skier on mountainside

Skiing isn't an easy sport, and it can be tough on the body — especially when you're out of practice. Ski-specific exercises can help you to improve your strength on the slopes, hone your reaction time, and reduce your chance of injury.

The Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma (NISMAT) at Lenox Hill Hospital focuses on understanding how the body adapts to physical stress imposed by exercise. NISMAT suggests that you begin practicing the following exercises at least three weeks before your ski trip (NISMAT, 2007).

These five exercises will help you stretch and strengthen key muscle groups for a more successful ski season. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

Trunk Rotation Stretch

This stretch can be done in the morning before skiing, as well as during your three weeks of pre-conditioning. Lie down on a mat. Bend your left knee, crossing your left leg over your right and locking your left ankle under your right leg. Be sure that your left knee stays in contact with the floor.

Hold your left knee down with your right hand, and extend your left arm across to the left diagonally. Hold the pose for 45 seconds, and then repeat in the opposite direction.

Modification: For a modified version of this stretch, you can sit on the floor or a table. Keep your left leg straight and bend your right leg with your left foot crossed over your left leg.

Lock your left elbow across outside of your right knee. Rotate to the right, and then hold the stretch for 45 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Calf Stretch

This exercise stretches the soleus muscle of your calves. From a standing position, place your hands against a wall and step forward with your right foot. Place your left calf back with your left knee slightly bent. (This is the calf you're stretching.)

Keep your left heel in contact with floor, and lean forward with your hips. Hold the pose for 45 seconds, and switch legs to stretch the right calf.

Wall-Sit Strengthening

This is an isometric exercise to strengthen your quadriceps. With your back facing a wall, bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, and place your back flat against the wall. Keep your lower legs perpendicular to the floor. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, and then repeat for three sets, resting for 30 seconds between each set.

As you continue to practice this exercise during the three weeks prior to your ski trip, you can progress in difficulty by increasing the hold of your stretch five seconds per session. Another way to increase difficulty is to hold your knees at a 45 degree angle.

Be sure to keep your back flat against the wall and your lower legs perpendicular to the floor. If you're doing the exercise correctly, you should feel a stretch in your quad muscles, but no pain in your knees.

Hamstring Strengthening

The hamstrings are an important muscle to help stabilize your knees for skiing. For this exercise, you need either
a partner to help spot you, or an immovable object under which you can firmly lock your heels.

Place a thin, soft cushion under your knees on the floor, heels locked. Kneel on the cushion and have your partner hold your feet in place. Lean forward slightly to a count of five, and then return to an upright position.

Repeat 10 times. This exercise can be strenuous, so minimize your forward lean the first few times you perform it.

Trunk Rotation Strengthening

This strengthener is essentially a continuous cycling motion. Lie down on your back on a mat on the floor. Begin with your right leg bent and your left leg straight, leaving approximately 12 inches between the floor and your left foot.

Place your hands behind your head with your hands loosely touching your ears. By keeping your hands loose, you'll prevent yourself from pulling your head and neck too far forward. Reach for your right knee with your left elbow, exhaling as you do so. Don't let your your upper back touch the floor.

Repeat the exercise for the opposite side of your body. Try for 20 repetitions to start, and increase the number of reps over time. Breathe rhythmically as you perform this exercise, exhaling with each cross-over.