Ankle Strength and Stability for the Skier
by Alison Edwards, DPT
With this year’s ski season having come to an unexpected end, how could getting back on the slopes next winter not be on your mind?! Because most of us are weekend warriors or only hitting the ski resort a couple times per year, training specific muscles and movements can significantly improve your skiing technique and reduce the likelihood of injury once you do get back out on the mountain. The most common injuries in skiing occur to the knee, and we often think about strengthening the core, glutes and quads... but what about the foot and ankle?
The foot and ankle are often overlooked in a skier’s training program because these joints are surrounded by stiff, hard plastic and immobilized in a tight binding. In reality, the ankle has the most precise control over you and your ski! Add these exercises to your routine to improve stance and alignment, control speed, manipulate turn shape/size and increase the endurance of your calf muscles before getting on the mountain next season.
Seated Ankle Dorsiflexion w/ Kettlebell Resistance (3 sets x 10-15 reps each side)
Ankle dorsiflexion brings your shin to the front of your ski boot, drives your knees and hips forward and aligns your center of gravity over your feet. Without this, you can get caught “in the backseat” with your hips behind your ankles, which is a position often associated with ACL injury. In order to drive forward into the front of your boot, you need strong ankle dorsiflexors.
Knee and Ankle Banded "Edging" (3 sets x 45-60 sec) Ankle inversion/eversion stability impacts your speed by controlling your ski as it tips on edge during a carved turn. Stability of your foot and ankle in the frontal plane also contributes to proper knee alignment and can prevent increased stress on the MCL during a turn. For this exercise, make sure that your shins stay parallel to each other - don’t let your ankle and/or knee roll inward.
Isometric Lunge Hold w/ Front Foot Calf Raise (3 sets x 60 sec each side)
Isometric Heel Lift Hold w/ Weight Shift to Single Leg Stance (3 sets x 10-15 reps each side)
Ankle plantarflexion strength and endurance are required to control the shape and size of your turns, especially when skiing in steep off-piste and variable terrain. In skiing, the muscles of your calf are typically utilized while your knee is bent, so make sure you train them this way. Go slowly to target endurance and control in these positions, and embrace the shake!
If you experience pain performing any of these exercises, have questions or want to expand your program, please reach out for an appointment with a physical therapist.