Skiing and snowboarding can be a mixed bag: one minute you’re flying down the slopes, then next you have a crashed and you have mouth full of snow. If you’re lucky, you haven’t sustained an injury, a twisted knee, a sprained wrist or worse – a broken bone.
There are some things you can’t control on the slopes – other skiers, the weather, the visibility – but there are measures you can take to make sure you have the strength in your legs to maximise the fun factor and hopefully prevent any falls.
Your ability, skill and experience play the biggest role in how well you ski or snowboard and how many falls and injuries are actually prevented, but the better your balance is, and the stronger your legs are, the safer you will be and the more efficient you will ski.
There are three major muscle groups that should be trained to give you maximum benefits on the slopes.
The first is the quadriceps. This group of muscles are at the front of the thighs, and join on to the knees. They help to straighten the knee, but are also the main muscles that help you to hold a squat position.
These muscles are incredibly important in maximising your ability to withstand the G-forces you create when skiing. As you carve down the slope, or turn around a bend, you will feel some resistance coming up from the ground, your boots and skis/board. The stronger your quadricep muscles are, the more speed you will be able to withstand.
The second muscle group is the gluteals, otherwise known as the buttocks. These play the second biggest role in skiing, but probably the biggest in stabilising the legs and helping you to balance. The buttocks are a group of several muscles, the two major ones being the gluteus maximus (the larger of the group) and the gluteus medius (at the side of the hip joint). However, there are many other smaller important muscles involved in stabilising the legs and body as well, and they all need to be worked to achieve the best results, for such active and dynamic sports such as skiing.
The problem is that most of us have lazy buttocks, as most of the time they are being sat upon and not used! Believe it or not, you can go for a run without actually using your buttock muscles much at all, with many of us compensating by using our thigh and calf muscles instead. Even with exercises such as lunges and squats, while great for the gluteus maximus muscle, forget the smaller muscles around the sides of the hips.
Without a doubt, the most effective, targeted way to tone your buttocks is by doing some simple Pilates buttock exercises.
The third muscle group that will help to improve your skiing is your abdominals. The abdominal muscles help you to balance and also prevent back pain. This is important for both a happy and healthy ski holiday. It’s important to train all of the abdominal muscles to increase your ‘core stability’.
The abdominals are made up of different layers of muscles, with the most important being the Transversus Abdominus. This muscle is often the hardest to activate, and the most often neglected when training the abs. To engage the Transversus Abdominus, imagine a horizontal line connecting the hip bones on the surface of the stomach and focus on drawing that imaginary line down towards the spine and drawing the hip bones together.
If you visit a Studio Pilates studio, your instructor will be able to help you to activate this muscle and increase your awareness of it. Your local physiotherapist should also be able to help. Pilates will help you to train the abdominals, and especially the Transversus Abdominus to increase your core stability, minimise back pain and increase your balance.
It pays to prepare
It’s important to start a focused exercise and strengthening routine at least twelve weeks before hitting the slopes. Your body will take time to change and gain strength and adapt to the training you are doing. You should try to exercise most days in this period, but be mindful to rest when you need it.
Combine Pilates with running for leg endurance and cardio fitness. Try to do some rebounding or jumping exercises to get you joints ready for any impact from rough terrain or the many bumps and moguls that appear in the snow by the end of the day.
You’ll get a challenging total body workout at Studio Pilates International, using the reformer machines for added resistance – and faster results! Find a location near you at studiopilates.com