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. Even professional downhill alpine skiers do Pilates!
Pilates for skiers can be easily adapted to meet a person’s sport-specific needs. In this article we tell you how Pilates for skiers can help you.
Flexibility and mobility for skiing
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 spine, 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.
You might find that in ski lessons you are being taught to face down the mountain at all times with your upper body. This requires you to dissociate from your lower body whilst you achieve those perfect turns. To allow you to do this you need to be able to rotate at the thoracic spine. Pilates for skiers is ideal for achieving spinal rotation.
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 Pilates for skiers is perfect 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 are ideal 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.
Pilates for skiers has the following benefits;
- Improve mobility and flexibility
- Improve strength
- Improve alignment and posture
- Reduce effects of fatigue
- Reduce the risk of injury
- Improve technique
Do you want to work on your form before your next ski trip? Maybe you are worried about getting injured, or just being really sore? Why not book in with a member of our team!
Education is key:
These blogs are designed to give information to everyone, however, it is important to remember that everyone is different! If you have not seen one of our therapists and have any questions about injuries, what you have read or whether this may be useful to you, please just ask. We are more than happy to help anyone and point you in the right direction. Our biggest belief is that education is key. The more you understand about your injury, illness and movement, the more you are likely to improve.
If you are not sure whether this is for you, simply get in touch
. We are here to help!