Sometimes the subtle burn in your quads becomes too much. As you carefully weave between each marker on the steep slope, your focus shifts to your suddenly fatigued legs. It’s as if someone has surreptitiously attached 20-pound weights to each of your thighs during your brief stint down the mountain. How can you possibly concentrate on beating your best time when your legs feel like they are going to give out at any moment?! This is one of the great challenges of alpine skiing: it takes a tremendous amount of lower body strength. Sure, you can make your way down the mountain by swishing your skis back and forth and exerting minimal effort. However, when you are competing in an alpine race that is not the case. Maneuvering your way through the gates at top speed takes the utmost strength. Specifically, your quads, hamstrings, and glutes are being worked. While a variety of other muscles are being stressed as well, these three are the primary muscle groups that should receive the most attention. In addition to rolling out (blog post on December 11th, 2016) and stretching, these muscles should receive proper strength training. Performing strengthening exercises off of the ski slope should hopefully result in improved endurance and performance on the course. Consequentially, results should improve as well.
Additionally, strengthening your muscles helps protect against injury. Due to its fast pace, consistent change of direction, and high impact, alpine skiing puts a lot of strain on the knee. A torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is a very common alpine skiing injury. Many world-class skiers like Lindsey Vonn, Erik Guay, and Alexandra Pretorius are afflicted by this injury. It is a serious injury and has a long recovery period, so anything that lowers your chances of tearing your ACL is helpful. Lower-body strengthening exercises are one strategy for helping prevent these type of knee injuries. When the muscles surrounding your knee are strong, the stability of your lower body increases. Stability is a GOOD thing when it comes to knees. That means that with sudden changes of direction or impact, your knees are suited to respond. Therefore, below is a short circuit of lower body exercises that should work the primary muscle groups involved in alpine skiing. Engaging in this circuit 2-3 times a week should benefit your performance along with the health of your knees.
- Glute/Hamstring bridge (1 minute) (See image below)
- Lying on your back, plant your feet hip-width apart and raise your hips. While squeezing your glutes, hold this hip bridge.
- Glute/Hamstring raises (x15)
- While in your hip bridge, lower and raise your hips at a steady rate.
- Wall-sits (30 seconds)
- Against a solid wall, position yourself as if you are sitting in a chair. With your legs at a 90-degree angle, hold this position.
- Air squats (x15) (See video below)
- Make sure that knees do not go in front of toes.
- Squat jumps (x10)
- From a squatting position, jump vertically as high as possible. Try to have a “soft landing” where you are not pounding your feet into the ground.
**Repeat this circuit 1-3 times, depending on what is best for the individual athlete**