May 8, 2023

stretch or strengthen muscles

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.

Active 

Done voluntary by muscles without outside support of any kind

Passive

Assisted move by another muscle group or therapist

Resisted 

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.    

Strength Steps

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  

Building Strength 

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.  

Ski Strong

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

elastic healthy muscle recoil

Healthy elastic muscle


Healthy muscle 

vs 

Elongated + inhibited

weak muscle prone to injury

Elongated muscle with no elastic recoil, prone to injury and often inhibited

Static Stretching

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. 

Ballistic Stretching

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. 

Dynamic Stretching

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.

Click to play

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

hamstring strength exercise

The Extreme Hamstring Curl


Thanks Adrian for starting us off with the Nordic Hamstring Curl. Check out the blog post diving into how that relates to us as skiers here: The Extreme Hamstring Curl

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...

 

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About the author 

Jessi Morris

Ski bum by day, Athletic Therapist by night, life is better in the mountains, that's why I hardly ever leave. I live full time in Bear Lodge on Mount Washington where I have my own clinic set up for injury prevention, injury management, and skier specific strength. I ski because I love it. Refining technique keeps me on my toes. Plus, it allows me to nerd out on the anatomy, physiology and overall biomechanics of it which is totally my jam! Cheers to new ski buddies and more ski stories! 

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Jani Martinius
Jani Martinius
1 year ago

Great points @Jessi Morris!
It’s not per se one exercise that’s helped me, but I LOVE my gentle morning yoga routine. I either do my own routine or follow along on a video. ☺️

Gord Rant
Gord Rant
1 year ago

Great job Jessi! Very informative!

Lyse Fortin
Lyse Fortin
1 year ago

I like squats to build quads and deadlifts for glutes so that I’m ready for the ski season Both good for core too.. Love that flowing up and down movement while skiing but most of all avoiding burning legs early in the season by being ready.

Lyse
Lyse
1 year ago
Reply to  Jessi Morris

Awesome Jessi! Thanks for reminding me about the timing and the details. The pistol squat is so solid and good!!!!

christian
christian
1 year ago

Great job¡ tell me more about it¡¡ help me to improve my strength¡¡

adrian_hamilton
adrian_hamilton
1 year ago

Great blog Jessi. One of the exercises I find really beneficial to activate the posterior kinetic chain is the Nordic Hamstring Curl. It’s a tough one but has the advantage of having somewhat measurable gains i.e. how far you can go before failure and how slowly you can release the curl.

Matthew Bowes
Matthew Bowes
1 year ago

Revelatory! I learned this, this season from you about moving differently, not just simply static stretching to resolve a mechanical issue in my skiing (and with me in general, lol) that made my quads REALLY mad at me. It kept me in the game all season and has inspired me come in stronger, for next season – I may feel like I am 25, but I have to remind myself that I am not. Our combo routine of quad and hamstring stretches, with active two leg and one leg squats and clamshells really worked to start to build the strength… Read more »

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