The thrill of flying down a snow-covered mountain at speed is what attracts most people to skiing (and snowboarding). But it’s also what makes winter sports so risky.
These sports are also physically demanding and require targeted training to prepare for, something few people do in the lead up to their holiday.
In light of all this, it’s no surprise that injuries are common. In fact, there are around 10,000 people hospitalised each year with winter sports-related breaks and ruptures.
But preparing your body in the weeks before you hit the slopes can help you avoid injuries and falls. It can also improve performance.
More specifically, skiers should do Pilates as this method is designed to strengthen and mobilise the body – exactly what you need for these sports. Plus, each exercise can be easily adapted to meet a person’s sport-specific needs. Read on to find out more.
Skiers Flexibility and mobility
When it comes to the many benefits of Pilates, flexibility and mobility are usually top of the list.
Why would this matter for skiers? Well, a good range of motion at the hip and ankle is essential for the sport. Many fundamental Pilates exercises focus on mobility and flexibility of the lower body, with equipment exercises like footwork and feet in straps on the reformer being two well-known examples.
Pilates mat exercises also improve flexibility and mobility, like the roll down. These exercises are ideal for skiers to learn as they can be used on holiday to stretch out after a day on the slopes.
In skiing and in snowboarding most bending occurs at the knees, ankles and hips. However, that’s not to say that mobility in the upper body and spine isn’t also important – it is. Because a mobile – as well as stable – spine will avoid the stresses and fatigue that often come from hours of skiing.
Having a mobile and flexible body when skiing has another advantage: it can protect you from injury if you do fall. Having a good range of motion will help you cope better if you do end up face down in the snow, or if you twist suddenly to avoid another skier.
Pilates is no match for strength training when it comes to building muscle. But this method it’s unrivalled for strengthening the obliques, abdominals and those all-important deep stabilising muscles.
Having a strong and stable trunk is vital for skiers. When you ski, the trunk needs to stay relatively still while the movement happens in the lower limbs. Unnecessary movement of the trunk uses up more energy making you less efficient. This can mean you end up feeling exhausted before your holiday has even hit the halfway mark!
Pilates exercise are also great for targeting specific areas of the body.
When it comes to skiing, the knees are particularly vulnerable to injury and tears to the knee’s ligaments are common. Pilates exercises, like bridging with a ball between your legs, strengthens the adductors. Strong adductors can help a skier keep their skis directly under their body, which helps to reduce stress on the knees.
Muscles imbalances are common in sport. And skiing is no different; the squat-stance involved in this sport means that it is quad-dominant. But Pilates exercises can help fix this by strengthening the hamstrings to rebalance the body. This helps to protect those vulnerable knee ligaments and reduce the risk of injury.
On top of all that, Pilates also includes a lot of single leg work. This is great for skiers who need to have equally strong and stable legs to manoeuvre both skis evenly.
Plyometric and power lifting exercises are often the go-to for people preparing for their ski trip. But, while these can increase speed on the slopes, poor form often prevents them from being truly effective.
This is where Pilates comes in.
Pilates teaches stability of the pelvis and neutral spine during dynamic exercises. Finding a neutral spine and maintaining it during the skiing motion is important. This is because either sticking your bum out or tucking it under can prevent the muscles at the hips and pelvis from activating.
This is bad news for skiers as the side to side action of the hips during skiing requires strong lateral hip muscles. In particular, the side glutes – muscles which are often neglected – need to be functioning optimally.
Luckily, Pilates moves like side-lying leg series and standing reformer exercises (pictured above) are primed to target these muscles.
Proper alignment of the lower body is also essential for skiers. Knees need to be positioned centrally over feet – without it, skiers won’t be able to carve through the snow. Poor knee alignment will also make snowboarders feel unstable.
Again, Pilates is the perfect choice for skiers looking to work on their form. All the Pilates exercises are designed to improve alignment, and many specifically focus on the relationship between the foot, ankle and hip.
Another plus of working on your alignment and form through Pilates is that doing so will make you a more efficient skier. This means you’ll feel less fatigued during your holiday and help you avoid any tiredness-related ski injuries.
Want to work on your form before your next ski trip? Why not book in with the Complete Pilates team here.
Before participating in any exercise program that may be described and/or made accessible in or through our website, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician or other healthcare provider.
This site offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.