How Do I Stop My Quads From Burning When I Ski?

glutesBy building your butt muscles, otherwise know as your Glutes!

It was core, now glutes are the new black.  Aside from holding up your jeans and attracting shouts of “cute butt”, glutes really are amazing in what they do for us.

This is the cool bit, glutes are what allow us to do so many things as humans that other animals cannot do.   Standing,  they have evolved so quickly compared to many other body parts. The pelvis took a huge leap from our chimpanzee cousins to allow us to be vertical, it is the glutes that keep us there.  The muscles had to totally change,  think of a chimp sitting and moving,  his pelvis is always tucked under and the glutes are in a long position and with only half the body weight when waking (arms take the other half).   So humans have similar volumes of muscle,  just shorter in length which is why they stick out more,  or should do!

The next great thing is their versatility,  many animals can jump higher,  run faster and do lots of very glutey tasks better than us,  but here’s the kicker,  no other animal comes close to the versatility.  So whether sprinting,  lifting heavy weights,  jumping or skiing glutes are our movement foundation.

Very simply,  if you want to be athletic,  learn to use your glutes.

Squats for skiingSo now my physio hat goes back on, I hate it when people come in for treatment and confess in a cloud of shame that they have “lazy glutes”.   Once we look into their functional movements I find it is not laziness but movement habits that are at fault.   We are going to think about squatting,  this is one of our fundamental movement patterns.  In other words squat well and chances are you will move well and engage your glutes with all functional movements.

If you change the mechanics of gluteal activity such as by lifting the heel or limiting hip flexion you can inhibit gluteal activity.  Lifting the heel pushes the knee forwards and effectively reduces ankle function and timing of the squat movement and inhibits the corresponding glute motion.   Wear heels often enough for long enough and the glutes become inhibited rather than lazy.   Hip flexion engages the glutes so if there is lack of hip bend it results in a squat where the back remains vertical and the knees and quads get overloaded.

Skiing requires two very specific movements to make the ski work and for you and to reduce your risk of injury.   Firstly you must push forwards with the knee to put weight on the whole of the ski (not just the front). Secondly you must be able to squat well.  This enables you to load the foot and the ski with power to actually drive the ski through turns and enjoy the feeling of a correctly finished turn that fires back all that effort during the turn into sweet acceleration out rather than a sloppy wash out.

ski-squat-1The easiest way to understand the squat movement is,  with ski boots on try jumping in the air and see how you bend from the ankles,  knees and hips. Try it again with your back vertical,  it doesn’t work.   Remember this squatting movement and try it as a warm up before you clip in for your first run of the day and keep out of the dreaded back seat when skiing.  Notice the next morning it isn’t your quads that are dead as you have used all your leg muscles.

Neil Maclean-Martin