Feather Jumps

A simple jump, but technique is important. This is especially useful for untrained women who tend to have poor jump mechanics.

Some athletes, especially women, let their knees fall to the inside as they prepare to jump. This is typically due to muscle imbalance in the legs and that imbalance, in turn, leads to biomechanical inefficiency and possibly to increased risk for injury. Getting better jump mechanics will lead to better muscle balance in the legs and, ultimately, better skiing. Here's a super simple exercise that can help get the legs working as they should.

To get started, find a forgiving surface or at least something other than concrete if possible. Now, crouch down into a low jumping position. Many women will find that their knees tend to cave in to the inside when they do this. Try to keep your knees straight as you bend down and then spring up. When you land, think of yourself as a cat or a feather or a ninja assassin trying to land noiselessly. Wear black if it helps. Don't land with a thud, but with a soft, controlled deceleration, and keep your knees properly aligned.

Landing softly will encourage you to land properly, that is with good flexion in your knees and waist like when sucking up those moguls and other shocks. Don't drop too low - if you bend your knees past 90 degrees, you will be putting undue stress on your poor knees. As Warren Miller says, every pair of knees has a finite number of turns in them and you don't want to waste those knees doing ninja jumps in the preseason.

As for the knees, you want them to stay in good alignment. If I run a plumb line down the center of my knee cap and just jump naturally, the plumb bob sits in the crack between my big toe and my second toe or over the second toe. If my wife does the same, the plumb bob can be over an inch to the inside of her big toe. She needs to really concentrate to keep her knees aligned with her hips and feet. When we first started working out together, I thought this was just the way she was built, but she felt that it was because she hadn't trained her muscles correctly. It turns out that research shows that she was right and properly trained women will naturally fall into alignment similar to men.

Do ten or twenty or thirty reps, but do not keep going if you can't keep proper form as you get tired. If you do this exercise with anything other than good form, you will just be perpetuating bad habits and not building the right muscles and neural pathways.