Every year around this time I like to remind the ski and snowboarding enthusiasts to get ready for the winter season with some critical strengthening exercises. This year, let’s focus on the five most important ones to focus on so cutting turns down the slopes can be amazing.
There are five essential areas to exercise that can improve your strength and mobility no matter what the sport or activity. These exercises also do a great job preparing you to hit the slopes.
The five exercises primarily target your core, lower body, and leg muscles. When you walk, run, bike or ski and snowboard, the driving force comes from your core, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and hip abductors.
1. Do yourself a big favor and really focus on your core strength. A strong lower core and pelvic hip complex will serve all the demands from winter sports. Building solid multi-area muscles in your core is also key to good posture and vastly reduced injury. Doing incline crunches, planks and ball back hyperextensions can give these muscle groups great tone and strength. Be sure to focus on your exterior and internal obliques which are located on each side of your rectus abdominis or what we love to call our “six pack.”
2. The next area to work on is your quadriceps. A great exercise to do daily is step downs which are done by using a set of stairs, step up onto the first step then turn around placing feet shoulder-width apart. Then extend your left leg out past the step as if you are going to descend the step. Bend your right knee to lower your body down slowly. Keep your left heel closer to the floor. Continue to lower your body down until your left heel touches, then slowly raise your body back up. Rotate from left side to right side doing reps until you feel your quads burning a bit.
3. Working your hamstrings is another excellent idea. Hamstrings play a significant role in keeping you stable on the slopes. One of the very best exercises you can do for strengthening your hamstrings is a kettlebell leg deadlift. The weight of kettlebell does not need to be heavy, so don’t overdo it. Start by holding the kettlebell in a standing position straight down. Then lean forward keeping one leg extended with toes pointed to the floor. Keep your lower back very flat and slightly bend your knee. Bend forward only as far as your hamstrings will allow. Back up, switch sides, repeat. Do not arch your lower back and it is not necessary to touch the floor with the kettlebell. Go slow and focus on form and posture to avoid injury.
4. Gluteus Maximus: working your glutes is very important for both skiers and snowboarders. Having strength buried beneath those butt cheeks can make or break endurance on those black diamond runs. The best exercises for your glutes are squats, both with weights and without. Running flights of stairs is another simple way to build up endurance, tone, and strength.
5. Hip abductors are often overlooked and under-exercised. Strong hip abductors will give you much better downhill control as you move, cut and turn. The best way to exercise your hip abductors is doing standing lateral leg raises. This is done by standing up on your right leg and back straight, keeping your knee slightly bent. Now hold your left foot slightly off the ground, lift the leg as high as you can, shooting for 45 degrees angle from the floor. Then lower your leg back to the starting position and repeat. Don’t bend at the waist and watch your form and posture. You can also do this in a prone position by lying on the floor and lift your leg, performing lateral leg raises. Similar to standing, keep one side of your body in contact with the ground from hip to ankle. Rest on your elbow, align your back to your legs and then release them to as near to a 45-degree angle as you can. Repeat until your hips and thighs tire and have a slight burn.
The beauty of all these exercises is they complement each other very well. By doing these exercises lightly every day or a more intense workout every other day, you will be surprised how quickly your body will strengthen. Being strong, toned and in shape before you hit the slopes will reduce injury and make a long day in the snow much more enjoyable.
Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation and Certified Health Coach.