Are you fit to ski this snow season?


Let is snow, let is snow, let it snow. Find out how to increase your ski fitness and come out of the season injury-free!


While the temperature is dropping, cars are frosting over and the heaters are getting turned up, skiiers everywhere are rejoicing at the prospect of a good snowfall. It’s estimated that 200 million people worldwide hit the slopes annually. Whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned ski bunny, skiing certainly can take its toll on the body. Read on to discover how you can increase your ski fitness and come out of the season injury-free!


What’s up with skis and knees?


Without doubt, the most common injuries for skiiers involve the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of the knee, closely followed by damage to the medial cruciate ligament (MCL).


There are three well-researched mechanisms which explain why skiier’s knees are so frequently injured:

  • Falling forward and catching the inside of the ski, forcing the knee into a position of rotation
  • Landing from a jump with an extended knee, drawing the tibia (shin) forward on the femur (thigh)
  • Falling backwards and having the downhill ski dig into the snow, creating internal rotation on an already bent knee.


Regardless of how it occurs, it is widely agreed that pre-ski season conditioning (involving strength, flexibility and agility) can reduce injury incidence and severity.


Across all ages, muscle strength is proposed to reduce the strain on the ligaments of the knee during different movements. More specifically for older adults, specifically prescribed exercises can also help to augment bone mineral density and prevent fractures.


Creating strong and long muscles


Majority of the time spent downhill skiing requires eccentric force to be generated by the quadriceps muscles – a specific type of contraction where the muscle is lengthening whilst controlling and creating movement.


The below program is full of ideas to incorporate into your training program before you ski, with a focus on eccentric control, neuromuscular power, balance and flexibility. If you know that you have a pre-existing injury, or would like supervised and specific exercise prescription, make an appointment with an exercise physiologist.


Exercise Description Repetitions Why?  
Warm up of your choice Walking, jogging or cycling 10-15 minutes of continuous movement Gets the blood flowing and adequately prepares your body for exercise  
Plyometric training
Tuck jumps Jump high and bring your knees up towards your chest 3 sets of

3-5 repetitions of each exercise

Plyometric training is an essential component of injury prevention and strength – preparing the body for the variety of forces that can arise in the snow  
Broad jump and hold Jump forward and land in a semi-squat position  
180° jumps Jump and twist mid-air to land facing the opposite way  
Single leg hop and hold Hop forward off one leg and on to the same leg, landing in a single leg semi-squat position  
Ski-specific strength
Gluteus medius activation on the wall Stand next to the wall in a semi-squat position, raising the inside knee and pressing it into the wall (the glutes should activate nicely) 2 x 10 second hold each side Assists with the ‘push out’ phase of skiing and turning  
Swissball hamstring curls Lie flat on back, heels on ball, use glutes to lift hips up and bring heels towards bottom 3 x 10, curl in quickly and return slowly The balance between the quadriceps muscles and the hamstrings are closely linked with preventing ACL injuries  
Barbell Romanian deadlifts Bend your knees slightly, keeping your back straight, then lean forward with a barbell, hinging at the hips. Push your hips forward and return to a standing position Depending on your experience, start with 3 x 5 and gradually increase weight  
Squat hold with bent over tricep rows Assume a deep squat position, lean forwards with elbows behind you and straighten arms (can use dumbbells or Theraband for this) 3 x 10 This mimics the demand on the quadriceps with the added use of the arms in a ‘pushing’ fashion  
Single leg eccentric leg press Select a weight on a leg press machine that you can comfortably push out on 2 legs, and then return with control with only one leg 3 x 10 Eccentric control of the quadriceps muscles will create desirable adaptations to the muscles and tendons required for strength and endurance.  
Medicine ball squat pulses Hold a medicine ball close to your chest and squat down low (use a bench for guidance if needed) – pulse up an inch, then down an inch and feel the burn! 3 x 10  
Medicine ball chest throws Using a wall or a partner, select a medicine ball that you can throw and catch comfortably, but explosively 3 x 10 Strengthening the front of the shoulders is required for control of the poles and assists with shoulder joint stability.  
Medicine ball rotational throws Again, using a wall or a partner, throw the ball rotationally while generating the force from your trunk. 2 x 10 each side The core muscles, especially those used for rotation, can help to control and strengthen downhill ski turns. Exercise caution with this exercise if you have a back injury.  
STRETCH: Hamstrings, hip flexors, calf muscles, chest, lower back and triceps – 30 second sustained holds each side – see your exercise physiologist for specific recovery methods.


Always check with your health professional before commencing an exercise program for the first time. Talk to an accredited exercise professional or take the Exercise Right quiz.


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