Support your winter sport: 5 ways to improve your skiing and snowboardingDecember 20, 2019 | by Ashley Capewell, Strength & Conditioning Coach
With snow already falling on the local mountains, the winter skiing and snowboarding season is well underway. There is no doubt that both sports are physically demanding – the faster and harder you ride, the higher the demands on your body. So how do you prepare?
Here are five things to work on in the gym to improve your skiing and snowboarding, from beginner to experienced and elite athletes.
Skiers and snowboarders are remarkably strong. With each turn, they can experience up to three times their bodyweight going through their legs. The faster you ski, the higher the demand.
At a glance, it may seem that the forces acting on the body during skiing and snowboarding are lateral (from side to side) as you transition from turn to turn. However, most of the lateral force is mitigated due to the rider’s body angle; the force experienced is predominantly vertical.
Both sports also require separation between the torso and the legs; your torso remains still as your legs move underneath you. This requires an ability to brace through the midsection while the limbs move around the body. While snowboarding requires more rotation from the upper body, steering should still come from the legs too.
EXERCISES FOR STRENGTH-BUILDING:
- Squats and deadlifts to improve your lower body strength.
- Squats and lunges to improve stability in more compromised positions.
- Anti-rotational core movements like a Palloff Press and bracing movements like planks to train your ability to maintain a position under force
- Bird-dogs, which require you to hold a stable position with the body whilst moving the arms and legs independently of the spine.
Skiers and snowboarders also need to be able to control their bodies. Training your balance will teach you how to keep control of your movement and improve your ability to make small adjustments to your centre of mass in relation to your skis or board. This keeps you in control when the going gets tough at faster speeds and more technical descents.
AN EXERCISE FOR BALANCE:
Start by standing with your feet together and closing your eyes; pay attention to where your bodyweight sways on your feet, adjust your balance cautiously and try to bring your balance point back to the middle of your feet. Once you are comfortable with this, stand on one leg and do the same thing, with eyes open to start.
As your balance improves, you can challenge your skills with more dynamic movements like hopping and unstable surfaces like soft pads or a bosu ball.
Your edge of control within skiing or snowboarding is not determined by how much force you can produce, but more about how much force you can tolerate with each turn.
As we turn, we have to decelerate our body mass to a point where we are stable. If we didn’t decelerate and absorb the force as we turn, we would be thrown over the edge of our skis or crumble under the weight of our own bodies.
Use landings in your training to teach you how to dissipate force and remain stable throughout your turns.
AN EXERCISE FOR LANDING:
A Drop and Stick, or variations of this movement, improves capacity to accept force efficiently and increase your stability as you turn.
To perform a Drop and Stick, stand on a plyo box or a gym bench, step out into the air as if you are walking and freefall until you land on your feet. As you land, organize your body so that you are landing in a quarter squat position with the feet flexed, knees bent and hips back. This will allow you to use your hips and knees as shock absorbers. Be gentle with the feet but stick the landing in a stable position.
As you land, imagine somebody is going to throw a ball to you – you need to be in a stable and ready position with eyes and hands up, and your balance should be right in the centre of your feet. Repeat no more than 5-6 times per set.
Once you are comfortable, stable and balanced, start to challenge the landings with higher boxes or progressing to landing with one leg.
FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY
Your quads, hamstrings and muscles around the hips are the prime movers during both skiing and snowboarding. It is essential you have the required range of motion to be able to make your turns and get into key positions.
Both sports require you to take a flexed position at the hips. This often results in tight hip flexors and a sore lower back. Skiing can require a lot of abduction from the hip and snowboarding may require you to reach a deep squat whilst turning or landing.
Common injury sites for both skiers and snowboarders are the knees, hips, hamstrings and lower back. The better you look after these areas, the less likely you are to pick up an injury.
AN EXERCISE FOR FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY:
Stretch out those hip flexors with a couch stretch.
Take a half kneeling position in front of a gym bench or a couch if you are at home. With the rear foot, reach your foot on top of the bench or couch and place the rear knee on the ground. Your rear knee should be flexed and your hips pushed forwards to stretch through your rear quad and hip flexor. Hold for around 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
To improve the range of movement through the abductors and hamstrings, place your feet wide, much wider than your hips, and reach your hands down towards the ground. You should feel a stretch in the hamstrings and on the inside of your legs. If you can’t feel that, take your straddle a little further and reach down until you can. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat.
Your heart rate can easily exceed 80% of its maximum when you are riding, so it is important that you have the cardiovascular fitness to be able to perform at your best.
You don’t need to be able to run a marathon but you ought to have enough fitness to be able to recover between ski runs.
EXERCISES FOR AEROBIC CAPACITY:
Run, cycle, swim or do an activity that is going to increase your heart rate and force you to breathe at a steady rate. Perform four sets of four-minute intervals at a steady pace with two minutes rest between each bout. If you start to feel an intense burn, back off slightly so that you are able to complete the rep with a little energy left in the tank. These will encourage your body to adapt so that you become more efficient at using oxygen as a fuel source – you will be able to ski or ride harder for longer without having to take a break every other run.
If you have a trip coming up in the near future, start training for your trip as soon as you can. Having stronger legs and core, improving your balance and learning how to land properly will help you reach new heights with your riding. Improving your flexibility will make you more robust and less likely to get injured and improving your fitness will enable you to ride harder for longer and recover better for the next day’s adventures.
Interested in taking your ski and board training to the next level? Book a consultation with one of our strength & conditioning coaches today to support your season on the mountains.