Most people know that core stability and lower body strength are essential for preparation for snowboarding and skiing, however, I’d like to add the upper body to this as well. Let’s consider my rationale for a moment. Where do beginner snowboarders and skiers spend a lot of time in the early days…on the ground. Pushing and pulling themselves back up to standing only to slip back down shortly after. How do they get themselves back up to standing each time? How do they cushion a fall? How many times do snowboarders sit down and stand back up again over the course of a day on the slopes due to fixing their bindings at the top of every lift?
The answer to all these questions is, through the arms and upper body. Snowboarders in particular use their arms a lot to push themselves off the ground and absorb their landings if they fall backwards or forwards. I will never forget how sore my arms were after my first snowboarding attempt. I felt like I had done a hundred push ups when I woke up the next morning!
Upper body strength is relevant to skiers too. One of the first skills a novice skier learns is how to traverse uphill, either by side stepping up the slope, or via ungainly herringbone walks. The arms and ski poles are used to stabilise the body in both techniques. The other occasion for upper body strength is when skiers need to pull themselves along a flat slope, like a road or the end of a run when it flattens out and speed is rapidly lost. These times are the bane of any skier’s day! Although skiers at least have their arms to help, unlike the unfortunate snowboarders who have to unstrap one foot and push themselves along like a scooter, or, worst case scenario, take the board off and walk out. Nonetheless, this all means that snowsport conditioning programs shouldn’t neglect the upper body. For skiing, strengthening the pulling action is essential, whereas for snowboarding, pushing actions are needed.
Finally, we mustn’t forget that ski & snowboarding gear needs to be carried, along with luggage and small children. Lots of parents will remember the challenge of carrying toddlers all trussed up in ski gear, plus their skis, stocks or snowboards over the snow. The whole body needs to be conditioning for a snow holiday!
The Pilates Method contains a vast number of exercises due to its constant evolution over its 100 year history, and continues to do so today with each generation of teachers. I have chosen a small number of exercises to share with you that I believe are useful and specific to the movements and muscle actions of skiing or snowboarding. I’ve selected some exercises that are suitable for people who are new to Pilates as well as more advanced exercises for the strong and experienced Pilates participant. Of course there are many more Pilates exercises that are wonderful for snow sports conditioning. Please remember that all Pilates exercises are highly technical and whilst they may look simple, actually require your full concentration and should only be performed when supervised by a comprehensively trained Pilates teacher. Check out our Instagram videos for more information about my favourite exercises for upper body conditioning for snow sports!
To make sure your technique and preparation for the upcoming season is specific for you and your needs, come in and see us at Absolute for the highest level of health, fitness & rehabilitation services.
Written by Absolute’s Exercise Physiologist and Pilates Specialist Liz Hewett. Pilates Melbourne CBD.