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Improve ski technique and prevent knee pain

Please read ‘how to prevent pain when skiing‘ before reading the following.

Apart from traumatic injuries resulting from a fall, the most common pain skiers report is pain at the front of the knee. The most common cause of pain at the front of the knee is patella-femoral joint dysfunction and quads tendon pain. Please go to the knee section to learn more about these conditions.

By training your knees to bend into the correct alignment you can not only reduce your risk of experiencing this pain but also make significant improvements in your ski technique and performance.

a) Assess and correct your own skiing alignment What is correct alignment? Stand in front of the mirror with your feet parallel and about hip width apart – in a skiing position. Bend your knees. Imagine there is a dot in the centre of your knee cap and drop an imaginary plumb line down to the floor. The plumb line should land between your 2nd or 3rd toe.

Almost everyone will have one or both knees dropping in, even professional skiers, and you may not realize it until you do this simple exercise. Poor alignment results in an imbalance in the forces going through the knee causing inflammation and pain around the knee cap and quadriceps tendons.

How to correct it:

Practice bending and straightening your knees with the corrected alignment first in front of the mirror and then without it. You need to do at least 30 gentle reps 3-4 times a day to retrain the movement pattern so that eventually it becomes your subconscious normal.

There is more information and demonstrations of how to do this in more detail in Lucy’s Bodytech Ski DVD, but if you really want to improve then it is worth booking in for a one to one Ski Assessment with her.

Click here to see another clip of the Bodytech Ski DVD and on the following link to buy it from the Ski Club of Great Britain website.

b) Strengthen your quads muscles before you go skiing. Most people know that strengthening quads is important but it is often eccentric quads strength that is neglected which is a vital component of skiing. This is the quads’ ability to slowly release the knee into a more bent flexed position. The way to work the quads eccentrically is to stand on the end of a step and do single leg knee bends off the step with your legs in the correct ski alignment above. Make sure your hips stay level and your knee drops over the centre of your foot, NOT inwards. Vertical split squats with the weight on the back leg are also excellent if performed correctly. Both can be progressed with weights in various forms and with increasing speed – do not increase speed or resistance until perfect alignment is achieved with ease.

Other ways of strengthening quads include cycling or spinning, squats and lunges, however it is important to make sure you train the quads with the hips and knees in a ski position so that you are working the right part of the muscles.The gluts are fundamental to a good ski technique, as they enable you to hold your hips and pelvis over the centre of the skis, therefore putting your skis in 4 wheel drive instead of the common fault of hanging Once you have mastered the correct alignment you can also introduce jumping up and down steps. Make sure you do them under the guidance of a personal trainer, your Physiotherapist or Osteopath to avoid injury.

c) Don’t ski with your hips bent too much. The majority of skiers sit down too much when they ski and this makes it a lot harder for the quads to work efficiently and puts excessive strain through the patella-femoral joint and tendons.To prevent this it helps to train your gluts – deep squats are an excellent way to do this.However, it is also useful to simply practice the movement by standing side on in the mirror and bending your knees so that the weight moves into the front of the feet, not straight down and certainly not backwards! Make sure you do not look like you are about to sit down! You need to do at least 30 knee bends using the corrected knee/hip movement 3-4 times a day to retrain the movement pattern so that it becomes your subconscious normal.

There is more information and demonstrations of how to do this in more detail in Lucy’s Bodytech Ski DVD, but if you really want to improve then it is worth booking in for a one to one Ski Assessment with her. Click here to see a clip of the DVD and click on the link below to buy it from the Ski Club of Great Britain website: https://www.skiclub.co.uk/skiclub/eskishop/item.aspx?itemID=150d)

Keep your knees warm while you are skiing with the right clothing (thermals, underlayers) and make sure you warm up at the beginning of the day, and every time you stop long enough to cool down, for example whilst you enjoy a nice long lunch on the side of the mountain.

e) Sustained static stretching of the quads, gluts, calfs, low back and hamstrings after skiing while the muscles are still warm, may help recovery. Do not do these before skiing because static stretching slows down the muscles ability to respond and therefore increases injury risk and inhibits performance. Please click here to learn more about stretching exercises.

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