For people who ski and snowboard, the approach of winter means it's time to get in shape. It's not just about performance; being in peak physical condition reduces the chance of injury.
As any athlete will tell you, "getting in shape" means something different for each sport. Some requirements are the same across all physical endeavors, like general muscle development and cardiovascular health. But in many ways, what a weight lifter or tennis player or runner does to prepare his or her body is not what a skier does. Heading downhill while practicing significant side-to-side motion and fast shifts in balance puts particular strain on the gluteal muscles (aka "butt"), hamstrings (rear thighs) and quadriceps (front thighs). Hardcore skiers swear by one exercise in particular to work these areas: the ski squat.
A ski squat is pretty simple, not very easy to execute, and works lots of muscle groups in one motion. To perform a ski squat:
- Get in position: Stand against a wall with as much of your back and shoulders contacting it as possible. Your feet should be about 2 feet (60 centimeters) from the wall, roughly shoulder-width apart, in a stance that feels natural to you (for most people, this means toes pointing slightly outward).
- Descend: Slide down the wall a few inches,* keeping your feet and legs in position. Hold for about 20 seconds, and then slide down another few inches and hold. Repeat until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Ascend: Head back up the wall, holding again at each position.*You can also slide down and back up in a slow, fluid motion, without stopping and holding every few inches.
The ski squat is a powerful tool, but it isn't the only great preparation for skiing and boarding. General core, hip and leg strength are all crucial focus areas. Lunges, one-leg squats and balance exercises can further contribute to a healthy, impressive ski season.
For more information on ski exercises and related topics, look over the links on the next page.