Overhead squatIn our last blog we introduced the concept of the functional movement assessment. The movements are a balanced combination of mobility and stability. If you know which muscles and joints are used and when to activate them you can control that movement. Your ability to ski and prevent injury will improve. The functional movement assessments reveal a snapshot of typical movement problems skiers have.
There were 4 movements mentioned in the last blog that author Chris Fellows uses in his book Total Skiing:

  1. The Overhead Squat
  2. The Single Leg Squat
  3. The Lateral Lunge
  4. Trunk Rotation Stability

They provide a snapshot of your strength, balance, coordination and range of motion (ROM).

The purpose of the next few blogs is to illustrate how to perform these movements, how to grade yourself performing the movements and, based on your grade what corrective exercises will best help your skiing and fitness level. Let’s start with how to score the movements. Movements are scored on a 0-3 system, with 3 being the highest and 0 the lowest. A score of 3 means you can do the movement correctly through full range of motion (ROM). Your movements are equal and symmetrical front to back and right to left. Give yourself a score of 2 if you have difficulty fully flexing or bending any of the joints in your legs- your ankles, knees, or hips (perhaps your heels lift off of the floor when performing the squat). After practicing the correct movements skiers can often advance from a score of 2 to 3. A score of 1 indicates an inability to perform the movement correctly despite repeated attempts. You compensate with other motions. For example, in an effort to squat lower to the floor you might lift your heels off the floor and bend too much at the waist. A score of 0 means you have pain with any part of the motion. Consult your physician or a physical therapist to have the movement and cause of the pain thoroughly checked.

It is best to perform these movements in comfortable workout attire, a t-shirt and work-out shorts or pants. Using a full-length mirror to watch your movements is recommended but not necessary.

Let’s look at our first movement, the Overhead Squat. The squat is a great example of knowing how well you can perform the basic ski movements before you click in to your boots and head to the chair lift. The ability to flex and extend on your skis by bending and straightening your legs while keeping your spine upright and your arms in a ready position is crucial to ski through all types of terrain. Practice each movement a few times before you score yourself. Repeat the movement 3 times to determine your score.

To perform an overhead squat you will need an open area approximately 6’x6’ and a dowel (a ski pole works as well). Stand with your feet hip width apart while holding the ski pole extended over your head. Using your ankles, knees, and hips slowly lower yourself as much as you can – make sure that your knees don’t pass your toes. Once the end point is reached, stand back up and repeat the motion two more times.

So why would we choose the overhead-depth squat? It is an easy way to observe how much force you can absorb and manage while on your skis. The squat looks at the functionality of the lower extremities. The ankles, knees, and hips are flexing or bending while the spine and arms are extending or straightening. Take a look at the 2 pictures below. Mobile and stabile joints can quickly alter the amount of flexing and extending as the terrain and conditions change. This is especially needed at the transition point turning your skis from 1 direction to the next, which also helps control speed and to stop. Injuries can occur when you can’t do this. In the first picture there are two skiers, the one in the foreground is using extension on the outside ski to control the turn and flexion on the inside ski to absorb the bumps. The skier in the background is not turning but is still in the squat position. Her lower extremities are in flexion while her spine is in extension. So now it is your turn to score yourself on the squat movement and look for our next blogs which will describe the 3 other movements as well as corrective exercises for you based on your score.