Monday, 9 June 2008

Ski Fitness - Legs

Continuing the theme of getting fit for skiing over the summer season, I want to start with the legs. The main muscles used in skiing are the quads at the front of the thighs, and the hamstrings at the back. Most people would probably guess that the quads are more important, but in fact if you are correctly balanced the hamstrings will take a large part of the load. If your quads feel seriously tired when skiing you are probably sitting two far back - I will return to this point in the future, but for now I want to concentrate on physical rather than technical training.

Strength and endurance are both important, and the balance depends on the type of skiing you want to do. If you want to ski well all day you will need more endurance, whereas racers or competitive bump skiers for example will obviously need more strength and power over a shorter period of time.

Running, cycling, swimming etc. will all improve general aerobic fitness and endurance, and some form of aerobic training should be included in pretty much any programme. For recreational skiers, a good general level of aeorobic fitness and an efficient skiing technique are all you need to be able to cruise the slopes all day without feeling too tired at the end of the day.

Competitive skiers, and those looking for a higher level of performance will need to look at strength training, i.e. using weights. The leg press machine is a start, but squats are a lot better and work the core muscles as well. Whether using free weights or machines it is important to exercise the hamstrings as well as the quads.

To improve your ability to make explosive movements, plyometric exercises can be useful, especially later in the programme.

Finally, most people will benefit from a stretching programme to improve flexibility. This is quite underrated by many skiers, but being flexible can help as much as being stronger. However, avoid doing static stretches before exercise (e.g. as part of a warm up), as it can make you more prone to injury. Do the stretches after the exercise session.

This post is really just an introduction, with a few pointers to what will help with skiing. You need to know what you are doing when embarking on a weights programme, so find a trainer or coach if necessary, or get advice at your local gymn.

I plan to continue the fitness theme over the next few posts, since there is not a lot of skiing to be done at the moment for most of us.

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