Here is the first in our series of four basic exercises to improve your strength and get you ready for hitting the slopes. These four exercises target primary leg muscles used in skiing and snow boarding: your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and hip abductors. There is always a conscious effort to choose exercises that could be easily performed in the home with minimal equipment. As always before you start any type of exercise program, make sure you’re healthy enough to start it safely and if you have any questions, concerns, doubts or any medical conditions you think you should get looked at, check with your MD first.
Step downs: The first exercise is the step down. It is an excellent exercise for the slopes in that it effectively targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and hip abductors in one exercise.
The Set Up: Find a step or flight of stairs in your home, preferably with a railing or other object for you to hold onto. If it is a staircase, step up onto the first step then turn around as if you are heading down the stairs, placing feet shoulder width apart. Place one hand on the handrail and the other on the wall or any other available support.
The Exercise: Take your left leg and extend it out past the step as if you were about to descend the last step. With your right leg, you are going to slowly bend your knee to lower your body down. In so doing, your left heel will come closer to the floor. Continue to lower your body down until your left heel touches the ground. Do not transfer any weight into your left heel, but just allow it to hit the ground. Then slowly raise your body back up to the start position by extending both your knee and hip. That is one rep.
Perform 10 times with your left leg extended followed by 10 times with your right leg extended to make one set. Try to perform three sets of 10 reps on each leg.
The Cues: Some things to watch out for:
1) You must maintain a straight line from your hip to your knee to your foot. Do not allow your knees to go in towards each other, or your hip to stick out to the side.
2) Bend at your knee. This will ensure that your leg will stay in alignment, maintaining that hip-knee-foot line.
3) Stand tall. Do not bend at your waist in an attempt to get lower but stay tall as if you were in your skis.
4) Do not point your toes out. Keep your toes pointing straight in good posture.
The Mods: Some modifications you can use to reduce/progress the exercise.
1) Change the depth. If this exercise is challenging in the beginning a quick modification would be to not lower your foot to the ground but to stop at a depth that makes you feel like you’re working but not so low that you feel pain. In the beginning it may be useful to put an old school phone book (if you still own one) or a similarly large book on the floor to decrease the depth but still provide a target to obtain. As you get stronger, lower the size of the book.
2) In the beginning use both hands for support but as the exercise gets easier you can always progress to using only one hand, and then down the line attempting the exercise without holding on to further improve your balance and stability.
The Issues: There are a variety of issues that people can experience with this exercise but a few of the more common are: Weakness in the hips can contribute to the knees pointing in and creating more pain on the inside of the knee.
Weak hip muscles will also allow the hip to shoot out to the side.
Weak quadriceps can increase pain and pressure along the knee cap into the patella tendon just below the knee.
Decreased mobility in the ankles can lead all 3 of the aforementioned issues.
If you are having difficulty figuring this exercise out or are experiencing pain that you would describe as being more than just out of shape give us a call and we can give you a free screening to see if there are some underlying muscle imbalances that may be contributing to your issues.
Check back next week for our next blog post in our new Getting Ready for Skiing and Snowboarding: Exercises and Tips Blog Series!