I don’t know about you, but it took this first snow to remind me that I was going to start some basic ski exercises 2 months ago.
Keep in mind an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury and surgery could sideline you for 6-9 months. An appropriate conditioning program should last at least 4-6 weeks, but it’s not too late.
First thing to keep in mind is that downhill or alpine skiing is a huge test for the ligaments in the knee. The thigh (quadricep/glut-hamstring) muscles are constantly working to absorb the variable and dynamic forces coming from all directions, particularly in variable snow conditions. During a near fall situation where we attempt to recover awkwardly and end up in the backseat or twist backwards or forwards, our muscles are the first line of defense for restoring stability, but our ligaments are our last line of defense.
The purpose of an ACL specific conditioning program is to foster a neuromuscular response to dynamic loads, so that the muscles can absorb these forces preventing them from landing on the ligaments specifically the ACL. So performing straight or isolated plane exercises like squats are good, but don’t incorporate the dynamic forces or challenges previously mentioned. The idea would be to take a basic body weight squat and add pertubation or instability.
For example, perform body weight squats on an upside down BOSU ball. The other important thing to keep in mind is that often times the quadricep or thigh muscle is the one doing all the work and that’s because by design, the ratio of strength between the quads and the hamstrings (the big muscle behind the thigh) is 100/50, when optimally it should be 100/70.
So how do you strengthen the hamstrings?
Perform bridging or deadlift exercises and to make them more dynamically specific, again add instability. You can perform bridging exercises on a stability ball or single leg dead lifts on a balance cushion.
And don’t forget about your core, if you’re weak in the core, you can’t expect your hip, knee, and ankle to respond how they should. Good exercises for the core are front and side planks as well as the bridges previously mentioned. See below for examples of these exercises.
Remember the intention is to foster a neuromuscular adaptation which is based on frequency and repetition, so the exercise dose should go something like this, 2 sets of 15-20 repetitions every other day. Train with good form, and ideally, that form will translate to the hill when things get dicey.
If you have any questions regarding anything mentioned here or are curious about your current condition, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at greenmtrehab.com.
With that said, we look forward to seeing many of you on the hill and not in the clinic!