Enhance your ski performance while avoiding injuries with The Core Program

Skiing is a very popular recreational winter activity.  Participation is quickly growing, and with that, ski-related injuries are also increasing.  Skiing requires sustained contractions of large muscle groups, which can quickly fatigue.  That's why it's important to properly condition yourself before you head out on the slopes.  The main muscle groups to focus on are: the quadriceps (muscles in the front of your thighs), gluteal muscles (muscles in your buttocks), and the muscles of your core (muscles that stabilize your spine). The Core Program and a few additional exercises will help you strengthen the correct muscle groups, as well as improve your ski technique and stamina.  Here are four exercises to get you started.

Squats will give you the strength you need to sustain an efficient ski posture; i.e. keeping your weight forward, skis parallel, and hips, knees and ankles bent as you're skiing down the slope. 

Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and your abdominals pulled up and in.  Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat, hips back, chest up, and knees tracking over your second toes. Lower until your thighs are close to parallel with the floor and hold for 10-12 seconds, focusing on your core muscles. As you straighten, tighten your glutes and lengthen your back.  Repeat 15-20 times. To challenge yourself more, hold the squat until you fatigue, or perform power squats (adding a jump into the squat), repeating until the muscles fatigue.  

Single leg squats are just like the regular squats, except you are standing on one leg which requires good balance and engagement of your core.  

Stand on one leg and rest one hand lightly on a solid structure (a counter or piece of heavy furniture), using the hand support for balance at first then eliminating it once you're able to maintain your balance. Keeping your pelvis level (abdominals pulled in will help with this), your standing foot flat on the floor, and the standing knee tracking over second toe, bend your standing knee slowly while tightening your core. Perform 2 sets of 10 on each foot.

Lateral squats 

Start out standing with feet together. Take a large step out to the side and drop into a squat, while making sure that your pelvis stays level and your knees are in line with your second toes.  Squat down until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground then return to the starting position.  Alternate sides for each rep. Do 3 sets of 16 reps.

Push-ups with emphasis on the core

Place your fists or palms shoulder width apart, and extend legs straight out behind you.  Tighten your abdominals, lengthen the back of your neck and tuck your chin in.  Bend your elbows and bring your chest towards the floor keeping your spine straight.  Make sure to not arch or round your back. Be sure to tighten your abdominals and squeeze your buttocks to engage the core.  Do as many as you can while keeping the proper form. If your abdominal muscles fatigue, stop the exercise before your low back starts to sag. Do 2 sets of 15 reps to start, and work your way up to 3 sets.

If you experience pain with any of the exercises, perform in a more comfortable range and if pain continues, stop the exercise and consult a physical therapist.

Happy and safe skiing!