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Four Conditioning Essentials for Skiing and Snowboarding

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Tips for Skiing and Snowboarding Conditioning

  • Perform all strengthening exercises 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets.
  • Perform all stretching exercises 2-3 repetitions, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  • Perform cardiovascular and stretching exercises at least 4x /week.
  • Perform the strengthening exercises at least 2x/week and ideally 3x/week or every other day until you go on your ski trip.

Proper Training for the Slopes

Hitting the slopes for a few days of skiing and snowboarding can make for a great weekend or vacation with family and friends. Just remember that preparing for a skiing getaway involves more than simply checking your equipment, upgrading necessary gear and booking a chalet on the slopes. Your equipment must be in proper shape for the slopes, but your body should also be in proper shape.

Add physical conditioning to your skiing and snowboarding checklist. If not, you might end up with unexpected difficulties like shortness of breath, sore muscles and even an undesired injury.

Just because you hit the gym several times a week, doesn’t mean your body is prepped to hit the slopes. To maximize your enjoyment of this or any sport, you should begin by preparing your body for the specific motions and demands that will be placed upon you while performing the sport.

In the case of skiing and snowboarding, this means strengthening the muscles that will be involved in all the movements of the sport as well as achieving a proper balance and flexibility of the involved joints. It is also very important to ensure that your cardiovascular endurance is at a point that it can handle the increased demands that you will be placing on it.

To get ready for the slopes, here are four essential conditioning areas to prep:
• Maximize Cardiovascular Endurance
• Increase Muscle Strength
• Improve Agility
• Focus on Flexibility

1. Maximize Cardiovascular Endurance

Your energy on the slopes relies on getting the necessary oxygen to the muscles from the heart. Otherwise, you’ll be gasping for mountain breath when you’re barely down the slope. Increasing your cardiovascular endurance is first and perhaps foremost in your training.

A good plan for maximizing endurance involves some form of cross training exercises such as running, biking, rowing, in-line skating, the elliptical machine or the Nordic Track machine. Plan to exercise for about 30-45 minutes at a minimum of 3-4 times a week. When exercising, your goal should be to elevate your heart rate to around 75% of your maximum heart rate (a quick way to estimate this is by subtracting your age from 220 and then multiplying the result by 0.75). The sooner you start, the more energy you’ll have on and off the slopes.

2. Increase Muscle Strength

Skiing and snowboarding require strength in the core muscles and in the lower and upper body. Strong core muscles in the torso and pelvis help protect your back while providing the necessary stability for propelling your body down the mountain, making turnings, and stopping. It’s important to strengthen the muscles that cross your knee joints while also improving your upper body strength to help push you back up after falling.

Key strengthening exercises for skiing or snowboarding include:

Core
Planks:
Lie face down on the floor or exercise mat. Rise onto your forearms/elbows and support your body weight. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe with face toward the floor, and toes and forearms/elbows touching the floor. Hold the position for up to 1 minute.

Side Planks:
Lie on your left side. Position your left elbow beneath the shoulder on the floor and lift up your body. Support you body weight on left forearm/elbow and left ankle. Hold the position for up to 1 minute. Repeat on the right side.

Prone Superman:
Lie face down on the floor or exercise mat. Use a rolled up towel to support your forehead. Extend your arms straight out above your head. Simultaneously raise right arm and left leg. Pause for a moment then slowly lower back to the ground. Perform the same maneuver with left arm and right leg.

Donkey Kicks:
Begin on all fours on an exercise mat or the ground. Keeping your back level, lift left leg straight out behind you in a smooth slow motion. Then bring the leg back to beginning position and repeat maneuver without resting between reps. Perform the exercise with right leg.

Upper Extremities
Push ups:
Lie chest-down with your hands at shoulder level and palms flat on the floor slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Look forward and not at the floor. Keep your legs straight and your toes pointed straight down towards the floor. Straighten your arms as you push your body up off the floor, making sure to keep your hands in the same position, trying not to bend or arch your back. Exhale as you straighten your arms and pause for a moment at the top of the push up. Then slowly lower your body towards the floor until your chest touches. Be sure to inhale as you bend your arms. Pause for a moment and then repeat the exercise.

Front shoulder raises:
Standing with your head centered and looking straight ahead, space your legs shoulder-width apart. Keep your abdominal muscles tight, knees bent, and chest relaxed. Slowly raise your arms directly forward and up towards the ceiling. Stop when your elbows and hands are at shoulder level. Then slowly lower your arms while under control back to your sides. For more difficulty, you may perform this exercise using weights.

Lateral shoulder raises:
Standing with your head centered and looking straight ahead, space your legs shoulder-width apart. Keep your abdominal muscles tight, knees bent, and chest relaxed. Slowly raise your arms directly out from your sides and up towards the ceiling. Stop when your elbows and hands are at shoulder level. Then slowly lower your arms while under control back to your sides. For more difficulty, you may perform this exercise using weights.

Lower Extremities
Squats:
Stand with your feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart and the toes slightly turned out. Keep your abdominals tight and your back in a neutral position. Slowly begin bending your knees until your thigh is parallel to the floor (as if you were sitting in a chair). Be sure to keep your kneecap from going in front of your toes as that will cause increased stress on the knee joint. Then slowly stand back up until you have returned to the starting position without locking your knees. You should maintain the body in an upright position without leaning forward. This exercise may also be performed holding dumbbells or weights for increased difficulty.

Lunges:
Stand with your feet flat on the floor and about shoulder width apart. Take one step forward, keeping your toes pointing straight ahead and landing heel-to-toe. Bend both knees until the front thigh is parallel to the floor. Push off the front foot back to the original starting position. This exercise may also be performed holding dumbbells or weights for increased difficulty.

3. Improve Agility

You can train your body to respond faster to the obstacles faced in skiing. Improving agility involves strength, speed and power. Known as plyometrics, this type of training develops muscular power and increases speed through explosive, fast-acting movements such as hopping, bounding, jumping, and throwing. Please note: If you presently have a foot, ankle, knee, hip, or lower back problem, it is best to avoid these exercises.

An excellent plyometric exercise for skiers and snow boarders is the lateral box jump:

Lateral box jump:
You’ll need step or box that can support your weight and is sturdy. Stand on the box. Jump sideways off the box, keeping your feet together. Land on the balls of your feet and quickly jump back onto the top of the box, again landing on balls of your feet. Then quickly jump to the other side of the box and perform the same maneuver until your standing back on top of the box. If you don’t have a step or box to use, an alternative exercise would the lateral ball jump, in which you jump laterally back forth over a ball.

4. Focus on Flexibility

Stretching is always important for increasing overall flexibility. Some studies indicate that long term stretching can reduce the incidence of injury. A focus on flexibility can help reduce injuries and decrease recovery times in case of injuries.

With skiing and snowboarding, it is important to focus on your muscles facing the greater stress such as the torso, hips and lower extremities. Here are few simple stretches that can help you prepare.

Stretches:

Core
Back side twists:
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep pelvis against the floor or mat. Slowly turn both knees to the left side until a gentle pulling or stretch is felt in your lower back. Hold that position for 10 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. Perform stretch 6 times on left and right sides holding each one for 10 seconds.

Knees to chest:
Lie flat on your back with knees extended. Keep pelvis against the floor or mat. Slowly bring one knee towards your chest. Grasp the knee with your hands and pull the knee towards the opposite shoulder until a gentle pull is felt in your buttocks. Hold that position for 10 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. Perform stretch 6 times on each side holding each one for 10 seconds.

Upper Extremities
Posterior Deltoid and Triceps:
Bring left hand and arm across the front of your body and place the hand behind the right shoulder. With the right hand grasp behind the elevated elbow. Gently push the left elbow towards your body until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds. Perform stretch 6 times on left and right sides holding each one for 10 seconds.

Anterior shoulder and chest:
Stand with your left side next to a wall or door frame. Extend the left arm to shoulder level and bend at the elbow to 90° so that your arm forms a right angle (upper arm is parallel to the ground, and forearm is sticking straight up). Place your left forearm against the wall or door frame. Now, twist away from the wall toward the right until you feel a gentle stretch in your chest. Hold for 10 seconds. Perform stretch 6 times on left and right sides holding each one for 10 seconds.

Lower Extremities
Calf:
Stand one foot from the wall (facing wall). Extend left leg back behind you, keeping your toes pointing forward and your feet flat on the floor. Keeping your left knee extended with the heel of your foot against the ground, lean forward into the wall until you feel a gentle stretch of the calf muscle and tendon of the back extended leg. Hold for 10 seconds without bouncing. Perform this stretch 6 times on the left and right sides holding each one for 10 seconds.

Hamstrings:
Lie on your back on an exercise mat. Bend left leg. Hold right leg straight up in the air towards the ceiling. Loop a towel around the sole of right foot, grasping both ends of the towel. Gently pull the towel towards your body as you push up with right foot until a gentle stretch is felt in the back of your thigh and leg. Hold for 10 seconds. Perform stretch 6 times on left and right sides holding each one for 10 seconds.

IT band:
Sit in a chair or on a bed with your legs dangling over the edge. Lift the left heel onto the right knee so that it is in the figure-4 position. Place one hand underneath the ankle of the left foot and the left knee. Lift left leg towards your chest until you feel a gentle pull in the outside of your left thigh. Hold for 10 seconds. Perform stretch 6 times on left and right sides holding each one for 10 seconds.

Groin:
Sit on the floor with the soles of feet together and outside ankles touching floor. Grasp ankles with your elbows inside of your knees. Slowly lean forward and push your knees towards the floor with your elbows until a gentle pull or stretch is felt on the inside of your thighs. Hold for 10 seconds without bouncing. Perform stretch 6 times on each side holding each one for 10 seconds.

Quads:
Stand on left foot holding left hand on the wall for balance. Lift the heel of right foot up towards your buttock and grasp with your right hand, raising the heel o the buttocks (or as close as comfortably possible), stretching your Quadriceps. Hold for 10 seconds. Perform this stretch 6 times on left and right sides holding each one for 10 seconds.

Training for Maximum Enjoyment

These four types of conditioning can make the difference between a great trip to the slopes and a weekend spent in pain and potential injury. While the best sport specific conditioning cannot always prevent injuries, it can reduce risks and increase recovery time. Proper training can prepare you to perform better while skiing and snowboarding, respond faster to obstacles and falls, and recover quicker from fatigue.

*As always it is important to get clearance from your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program. Any exercise or stretch could cause injury if performed incorrectly.