Training for Snow
How to avoid season-ending injuries
By Amanda Nayfield
The time has come to transition from hiking and biking to strapping boards on our feet and hitting the snowy slopes! Exciting as this time of year is, it also presents many opportunities for injuries. Proper training is a good way to minimize those risks.
One of the main principles of training is specificity – if you ski, the best way for your body to adapt is by skiing. Unfortunately, you can’t ski or snowboard until the snow falls. Nonetheless, most of us hit the slopes hard as soon as the mountain is covered. When the time comes, it’s important to break our bodies in gradually and remember that we are applying stresses we have not experienced since last season.
These simple training exercises are applicable to all human-powered snow sports, including Nordic skiing, telemark skiing and snowshoeing as well as snowboarding and alpine skiing. Here are some key concepts to understand when training for winter sports:
1. We must train for power (thigh-deep powder), stability (variable/bumpy terrain) and endurance (catching first and last chair), so varying the intensity and type of your workouts is important.
2. Doing the exercises precisely with control and ideal alignment is key.
3. Injuries are most likely to occur when your muscles are too tired to stabilize your joints/body. If you are getting tired, take a break and eat a snack. Staying hydrated is also extremely important for tissue health.
1. Endurance decline squats
Benefits: This exercise focuses on knee control and endurance.
Motion: Squat while standing on a stable, sloped surface. Hinge at hips and slightly drop chest forward (like you are about to sit in a chair) to make sure your hips/glutes are engaged. Slowly lower down, keeping your knee in line with your middle toe and don’t let your knee go over your toes. Keep your bodyweight over your ankle.
Duration: Three sets slowly and with good control until fatigue (fatigue means you are unable to continue with good form – this is usually around 15-20 reps).
Progression: Start with double-leg decline squats and progress to single leg decline squats.
2. Jump squats
Benefits: Jump squats build explosive power in your lower body.
Motion: Again, think about sitting back in a chair when you lower down, then quickly jump as high as you can. Land softly with your knees slightly bent and your glutes active for shock absorption. Repeat rapidly while still maintaining excellent form and knee control. It can help to do this in front of a mirror to make sure your knee does not collapse to the inside. Make sure your glutes are driving the power instead of your quads.
Duration: Two to three set of 20 reps. For lower impact, do air squats (fast squats with no jumping).
Progression: Add weight by holding a medicine ball as your strength and power improve. Add height by jumping onto a stable platform.
3. Side hops
Benefits: This exercise improves medial and lateral knee and hip stability.
Motion: Jump sideways back and forth over tape or lines on the ground. This exercise focuses on stability in the lateral plane. Again, the focus should be on maintaining knee alignment over your middle toe and landing with “soft” knees every time.
Duration: Four sets of 12 hops in each direction or three to four reps of 45-60 seconds.
Progression: Increase the height of the obstacle you are jumping over as your strength and power improve. Start on two feet, and progress to jumping and landing on one foot.
4. Backward lunge with trunk rotation
Benefits: This exercise works your glutes, quads and obliques while improving stability and muscle coordination.
Motion: As you lunge backward, slowly rotate your trunk toward your forward leg, keeping your abdominal muscles drawn inward. You should feel the hip flexors of your back leg stretching and the glutes of your front leg working to stabilize your knee/hip. Engage your glutes to push yourself back into a standing position. Make sure your knee is aligned with the middle toe and does not move in front of your toes.
Duration: Three sets of 12-15 reps.
Progression: Hold a medicine ball or weights once you feel strong enough.
Benefits: The great full-body exercise!
Front planks: Lie face-down on the floor, lift yourself up onto your forearms and toes and hold. Keep shoulders over elbows, pelvis in line with spine and abdominals engaged.
Duration: Two reps of 60 seconds.
Side planks: Lie on one side, keeping your legs straight. Raise yourself up on your elbow and forearm and lift your hips so your body forms a straight line. Keep shoulders over your elbow and pelvis stacked (don’t rotate forward or backward).
Duration: Two reps of 30 seconds for each side.
Do your best to prepare your body for the challenge and fun of skiing and snowboarding, but feel free to contact me at CorePhysio in Bellingham or another local physical therapist if you need more guidance on injury prevention or recovery.
Happy skiing and snowboarding! x