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Strong knees for skiing logo.

The Ski season is fast approaching and you should be taking action now to maximise your experience and minimise the risk of injury by getting your knees strong. Injuries to the knee joint account for nearly 50% of all skiing injuries. Research shows the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) of the knee has always been the most common knee injury, as a twist of the knee often leads to a minor MCL sprain. Also while the overall percentage of knee injuries has remained constant over the past 25 years, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of knee ligament ruptures, particularly ruptures of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).

You are only as strong as your weakest link and from experience we have found that the vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) be one of the main culprits for poor knee stability. What’s unique about the VMO is that it is the only one of the four quadriceps muscles to cross the knee, and as such it plays a significant role in knee stability. The VMO is the large tear drop shaped thigh muscle, which lies just above and on the inner side of the kneecap, or patella as shown below:

Muscle diagram.

Below are some key exercises which will improve the stability and strength of the knee joint, this will help you dominate the slopes and improve your recovery time between days.

SPLIT SQUAT

Set Up

Place a platform or regular exercise step in front of you. Take a dumbbell in each hand with your feet spread about hip-width apart. Hold the dumbbells at your sides so your palms are facing each other. Keep your chest up, shoulders back and head level.  Place your front foot on the step. Your entire front foot should make contact with the surface. Your back heel should be off the floor.

Action

Lower your hips, keeping your back as upright as possible and your chest up, allowing your back knee to drop to a point just before it hits the floor. Make sure your front knee travels forward and over your toes throughout the lowering phase. Lower yourself under control until your hamstrings come into full contact with your calves, then raise yourself again. Straighten both legs to return to the start.

STEP UP

Set Up

You can use a step or a box, but make sure that the heel of the working leg is elevated. Take a dumbbell in each hand and assume a standing position with your feet close together. Ensure that the heel of the bottom leg is in line with the toes of the working leg.  Lift the toes of the bottom leg to prevent cheating.

Action:

Perform the exercise by straightening the working leg then lower again under control. Perform all repetitions for one leg before placing your other foot on the box. Always start with the weaker leg first.

HACK SQUAT

Set Up

This can be done with heels elevated or heels flat on the floor, however we suggest that using a block to raise the heels will place more emphasis on the VMO which is key for knee stability. There are many variations of a hack squat, we are using a dumbbell, a kettlebell or a progression of a barbell can also be used.  Hold dumbbell behind your legs keeping back as upright as possible.

Action

Lower under control maintaining head forward with chest held high until the dumbbell touches the block. Drive upwards until legs are straight and then repeat.