosively jump or bound sideways. Your muscles should absorb the force when landing again by bending at the knees and hips, returning to the skiing position before repeating the process, arriving where you started. Start by performing 12 jumps at 75% power, gradually increasing over 3 sets. You can jump over an imaginary lime or if confident enough a small object or box. Progress this exercise by increasing the number of repetitions and reducing the rest time between sets. Ensure your technique is good and your back remains straight.

6. Lung with a twist

This exercise is a progression of the lunge (No. 2). By adding a twist we not only strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes but also activate the abdominals and small muscles supporting the pelvis and hips to improve core control. Start with a ball outstretched above your head. Lunge right forward bringing the ball diagonally across the face of your body to along side your hip. Remember to keep your trunk vertical and both knees should be at right angles in the lunge position. Now, while still in the lunge keeping both arms outstretched, rotate through your trunk and shoulders allowing the ball to travel across the face of your body to beside your left hip. Push off and return to starting position ready to repeat this time leading with the right. Experts can perform with a medicine ball for resistance. Repeat alternately 10-12 times in 3 sets.

7. Single Leg Squats

Single leg squats help eliminate discrepancies in strength between right and left legs. They also challenge our balance and provide proprioceptive stimulation. When performing this exercise take care to ensure your knee travels vertically in line with your hip and ankle and doesn't drift inwards as you squat. Keep your pelvis level and trunk upright throughout. Perform three sets of 10-12 on each leg. This exercise is often carried out on a mini-tramp or wobble board to further enhance proprioceptive stimulation. Experts can try this at home by standing on old cushion, pillow or rolled towel to produce a similar effect.

8. Side Plank

This is an advanced core control exercise to activate the abdominal, especially obliques and quadratus lumborum. Similar to 'The Plank' the idea is to lie on your side ensuring the top hip is above the bottom hip. Pusk up until there is a straight line through the feet, hip and head. Keep the elbow directly below the shoulder. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat three times gradually increasing the length of the hold.

This is an advanced core control exercise to activate the abdominals, especially obliques and quad ratus lumborum. Similar to 'The Plank' the idea is to lie on your side ensuring the top hip is above the bottom hip. Push up until there is a straight line through the feet, hip and head. Keep the elbow directly below the shoulder. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat three times gradually increasing the length of the hold.

Try reducing rest times between sets or performing exercises back to back to improve endurance. Pay particular attention to form and remember to dedicate some time to stretching before and after exercise. If you are unsure about any old or existing injuries or experience discomfort beyond normal muscle soreness please consult an appropriate health professional for advice.

Finally, remember to ski sensibly this season. Ensure all your gear is in good order and please ski to the conditions.

Shay McLeod 

"The Australian Ski Mag"



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