Whether you are a serious slalom skier, half pipe junkie on the snowboard, or just starting to find your feet on the slopes, there are plenty of things you should be doing to maximise your experience on the mountains. With a structured preparation you will improve performance, prevent injuries from overuse & fatigue, and make the most of every minute you spend on that trip.
Imagine you are preparing for a marathon, an extreme endurance event that could take anywhere between 2-5hrs and then some depending on the individual. You would spend months preparing your body for that race, following a structured training plan of strength, intervals, tempo runs, and long distance session just to ensure you get through it with the best results possible. Now imagine you are competing in an endurance event for up to double that duration, and then on back to back days for sometimes a week or two straight. That’s what your body goes through at the slopes, so surely it makes sense to spend at least as long preparing your body for it as you do for a marathon.
Unfortunately, this is usually not the case, which leads to high rates of injury, under performance, sore muscles, and inability to ride those slopes from first to last lift and really get the most out of what should be an incredibly enjoyable experience. So how do you prepare the body for the holiday of a lifetime? Try adding these key exercises into your weekly exercise routine and reap the rewards this winter. Below just details the movements, the programming structure is critical though, which a great Performance Coach like those here at Absolute can guide you with.
When it comes to developing lower body strength, Squats are without a doubt your best option. They of course require correct technique and appropriate mobility to achieve great effect and to do heavy loaded squats safely, but a great coach will help you with that. Even body weight squats at home will help develop greater strength if you find the gym environment a little intimidating. With triple joint extension, every major muscle in your lower body is activated, the lower you go the better the activation, all leading to greater strength and fatigue resistance for the lower body as you carve through the powder from sunrise to sunset. Not only will it help develop great lower body strength, but the trunk stability it develops through bracing will help create a strong core and prevent the risks of fall injuries, and give you greater control to transfer your weight on your edges for cleaner and sharper turns as you bomb down those hills.
Whether you do it with a heavy loaded barbell or a light kettlebell as you work on technique, the deadlift will add extra power to the engine room and stability & balance all round. The hip dominant movement helps to improve scapula posture with the heavy pull pattern, and with the deep hip flexion range training, you will be helping to develop that hip extension power in the specific ranges you need to really explode off the jump, or pop out of a deep powder turn.
Again like the squat it has the added benefit of really developing trunk stability for a more stable and smooth ride, pain free, but does require safe technique and appropriate flexibility to maximise its effect and stay injury free.
Triple extension is your friend for the strength and endurance required for a day on the slopes, and another great way to challenge & improve the movements you do on the slopes is through lunges. Dumbbells’, barbells, kettlebells or bodyweight, forward backward, deficit, static or any other variation will all have great effect for you on the hill, and can be performed anywhere. Just chuck a heavy back pack on at home and feel the work they can create.
Lunges have the added benefit of being unilateral so help, partly, to ensure you have symmetry left to right and vice versa. With those glutes, quads and hamstrings driving you back up from deep, the lower body development and stability they provide will help ensure a smooth bump free ride or ski from first to last chair.
- Glute Bridge
With lots of sitting at the desk, and then sitting again on the bike can cause your glutes to switch off. Dr Stuart McGill termed this phenomenon “Gluteal Amnesia” (1). Because of this sleepy time for your glutes, your neural pathways connecting your brain and your bum are less heightened, and the body can basically forget how to switch them on when they are needed in day to day life and activity. This dramatically reduces performance and increases injury risk, and improves performance.
The glutes are vital in injury prevention, they transfer ground reaction forces through the body, saving force going through less capable areas, protect the lower back, prevent knee injuries like ACL tears and have capacity to reduce many forms of joint pain. By simple regular activation of your glutes, squeezing them hard a few times, it will help avoid this ‘amnesia’ and make sure that bum is firing when, supporting your body, absorbing force, and improving performance. You can simply add weight to your hips to increase the work as you get stronger with a barbell or dumbbell to really get powerful and stable glutes.
- SL Banded Squats
Skiing has a heavy reliance on single leg stability, and this can increase injury risk if you haven’t developed appropriate lateral stability. This is where this guy comes in, with a small band around your legs, this single leg banded squat will challenge your balance, target your glute medius, vital for pelvic control, and help reduce the risk of imbalances and injuries occurring when you are on the slopes.
By having improved pelvic stability will improve the power transfer from the big strong Glute Max all the way through to the board/ski edge, without any energy leak from pelvic shift and control loss.
- SL Landing/Balance Practice
While on the slopes you will spend the bulk of your time with both feet on the ground, the importance of single leg stability can not be underestimated, particularly for skiers. Whether it be for smoother transfers from edge to edge for performance, or the technical ability to balance and control impact to reduce injury risks, single landing and balance practice needs to play a part in your weekly training regime in preparation for the snow fields.
- Palloff Press
Your trunk is where all the forces that go through your body is transferred, and with a large and varied range of rotational forces that go through your body with the twists and turns of a day at the snow, trunk stability is key for enjoyment through improved performance, and again the most important part, injury risk reduction.
The Palloff Press is a fantastic way to improve trunk stiffness and stability, and closely replicates the rotational forces you take through turns or aerials while skiing and snowboarding. It can easily be performed at home with resistance bands even if you don’t have gym access for cable machines.
- Hip Flexor Stretching
When you spend time through the week at the desk, your hip flexors spend a long time in the shortened position and can really tighten up. By simply performing a combination of dynamic and static stretching for your hip flexors on a regular basis, you can counteract all the shortening that occurs with the high amounts of sitting at the desk, and prevent this build-up. Not only will it help improve full body posture and reduce pain, it will improve performance by increasing hip extension strength and power through improved glute activation and hip extension range, which helps with force absorption for the bumps along the run, and big powerful turns in the back country.
- Hamstring stretch
Just like your hip flexors, your hamstring also hate all that sitting, it leaves them tight, weak, and affects your day to day mobility, even in very simple tasks like tying your shoes or picking something up off the floor. The pull they have on the pelvis means that tight hamstrings are a big contributor to lower back pain, increasing the work your back does in lifting tasks while decreasing your ability to use your hips correctly. These effects mean much greater risks of injury and reduced performance in any activity.
There are many ways to attack this one, seated, kneeling, standing with a foot on a bench on chair, so just pick something that is suitable for your situation, access and comfort, keep good spinal posture and slowly reach towards the toe of the 1 straight leg until you feel a good stretch and gently move for 30-60sec. Supple and mobile hamstrings will have you on those slopes all day long, and the stretching of them will also help with your calf flexibility as they link through the posterior chain, very important when stuck in that dorsi (forward) flexed position your ankles sit in wearing ski and snowboard boots.
Written By Performance Coach David Smith
- McGill, SM. The painful lumbar spine. www.IdeaFit.com. Accessed 11/14/13. http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-painful-lumbar-spine