Pilates for Skiing


Australia may not be known world wide for its amazing snowy mountains and fabulous slopes, but Australians do love to ski, so make the most of the slopes we have here. The ski season is finally upon us and I don’t know about you, but this year, I’m going to try avoid the day 1 aches and pains. You can’t always help falling, but did you know pilates is a fantastic exercise method to get your legs and body ready for the hours spent on downhill runs and hopefully avoid the muscle aches, so you can enjoy your weekend or week away .


The activity of skiing requires core strength, muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular fitness, a degree of flexibility, coordination, agility and balance. Pilates can help with all of these.


A key focus within the pilates method is achieving core and torso stability. From a stable base we are able to achieve optimal body alignment that in turn allows the body to move more fluidly and enhances muscle stability, control and balance that are all required for the fast-paced activity of skiing.


Your core is made up of the deep abdominal muscles (Transverse abdominals) at the front, the multifidus and deep spinal muscles at the back, our pelvic floor at the bottom and most agree the diaphragm is the roof. All pilates exercises, be it matwork or equipment based exercises focus on initiating stabilization from the transverse abdominal muscle as this is crucial for spinal stability and support. This is why your pilates session always starts with a warm-up to help wake up the TA and ensure it is activated. Prior to hitting the ski fields it could be helpful to do a few basic exercises in your lodge to awaken the core and be sure it is switched on and working for you while out for the day.


To switch on your TA think of the muscles to help stop you from going to the bathroom (or for guys, imagine you are walking into a cold lake and that feeling of trying to keep as much of your torso out of the water as possible) and activate these about 30%. This initiates stabilization from the pelvic floor and deep core. Activating the TA will aid balance while skiing and is important for down hill runs and turns.


Another major stabilization muscle or muscle group is the glutes. They stabilize the lower body, help you stand up from a squat position and also help to generate power. Most of us have a lazy buttock and we may not even realize it. Exercises like squats and lunges only target the glut max, but the great thing about pilates is most of the basic leg exercises such as side lying hip series, lateral leg raises and circles target both the glut med and glut min along with other deep hip stabilization muscles.


Other exercises such as wunda chair leg press and step ups help to develop lower body strength and core stability too. Additional repetitions of an exercise will enhance muscular endurance, and adding a cushion or dura disc under the standing foot will help to challenge balance, making it a more functional exercise.


The other most important muscle needed for skiing is the quadriceps. This is the muscle group at the front of the legs and helps to hold the body in a squat position. The stronger the quads are and the longer you can hold a squat, the more speed you can generate while skiing. The same wunda chair exercises listed above, reformer based exercises, and maintaining a squat position during ped-a-pul all help to improve quadriceps strength.


For aerobic fitness try a reformer class that includes fast moves and utilizes the jump board. Including rotation while jumping will really prepare your body for skiing and moguls. Also participating in other regularly cardiovascular-based activity will further improve aerobic fitness in the lead-up to your skiing holiday!


Come see your local pilates instructor and we can help tailor exercises to your specific skiing and activity needs.


Happy Winter!