One of the most crucial muscle groups when it comes to skiing is your glutes otherwise known as your bum, rear, back end, padonkadonk.
The gluteal complex is considered to be the powerhouse of the human body to propel a walking, running, stepping and skiing motion and to stabilise the pelvis. Get your gluteus right and you can reduce the risk of knee injury.
A delayed activation of your glutes may greatly increase that A Frame you see in skiers when their leg rotates inwards then leading to a good stack and possible injuries. In short, work that ass and that ass will work in your favour.
Because research has shown that a decrease in gluteus medius/maximus activation may lead to ACL injuries, ITB syndrome, Patello-Femoral syndrome, and back pain so there are many good reasons to train your back end.
There are 3 main muscles that make the Gluteal complex. The Gluteus Minimus: abduct your leg and stabilises the pelvis (when walking for example). The Gluteus Medius: abduct, externally rotate the leg and stabilises the pelvis. The Gluteus Maximus: extend the leg, externally rotate the leg and stabilises the hip/knee joints.
So how do you train your butt to make it strong for the slopes?
Well, you need to load it in the three different contraction ways (concentric, isometric and eccentric).
Of course there are many different exercises to work your glutes but instead of just doing deadlifts, squats or lunges, try to spice up your workout and challenge them with different angles and contractions. You will surely see the difference on the slopes!
There are plenty of exercises that will target your glutes but depending on where you’re starting, here are 4 drills that I like to incorporate with my clients no matter their fitness levels.
Band X-Crab Walk
How: Grab a resistance band of low tension. Stand with feet hips-width apart, knees slightly bent and torso slightly hinged forward. Place the band around your feet and pull up so it forms a “X”.
Step laterally just a bit wider than shoulder-width apart and control the trailing foot. Try to limit the amount of body sway by feeling strong in your mid section. You should start to feel a burning sensation deep inside your glutes.
Perform 2-3 sets of 10-20 lateral steps on each side.
Why it’s good: This is an excellent warm up and rehab drill that targets Gluteus Medius. It will help you keep your knees tracking with your feet/hips when squatting, lunging or stepping.
Curtsy Lunge with Knee Drive
How: Imagine you’re French during the Revolution and have to bow in front of Marie-Antoinette. Stand with feet together and step your left leg behind you and to the right so your thighs cross, bending both knees in a lunge position. Come back up by driving your right foot into the ground and drive your left knee up while you stand up straight.
Perform 3-4 sets of 10-12 on each side. Add a weight in your hands to make it more difficult.
Why it’s good: In this drill you are taking your hip joint in a great range of motion (ROM) increasing the length-tension time. You also require you base lig hip to stabilise during the knee drive (isometric contraction).
Isometric Squat with Leg Abduction
How: This one is a bit fancy but one of the closest drills to skiing. Assume a proper squat position (knees over toes and hips-width apart, bum back, shins parallel to torso, arms forward). Shift your weight onto the right leg so you can extend the left leg sideways. Bring the left leg where it was and shift your weight on it so you can extend your right leg out.
Alternate on both legs for 10-12 reps each and do 2-4 sets.
Why it’s good: There is a lot of isometric contraction (no shortening or lengthening of muscles) which builds up the muscle endurance (think ski longer). The body weight shift to a single leg really fires up the gluteal complex to keep you balanced while you work the opposite glute in abduction. It’s a win-win.
Deep Lunge to Lateral Step:
How: Start in a deep lunge (or as if you were in the starting blocks) with your left leg forward. Explode up by pushing off from your front leg and jump to your right to land on your right leg. You can add a step/box to your side and jump on it. Return your starting position and repeat. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps then switch side.
Note: make sure you land softly with your knee tracking with your toes and don’t have any knee pain. You can also choose to land in single step, curtsy step, single leg lunge or pistol squat to increase the difficulty.
Why it’s good: This is an explosive drills that will target your fast twitch fibres and is very complimentary to the other drills. The lateral bound requires hip stability and power and will reinforce the connection between your glutes and the medial quadricep (vastus medialis oblicus) for greater knee stability. You are also working the muscle fibres at a different angle, which will greatly help when skiing.
As usual, please make sure you are cleared to take on any fitness activity and if not sure, visit your health professional. Check out more Fit2Ski exercises.