Actually, a proper strength program is one of the most effective ways to increase healthy range of motion.
Skiing takes specific muscle involvement. In order to add in or swap something out from our technique it is helpful to break it down into small steps with the help of a ski coach to better understand what needs to be stronger or how to activate muscles in a more ski relevant way. Take a look at the Turn Phases and Skier Anatomy 101 to get a better grasp of how we move during skiing. But maybe... There is nothing wrong with your ski technique. Range of motion is exactly what it sounds like. The distance a body part is able to travel in a distinct direction around a fixed point of a joint. Flexibility, refers specifically to soft tissue like muscle and other structure's capability to elongate and condense on cue. The knee and Hip Flexibility in Skiing are extremely important. The reason skiing predisposes us to sprains, strains and tears of the knee is because only a small portion of the full range is being used and the load is not well matched between opposing muscle groups. Balancing muscles can be a bit of a dance, like yoga for skiers, the end goal is to keep skier fit. But have no fear, there are lots of ways to add in short relevant 10-minute ski workout that will go a long way in Preventing ACL Injuries in Skiers. Range of motion can be performed in multiple ways.
Done voluntary by muscles without outside support of any kind
Assisted move by another muscle group or therapist
Active, performed against added force
Forces to Factor
Carpentry, auto mechanics and the human body have far more in common that one may initially think. Composed with structure, support and moving parts, each simply have slightly different materials. As hilarious as it may seem, the Magic School Bus does an excellent job in painting a practical picture of the fundamental concepts. Sit back, relax, and treat yourself to a flash from the past with this episode.
The body is framed by our skeletal system, supported by our ligaments, empowered by our muscles and activated by our arteries and nerves. The strength and shape of our muscles betray the real story of how we use them consistently. Joints function best when the muscle groups involved are paired with equal and opposites. Leaving dominating muscle groups unchecked risks injury to muscles, ligaments and bones. Managing range of motion does not always indicate more stretching is the best solution.
Basic Strength Test
One way to evaluate a muscle for basic levels of strength after an injury or while assessing potential muscle imbalances is on a score basis from 0 to 5:
0 - no muscle contraction
1 - mini muscle contraction in partial range of motion
2 - muscle can contract with partial range of motion with assistance of gravity
3 - muscle can contract most of all relevant range of motion against gravity
4 - muscle can contract full range of motion against gravity and some resistance
5 - full basic strength of specific muscle against gravity and resistance
Reaching a 5 on that specific muscle score test is a great first step. Next, it is important to include functional moves in a strength program and incorporate activities of daily living that target this muscle effectively.
Once the muscle is effectively being recruited in controlled environments like the gym and activities of daily living, now it can be molded into ideal skiing relevant balance, agility and coordination.
Mobility Exercises for Skiing
Elongated + inhibited
Static stretching essentially attempts to elongate the distance between the origin and insertion muscle attachment points. Anchoring one attachment and pulling the other away does temporarily lengthen the muscle. However, once the muscle is released and contracts again, it will revert back to the practice pattern. Similar to skiing, it is better to replace the undesirable habit with a new one than to simply try to remove it. Static stretching does have a place and can be quite helpful when added in with the appropriate activation exercises. One of the most effective ways to rebalance muscle groups is by strengthening the weak muscles.
This is one of those old school methods that is not used very much anymore. Most skiers are better off sticking to static or dynamic stretching. Although at one point this type had better rational it is often performed incorrectly and is counter productive. The ballistic style is essentially a bounce. It was meant to warm up the muscle fibres by doing a quick short version of the range of motion available. Unfortunately what tends to happen as a result instead is the muscle fibres constrict to a shortened state and then the athlete goes out, goes hard and the sequence results in injury. This is not a recommended stretching form.
Essentially active range of motion in a continuous and smooth motion, this type is extremely useful before, after and during skiing. It happens to double as a stage of strength training too.
It's about the WHY...
There are tons of great exercises out there. It's less about which exercise you pick, and more of understanding how and when it fits for the focus you picked it for. Plus putting it into practice in the most beneficial way. Check out “Post” Ski Season Strength + Conditioning for some more ideas on how to create a plan that works best for you.
Your Turn 🙂
Volunteer one exercise that has helped your skiing and link it in the comments. Make sure to mention what your objective for the exercise is. Then we can build a relevant discussion of how the exercise is meeting the objective that you planned it for, and how it could serve you even better. Developing a ski specific injury prevention and fitness strategy can be intimidating. You are not alone! Ski camps are a great way to connect! Join the conversation in the SkierLab Community Weekly Ski Fitness Focus as we dive in every Thursday evening to a practical challenge to focus on for the week and stay tuned to the Skier Injury Prevention forum as we explore ways to stay injury free! Check out this sample workout video: Wild + United Ski Fitness
Still need some motivation to balance out those muscles? Check out some of these epic falls. Having some built in strength sure comes in handy when bouncing back from wipe outs...