What are the primary muscles used for downhill skiing? If you had asked this question 50 years ago, you would have received an entirely different answer. Back then, strength was a crucial element of alpine skiing. As such, the quadriceps, which are the strong muscles in the front of the thighs, would have been the primary muscles utilized. With the advent of straight skis, however, things began to change. Now skiing is considered more of a dynamic balance versus a strength-related sport. This has led to some changes in the primary muscles used when skiing.
The Core Musculature
Without good balance, skiing is virtually impossible. The deep core muscles are responsible for dynamic balance. These include the transverse abdominal muscle (the deepest core muscle), as well as the pelvic floor muscles, which support your internal organs. While the core muscles are not the prime movers of skiing movements, they are essential stabilizers.
The Feet and Ankles
You can't talk about ski technique without mentioning the kinetic chain, which refers to a sequence of events in a pattern of movements. When analyzing any series of actions, it's important to look at where the movement begins. Then you can begin to understand how these primary movements will affect all subsequent actions. In modern skiing, all moves begin in the feet and ankles. For example, the peroneus longus is involved in eversion and plantar flexion of the foot, while the tibialis is used for dorsi flexion. All of these movements are essential to carving the snowy terrain.
In skiing, the gluteus maximus functions as a hip extender. It also abducts, or pulls, the leg away from the center line of the body and stabilizes the knee when it is in an extended position. As such, the gluteal muscles are important for mogul skiing.
Quadriceps Muscles: Front of the Thigh
The rectus femoris extends the knee and flexes the hip. The vastus medialis performs the more subtle action of extending the knee. In modern skiing, it is used more frequently than the rectus femoris.
The Hamstrings: Back of the Leg
The hamstrings are perhaps one of the most important muscle groups in alpine skiing as they are involved in flexion of the knee. In skiing, they help absorb shock and protect the sensitive ACL.
Article Written By Lisa Mercer
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.