Are you ready for ski season?

As winter approaches and the temperatures begin to drop you might be asking yourself the question, “which ski pass am I going to purchase this year?”.  However, you should also be asking yourself “how am I training my body for the upcoming winter season?”.  This is especially true for those long days on the mountain with groups of friends and visiting relatives when the snow is just too good to pass up for that one last run.

The majority of injuries we see related to recreational skiing are to the knee.  In particular, the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament) are most commonly injured.  The wrist and arm are most commonly injured with snowboarding. The good news is the majority of these injuries are preventable with appropriate pre-season training.  If you do get injured, most injuries can be treated successfully with conservative care.  Our team of movement experts are available for in depth pre-season movement assessments and to provide the individualized care you need to keep you moving on the slopes this season.

What does the research tell us when it comes to preventing these injuries?  The simple answer is poor movement mechanics which places higher forces on the anatomical structures of the knee.  However, with appropriate training, your muscles can be trained to allow you to ski or snowboard with minimal risk of injury.

The number one thing you should be focusing your training on as you prepare your body for the ski season is to increase the volume of your training. Progressively load your leg muscles for strength, stability, power and most importantly endurance.  The research shows the majority of injuries happen when muscle fatigue takes place.  Particularly important is the gluteal muscle group, quadriceps and hamstring muscles.  These muscles are important to stabilize the knee and your exercises should simulate the demands that will be placed on your body while going down the slopes.

The following guidelines can be used as general principles for specific training domains to focus on.

Strength: increase weight to 8-12 reps x 3-5 sets till fatigue

Power: medium to light weight and work on quickness and speed with standing back up, reps can range from 5-8 x 2-3 sets

Endurance: increase reps by count or time until fatigue x 2-3 sets

The 3 exercises below are excellent ways to begin prepping your body for the upcoming ski season!

Deadlift (Romanian or hex-bar)

Holding a weight engage your core, keep the knees bent slightly, keep your back straight and hinge at the hips leaning forward (as far as you can without rounding your lower back) lowering the weight towards the floor keeping it at close to your body as possible. Fire your hamstrings (back of thigh) then glutes (butt muscles) and return to a standing position pushing your hips forward.

Tempo squats with weight

Holding weight at chest level engage your core and lower to the bottom of a squat then begin to stand up about halfway (should be in the middle of your squat) then descend to bottom again. Begin to vary speed of up and down and height of up and down you move through in your squat. Your goal should be able to perform exercise for 30-60 seconds (should be similar to a ski run) until fatigue.

Single leg eccentric squat and jump

Standing on one leg, engage core and slowly sit down to a chair (count of 3 seconds) then explode out of chair as fast as possible jumping on the same leg with a soft controlled landing.  That is 1 repetition. The goal should be 5 reps x 2 sets for this exercise.

References

Stenroos A, Handolin L. Incidence of Recreational Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries: Six Years Experience in the Largest Ski Resort in Finland. Scand J Surg. 2015;104(2):127-31.

Hébert-losier K, Holmberg HC. What are the exercise-based injury prevention recommendations for recreational alpine skiing and snowboarding? A systematic review. Sports Med. 2013;43(5):355-66.

Nessler T, Denney L, Sampley J. ACL Injury Prevention: What Does Research Tell Us?. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2017