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Snowsports: Top five training exercises by specialist physiotherapist
Ever wanted to know the most effective and time efficient ways to train for skiing or snowboarding? Turns out wall squats and sit ups are NOT two of them. In fact, these two could have a negative impact. Specialist Physiotherapist Lucy Macdonald explains why and gives you her top five exercises for maximum impact on skiing and boarding performance.
‘Time and time again people are surprised by how quickly a handful of exercises can have a dramatic effect on technique and performance. So ditch your wall squats and sit ups and reap the benefits of these top five exercises:
Top five ski and snowboarding exercises:
1) Standing on one leg with your eyes closed for 1-2 minutes a day
The body’s positional sense (known as proprioception in the trade) gives you the ability to control what your body is doing without you having to look at it. It is one of the biggest indicators for avoiding injury and is essential for sports performance, particularly skiing and snowboarding where you need excellent balance combined with a high awareness of what is going on around you. It becomes even more important in poor visibility.
You can test it yourself by standing on one leg with your eyes closed. If you can do this easily then try doing some knee bends with your eyes closed. You should be able to do about 30 knee bends without wobbling. Make sure you hover your hands near a stable surface that you can hold onto to avoid falling.
If you can’t do this then the good news is you can get almost immediate improvements with practice. To make sure you do it frequently enough it can be helpful to do this while cleaning your teeth for two minutes, morning and night. Remember to always have something stable to hold on to if you wobble.
2) Deep stability muscles in pelvic neutral
The muscles in the lower part of the abdomen stabilise the pelvis and lower back to ensure efficiency in the leg movements. In other words, so that power is not lost by unnecessary movements in the pelvis and low back.
These muscles needed to worked with the pelvis in ‘neutral.’ This neutral pelvic position is key when skiing and snowboarding because in this position the muscles surrounding the hips and pelvis work at their best. Also, the joints and structures of the back can absorb forces more easily in this position thereby reducing risk of back pain.
To find ‘pelvic neutral’ lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees and hips bent. Rock your pelvis so that you are arching your lower back (not your upper back) maximally and then rock it the other way so you are flattening your back maximally. Make a mental note of these two extremes and then try and find fifty percent of the way between the two. This is pelvic neutral. You should feel a slight gap in your lower back.
When you have found this position you next need to contract your pelvic floor muscles whilst continuously breathing from your diaphragm (upper abdomen.) The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that stop you from going to the loo – at the front and back. You want to contract them gently pulling them up in the direction of your head, about twenty percent of your maximum contraction. You then maintain this as you gently pull your lower abdomen towards the spine without flattening your back at all.
Now lie on a long foam roller and use these muscles to prevent yourself from falling off as you add knee drops or leg lifts. You can also do the ‘superman exercise’ on hands and knees using the same muscles to stabilise and incorporate the muscle contraction when doing planking.
And don’t forget to ski and board in pelvic neutral.
3) Squats on a half ball with pelvic and knee alignment
This exercise is excellent for leg and core strength, in particular quadriceps (front of thigh) strength. It also improves technique and proprioception.
Stand on a half ball but make sure you have something steady to hold on to so you don’t fall off.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and your feet pointing forward as if you have skis on. If you do the exercise with your feet slightly turned out you won’t get such good carryover into skiing. If you are a snow boarder, then position your feet accordingly.
Bend your knees making sure that your knees point forwards. To make sure you have the correct knee alignment draw an imaginary dot in the centre of your knee cap and drop a plumb line down to the foot. The plumb line should land between your second and third toe and it is highly likely that either one or both will drop closer to your big toe or even between your feet. Correct this and repeat thirty times.
When you can do this easily you can try doing it with 75% of your weight on one leg and eventually on one leg.
Repeat 30 times a day depending on your fitness level.
4) Jumping on and off a step
This is particularly good for higher level skiers for example those that are trying to improve their mogul technique.
Stand with your feet parallel and jump on and off a step with the same alignment as in exercise number three. Practice jumping forwards and backwards, side to side. Be careful to stay well within your comfort zone so you don’t trip yourself up!
Repeat at least 30 times a day depending on your fitness level.
This exercise is excellent for enabling skiers to finish off turns, control speed and enjoy the sensation of true carving by working the muscles that enable the uphill ski to edge and provide stability.
Lie on your side with your legs together, knees and hips bent. Keep your ankles together as you lift your top knee twisting it upwards and outwards. Make sure you bottom does not rock backwards at all. You should feel it in the outer buttock. If you feel it in the back, knee or front of the hip please stop and go and ask a physio to show you how.
Repeat 30 times every day on both sides.
Lucy Macdonald for Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Lucy Macdonald is a specialist in snowsports injuries and performance and lived in Val D-Isere for 4 seasons where she set up PhysioVal. She has worked with BASI, trained ski instructors as well as treating members of the GB team and wrote and presented BodyTechSki DVD.
Ski instructors, trainers and coaches continue to refer people to her at her clinic in London for 1:1 ski and snow boarding assessments which have a 100% satisfaction rating for transforming ability and enjoyment on the mountain. Please get in touch with Octopus Clinic for more information.
‘Lucy has made a really positive impact on my training – she’s an excellent physiotherapist.’ Ed Drake GB Ski Team