Bio-Mechanics of the Hips in Skiing

X-Life Online - Getting Skiers Back to Their BEST! Expert Ski Instructor, Ski Fitness, Online Ski-Fit. The hips in skiing

As Niseko Black’s Head Ski Trainer and Action Sports Conditioning Pro, I’ve been asked to put together an off-season program of fitness, specifically focused on skiing, that snow-pro’s and ski clients alike can follow at home, with no equipment!

The hips in skiing - Results Tracking & AnalysisTaking a slightly different approach to ski fitness, the series focuses on the bio-mechanics of skiing, rather than the just the muscles themselves.

In my last article, ‘Mimic Skiing to Stay in Shape Over the Summer!’ I covered Hip Fitness, A Little About Hip Movement and described two of my favourite hip strengthening exercises for skiing.

This next article in the series goes into slightly more detail on the structure of the hips, the muscles involved and their actions in a skiing sense…

X = Ski-Fit – The Hip Joint

Skiing Actions of the Hip Muscles:

Flexion: bending of the hips, knees & ankles

Extension: straightening of the hips, knees & ankles

Internal rotation: pointing the toes inwards (parallel to wedge or snow-plough stance)

External rotation: pointing the toes outwards (wedge to parallel stance)

Adduction: bringing the feet closer together (good for skiing bumps & powder)

Abduction: moving the feet apart (good for higher speeds / carving)

The Hips – Muscles of the Pelvis:

The hips in skiing

Psoas Major – Flexes hip. When femur is fixed, flexes trunk.

Illiacus – Flexes hip. When femur is fixed, flexes trunk.

Obturator Externus – Externally rotates, stabilises pelvis.

Obturator Internus – Externally rotates when extended, abducts when flexed.

Piriformis – External rotation, abduction, extension of hip joint, aids stabilization of hip.

The Hips – Flexor, Extensor and Rotator Muscles of the Upper Legs:

The hips in skiing

Gluteus Maximus – Abducts, extends, externally rotates.

Gluteus Medius – Abducts, stabilises hip. Anterior; internal rotation. Posterior; external rotation.

Gluteus Minimus – Abducts, stabilises hip. Anterior; internal rotation. Posterior; external rotation.

Rectus Femoris – Flexes hip, extends knee.

Sartorius – Flexes, abducts and externally rotates at hip. Flexes, internally rotates at the knee.

Pectineus – Adducts, flexes, externally rotates.

Adductor Longus – Adducts powerfully, internally rotates.

Adductor Magnus – Adducts powerfully, internally rotates.

Semimembranosus – Internal rotation, flexes knee.

Semitendinosus – Internal rotation, flexes knee.

Biceps Femoris – long head – Extends hip, flexes knee, rotates tibia.

Tensor Fascia Lata – Abducts, internally rotates.

Hip Fitness

Being of such intricate construction, as well as having to carry our entire weight, the hips are a major joint, playing an integral role in an everyday sense – certainly not just whilst skiing!

The hips and integrated muscles shouldn’t simply be strong, they also need to be mobile as well as flexible. Compared to everyday ambulation, a skier exerts massively amplified forces upon the hips, in various exaggerated directions. It is therefore clear that ultimate mobility, flexibility and strength are paramount when training to reach your utmost skiing potential.

“Ahhhh, so THAT’S why I ache so much after my first couple of days skiing…”

It’s common sense, really, but we’re all guilty of expecting our bodies to cope in unusual and stressful situations that we simply haven’t prepared for!

Increased mobility allows the joints to safely move to their fullest extent, whilst flexibility allows the muscles around the joint freer, smoother movement and safeguards against injury. This ability to move fully, with strength, allows the skier to ‘unblock’ their movements and achieve, perhaps, that extra little edge angle, foot steering or agility, required to reach peak performance.

Modern living directly contradicts these requirements by regularly placing us in a sitting position for extended periods of time (working at a desk, eating, driving, watching TV etc), which forces our hips – especially the hip flexor muscles – to become tight. Over time, this can lead to a condition known as ‘Anterior Pelvic Tilt,’ in which the tight, immobile and shortened hip flexors basically pull the front of the pelvis downwards, causing a compression of the lower lumbar and, in some cases, considerable discomfort.

Anatomical correctness, assists efficient bio-mechanics and therefore, clearly has a huge impact upon our performance!

In my next article, I’ll demonstrate how and why flexible hips are so important for skiing and describe, arguably, THE most important daily stretch we all should be doing…

A Little More About the Author

Besides, spending a significant part of his winters in Japan, training Niseko Black’s team of Ski Instructors, Bruce is a Master Personal Trainer, Exercise Specialist and Motivation & Nutrition Coach. As Owner / Director of X-Life Intelligent Fitness, being IKO qualified, he also spends a large part of his summer teaching and coaching kitesurfing, as well as running Kitesurf HQ, his luxury B&B in Fuerteventura.

X-Life’s smartphone app-based X = Ski-Fit program not only concentrates on a strengthening program for the skier, it attends to the often overlooked areas of mobility and less-frequently overlooked flexibility. Combining a series of 15 minute mobility, strength and flexibility videos, motivational support, not to mention the accountability that having a trainer is all about, more information on the full program can be found here, by emailing or following this link to sign up for your complimentary 14 day trial!

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