If you love to ski like me, you have probably been eyeing up the snow on the north shore mountains with all this rain we’ve been getting, or maybe even dreaming of powder days to come – cue picture below (1). Ski season is here, and that means that you should be preparing your body with a conditioning program. Prehabilitation (or prehab) can be prescribed in the form of an exercise program and is essentially designed to prevent injuries. Alpine skiing is a very physically demanding activity that exposes you to large forces and poses significant risk of injury, which is why I definitely recommend starting some sort of prehab program before skiing, regardless of your skiing ability or your age. If downhill skiing is not your thing, this blog could be helpful to get ideas to prepare for other snowsports (i.e. snowboarding, cross country skiing) or maybe even for your fitness related New Year’s resolutions!
There is extensive evidence supporting injury prevention exercise programs for various sports. Research specific to alpine skiing suggests that increasing muscular strength may actually help to splint the joints during ski falls, while increasing flexibility, agility and balance may reduce injury incidence and severity (2). In recent years due to changes in ski equipment, knee injuries, namely medial collateral ligament (MCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains have become the most common alpine ski injury (2). In fact, knee sprain injuries account for approximately 30% of all adult ski injuries (2). This is why my prehab guide puts a specific emphasis on generalized conditioning of the lower body, as per recommended by researchers (3). The key elements in my program can be categorized into the following areas: general lower body strengthening, core strengthening, hamstring strengthening, neuromuscular control/balance, and plyometrics/power. I tried to include exercises that require little to no equipment and can be done at home. It is also important to mention that including cardio exercise is also important for overall fitness and endurance. It is also very key that you always start your workout with a warm-up that includes light cardio, range of motion exercises and dynamic stretching of the muscles you’ll be working. Your workout should end it with a cooldown that includes static stretching of the muscles you worked and exercises that progressively slow down in intensity. Now let’s get into it!
Disclaimer *Please note that the below exercises are only samples of possible prehab exercises and are intended for fit and experienced individuals. If you are unfamiliar with the exercises, it’s advised to contact a practicing kinesiologist to ensure they are done correctly and progressed appropriately*
1. General Lower Body Strengthening
Bulgarian Split Squats
- Stand in with back foot up on a step/box. Standing up straight, lower back knee to ground into a lunge without leaning forwards. Straighten back up to starting position and repeat. To progress this exercise hold weights in each hand.
2. Hamstring Strengthening
Hamstring Walkouts with Foam Roller
- Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the foam roller. Activate your abdominals, squeeze your glutes together and lift your pelvis towards the sky into a bridge position. Walk your feet out until knees are almost straight, then walk them back in and repeat.
3. Core Strengthening
Sausage Roll Planks
- Begin in plank position with your weight on your forearms and toes. Make sure that your back is straight and abdominals are engaged and hold this position. Roll onto your side and hold this side plank position. Then, roll back to your front and hold the plank position. Roll onto your other side and plank.
4. Neuromuscular Control/Balance
- Stand on 1 leg with a slight bend in the knee. Reach your other foot back and right at an angle as far as you can while maintaining control, then bring it back to the starting position. Reach the same foot back and left at an angle as far as you can without losing control, then bring it back to the starting position. Make sure that you are keeping your weight bearing foot stable in one spot. You can progress this exercise by reaching and touching your fingers on the ground with one hand on the same side as the working foot.
- Stand on one foot and keep both legs straight. Keep your back straight, and hinge at the hips and extend the raised leg backwards. As your trunk bends forward, reach out with straightened arms towards weight bearing foot. Keep your back straight, use your hamstrings and your glutes to hinge at your hips and bring yourself back up to starting position. You can progress this exercise by putting weights in each hand
- Stand in front of a step or box. Bent your knees and get into a squat position. From this position, spring up as high as you can and land on the box with soft knees and settle into the same squat position. Step down from the box and repeat.
Single Leg Lateral Hops
- Start on 1 leg with hip and knee aligned. Bound laterally as far as you can while maintaining control and land on the other leg. Make sure that you are landing softly with knee bent and repeat alternating sides.
Markewitz, S. (2018). Angel Collinson skiing in powder at Alta. [image] Available at: https://www.powder.com/angel-collinson-profile/ [Accessed 29 Dec. 2018].
Koehle, M. S., Lloyd-Smith, R., & Taunton, J. E. (2002). Alpine ski injuries and their prevention. Sports Medicine, 32(12), 785-793.
Hébert-Losier, K., & Holmberg, H. C. (2013). What are the exercise-based injury prevention recommendations for recreational alpine skiing and snowboarding?. Sports medicine, 43(5), 355-366.