Skiing requires strength and agility in your lower body. By strengthening your legs and knees before ski season begins, you will build stamina on the course and reduce your risk of knee injury, one of the most common lower body injuries in skiing. The Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, or NISMAT, recommends beginning your ski-specific exercise program at least three weeks before your first run.
The wall sit, an isometric strengthening exercise, works your quads as you resist the force of your body weight. The motion simulates the forces on your body during parts of ski turns, says John McBride, coach of American Olympic skier Bode Miller. Stand with your back flat against a wall with your feet several inches in front of your body. Bend your hips and knees and slide your upper body down the wall until your knees are bent 90 degrees and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your lower leg should be perpendicular to floor with your knee aligned over your ankle. Hold the position for 30 seconds and increase the hold time by five seconds with each session.
Single-leg squats allow you to focus on individual leg strength, while building up strength in your knees to prevent knee blowout on the slopes. Grab your ski poles to provide balance for the motion and start with your weight on your left foot. Bend your left hip and knee, lower your body into a squat until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and extend your right leg out in front of you. Push down through your left foot to return to the starting position. Repeat several times, and switch legs. At the bottom of the squat, keep your knee from extending forward of your toes.
Walking downhill lengthens the quadriceps muscles in what's called eccentric loading. Eccentric loading occurs on the slope during downhill skiing when you lean back into a squatting position, says McBride. Load up a backpack with 20 to 30 pounds of weight, and head out for a downhill hike. You'll work your lower body while getting in some aerobic exercise at the same time. Start with a weekly 15-minute hike and work your way up to 30-minutes.
Partner Hamstring Curls
To strengthen your hamstrings along the back of your upper legs, perform some hamstring curls with a partner, suggests NIMSAT. Kneel on the floor with a cushion under your knees. Have a partner hold your feet as you bend at the waist, lowering your torso forward toward the floor. Hold for five seconds, and return to the upright position. Repeat ten times. If you don't have a partner to hold your feet, strap on some ankle weights. Lie face-down on the floor with your arms at your sides and your legs extended behind you. Pull your toes in toward your shins, and curl your heels toward your glutes.