With ski and snowboard season right around the corner riders are looking to get fit and stay healthy for their sport. Snow sports require numerous physical abilities; three important factors are lower body strength, so you can stay upright even after a big jump or sketchy rough spot, strong tendons and ligaments, to protect your joints and good cardiovascular health so you can play all day. The following exercises will help you spend more time on the mountain and less time loafing in the lounge.
Bear hug squats
How to do it: Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed slightly outward. Grab a sandbag, heavy duffel bag or even a big bag of dog food and hold it against your chest. Squat down with the goal of having your head looking forward and chest up, this helps keep a straight, neutral spine that protects the back. Then squeeze your glutes and quads to standing position.
Why it works: This is an excellent exercise to strengthen the glutes, quads and core; while at the same still increasing hip mobility to help reduce injury. By placing the weight in front of your body, it forces you into proper position which also reduces the risk of squatting. And of course, strong quads are essential for skiing and snowboarding.
How to do it: Stand holding a dumbbell thigh high in front of you. Extend your left or right leg behind you. Toes can be touching the floor behind you or be lifted completely off the floor to make the lift harder. Keeping your shoulders back, core tight and back straight, bend at the hips and lower the dumbbell toward the floor. Lower down to mid-shin level. Keep everything tight with your back rigid (no rounding), eyes forward and explode up through your heels to the starting position.
Why it works: Single-leg exercises are great to help prevent muscle imbalances. When one side of the body is stronger than the other it can unconsciously work harder and ease the work from the other side. To balance out your strength gains the single-leg deadlift is extremely effective.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, and place a kettlebell between your feet. Hinge at the hips with slightly bent knees to lower your body down and grasp the kettlebell both arms. Initiate an explosive upward movement to swing the kettlebell upward, returning to a vertical standing position. Do not arch your back, and squeeze the glutes. Allow the kettlebell to swing until the arms are parallel to the floor. Remember that this is not a shoulder exercise, but an exercise to generate explosive force in the hips.
Why it works: The kettlebell swing involves the powerful muscles of the hips to generate force and mimics the same athletic hip movement that is so important in many sports. For skiing and riding the hips help turn and are responsible for jumping and absorbing force. Stronger hips mean less chance of injury.
How to do it: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, with your feet pointing forward. Bend your legs and lower your body down into a deep squat while keeping your torso upright. Swing your arms back behind you. Exhale and jump straight up, swinging your arms over your head like you are blocking a ball in volleyball. Land gently on the balls of your feet before landing on your heels with your legs bent.
Why it works: Squats jumps involve using your legs and hips to generate force like a compressed spring. An effective way to increase power and add some fun and variety into your training program is to add plyometrics. Plyometrics work by using the body’s energy like a spring. This strengthens the tendons and connective tissues that protect your joints.
How to do it: Take advantage of the last bit of sunshine and get outside. After warming up for at least five minutes, sprint all out up the hill then walk down for recovery, repeat. Another option if you have access to a track would be to sprint the straight a-ways and walk the turns.
Why it works: If you’re short on time, but want the benefits that long, slow cardio provides, sprint workouts might be a perfect solution. Evidence shows that short, high intensity sprint workouts improve aerobic capacity and endurance in about half the time of traditional endurance exercise. The incline of the hill recruits more glutes, this is why sprinters tend to have toned and defined backsides. Good cardiovascular health keeps you on the mountain without the need for rest breaks.
If you are unfamiliar with any exercise, seek the advice of a trained fitness professional and as always consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program.
— Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach that trains at Sierra Athletic Club and a training center instructor at Barton Memorial Hospital. Kyler specializes in performance enhancement and injury prevention. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information.