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How Do Skier’s Stay Healthy?

Skiers injury prevention MODEL At Performance EDU Fitness  

Every skier that walks through the doors of PerformancEDU are asked two simple questions: Do you Ski with Purpose?  Do you Train with Purpose? These two questions really allow our staff to dive into the training background of the skier. But more importantly, it gives us the opportunity to open up a whole new training idea to them, our skier’s injury prevention MODEL.

Why do we assess skiers?

Skiers deserve to take care of their bodies! I say this because… probably are agreeing with me right now. Most of you reading this article ski pretty much every day and a lot are ski instructors, coaches etc.  But here are the real questions…. Have your lower back or hips ever been tight?  Have your IT band or Piriformis ever felt bound up?  Have your calves ever been sore?  Have you ever felt limited rotation in your spine? Have your feet ever cramped? If you answered yes to one of these questions, then having an assessment makes more and more sense.  So you ask, why do we assess our skiers? The assessment is to make sure we correct the deficiencies in the skier’s body to reduce pain, prevent injury, and improve performance on the ski hill.  One of the biggest limitations we will see with our skiers is poor ankle mobility, which transitions into lack of hip mobility and stability.  These poor mobility and stability patterns will show up in their overhead squat, in line lunge and hurdle step (listed below) during the screen.  We will dive into the relations of mobility and stability later in the article.  How do we assess our skiers? We utilize a  series of movement tests called a Functional Movement Screen that covers:

  • Overhead Squat
  • In Line Lunge
  • Hurdle Step
  • Rotary Stability/Push up

What does the FMS show us?

  • if there are any asymmetries during any of the movements performed
  • if there is any pain throughout the movement
  • if there is and breakdown or loss of balance during the movement

How do skiers find position (mobility)?

It is important to understand that our body can either work with itself or against itself. When there are movement restrictions, the antagonist, or opposing muscles are forced to work harder to compensate. This ends up creating alignment issues, strength imbalances, and poor neural programming. You cannot correctly strengthen a body, especially the weak stabilizer muscles, if there are mobility restrictions. Common mobility challenges in skiers exist at the ankle, Hip flexor/quad/knee complex, glute/IT complex, and thoracic, or upper spine. At PerformancEDU, we follow a basic protocol. First we mobilize the myofascial system, and then restore the length to the tight tissue. In simple terms, we release muscle adhesions and stretch the tissues. Improved ankle mobility will prevent injury to the foot and achilles tendon, as well as putting less stress on the knees, hips, and back. Improved mobility of the Hip flexor/quad/knee complex will help prevent injuries to the knees and back. Improved mobility of the glute/IT complex will help prevent injury to the knees, and back. Improved Thoracic Spine mobility will help prevent injuries from the shoulder, spine, hip, knee and ankle. Having restored mobility and length to tight tissues allows us to efficiently strengthen and balance the muscular system. It also allows us to ingrain proper neural patterns to help with, not only strength, but also proper technique on and off the hill.

How do skiers hold position (stability)?

After proper tissue length has been restored, we can create a phasic strength program to correct misalignment and movement efficiency. One of the biggest challenges to a skier with poor alignment is a change in their center of gravity. Being able to move efficiently down the hill requires quick, balanced turns. Poor alignment alters your center of gravity and will devastate your clean lines. Poor alignment will also regress the new mobility that we have worked to improve. Stability training is about reinforcing and maintaining good postural alignment, good joint balance and strength, and proper proprioception, or balance. Holding position, or stability, involves low loads and higher time under tension. A joint, or area that generates power, must first be able to properly hold a position. Too much load on a joint with poor stability is a recipe for injury. At PerformancEDU, we use our assessment to see where these stability deficiencies lie and correct those before any high loads are added. If you really think about how long you spend on skis throughout a day, weekend, or ski week, you realize that being strong and explosive can only exist if you’re able to hold a good position over a long period of time. Injury prevention and performance for our skiers relies on having stability at the shoulder, back, hips, knees and feet. By utilizing a series of stability exercises, we can strengthen the stabilizer systems through functional patterns.  With hard work and consistency, these efforts will result in improved,  safer movement on the hill. The take away here is that base level stability work will not only build the foundation for skier performance, but also minimize potential injury.

Can skiers hold position with movement and load (strength)?

A well-designed strength phase is the cornerstone of sports performance. After proper stability has been established, we have to build the strength in the Phasic or fast twitch muscles. These are the drivers. These are the muscles that push us through the gates, pop us out of the moguls, and explode us out of the pipe. Strength development creates hypertrophy, or muscle growth, as well as strengthening the tendon and ligamentous systems. Power generation not only puts an immense amount of load on the muscles, but also the attachments. Transitioning someone into a specialized power phase too soon will put excessive stress on these areas before they are strong enough to handle it. This can result in a condition as minor as tendonitis or as severe as a full rupture of the muscle or tendon. The strength phase builds the musculotendon system with controlled tempo under increasing loads. As the body adapts to heavier loads, it strengthens not only the muscles, but also the tendinous attachments. At PerformacEDU, we create this phase using movements that not only strengthen muscles, but do it in patterns that closely mimic the muscular recruitment of the sport. Strength is only optimal in the patterns that it is created in. This also continues to reinforce the aforementioned neural patterns that started our injury prevention cycle.  Once we have developed adequate strength under loads, we can begin to increase movement tempo in preparation for our specialized performance phase.

Can skiers hold movement with MAX velocity (power)?

Now is the fun stuff, everything you have been working up to. Let’s be explosive! PerformancEDU loves movement. And we love to move fast. The key is properly building up to this point! OK, we mobilized a better position, we stabilized to hold that position, we strengthened to move under load, so we can safely begin to train with speed. Every sport, including skiing, requires speed. Much of skiing is created by gravity, but the explosive part comes in transition. Transitioning through gates, over jumps, off the lip of the pipe, and cutting through deep powder or moguls are all ways the body requires explosive strength. To develop it properly, you have to closely mimic movement patterns that exist in the sport. I’m not saying that you come in the gym and start jumping around with weights in ski boots, but there are important movements that exist in skiing that can be developed in the gym. Most importantly, we need to look at how the body generates power as a unit. We don’t do speed triceps to create more explosive pole planting. We focus on generating speed through primal patterns. We twist, squat, bend, lunge, push, and pull… all with speed. The biggest key is to integrate these patterns to develop a performance program that addresses the needs of the athlete. That is the science of the PerformancEDU System.

What is your WHY?

Let’s circle back around to the initial questions we ask our skiers when they first come to PerformancEDU: Do you Ski with Purpose?  Do you Train with Purpose?  At PerformancEDU we want to link performance and skiing together. It all starts with the assessment and it all starts with your WHY!  Why do you ski?  Why am I not generating enough speed into my left footer?  Why is it so difficult to get into my hips?  Why is my core so weak?  Your WHY is what will link your skiing and training together, but it all starts with the skier’s injury prevention MODEL.  What is your WH