Have you ever wondered as a skier or snowboarder, why is strength training important and how can it help prevent injury? Erin Storck will answer this question and help you as an athlete understand who should strength train how to incorporate into an exercise routine. She will discuss the different muscle groups then explain specific exercises for building and strength and preventing injury in these specific areas of focus: Quads, Glutes, Abdominals, Hip Flexors, & Hamstrings. Be prepared to work through multiple exercises and then learn how everything comes together to keep you strong conditioned and ultimately enjoy more days making turns.
Why is Strength Training Important to Preventing Injuries?
- Everyone gets injured. Think about a specific time you’ve had an injury.
- Why did it happen?
- Did you know what you were doing?
- Was it chronic?
- Was there a way to prevent it?
- What barriers did you have during the healing process?
- Was it a long healing process, or something you got over quickly?
- With strength training, it is important to be consistent. You shouldn’t just be doing it during the preseason, and stopping once the season starts. It is easy to get a lot of stoke for your sport and forget about routines and maintenance, but those are very important to preventing injuries.
- Consistent strength training will help build your efficiency and power during skiing, snowboarding, and skinning. This will help you be less prone to injury because you’re not overstressing your body and you’ll be comfortable doing your sport.
- Analogy of a Car:
- The engine of a car is like your aerobic system.
- So if you’ve built up your base and you feel like you have really good cardio for the season or a good engine in your car, you will still be at a loss if you, for example, get a flat tire or a broken part in your vehicle.
- It’s only a matter of time before it starts to break down, or the whole thing blows up, or you can’t drive it anymore, etc.
- So with your body, if you don’t maintain all the parts of your body right, i.e. your your leg strength, your hips, etc., then your knee might go out and ruin it all even though you’ve been doing great cardio to prepare for the snow season.
How to Incorporate Strength Training During Season
Strength training is important for everyone. Some of us may be more prone or less prone to injuries, and a little bit of that comes down to your genetics and your anatomy, but overall, if you look at, say, the aging athlete, some of your idols that have been around skiing and snowboarding forever – they’re gonna have some sort of maintenance routine to keep up that longevity in their sport.
A morning routine
This is great if you’re a morning person, but even if you’re not this will help to try to get yourself going out of bed.
You could wake up and do a couple different mobility exercises or some strength training, but mostly focus on slowly building into it with light weights. It’s purely about getting those muscles firing and maintaining a level of balance.
Pre-Ski or Post-Ski
This can be similar, especially with some of the mobility work, or also incorporating light foam rolling is great to do pre-ski.
A post-ski routine is another good option to create a habit out of it. As long as your legs aren’t too shot from the day you should be able to get through a couple rounds of different exercises.
An Evening Routine
Think about what part of your day would a quick strength routine fit into best?
You could incorporate a short circuit two days a week; it doesn’t have to be a huge daunting task because as we know, something’s better than nothing. Even if you just have 10 minutes, then get in a round or two a couple of different exercises.
These full body strength days shouldn’t replace a rest day, because if you are doing a heavy strength day that puts stress on your body.
Sometimes it gets misconstrued, and people are like, “okay I have to take a rest day so perfect, I’ll do my strength that day,” but instead, maybe incorporate it on a day that you’re doing some gentle yoga type exercises, or mobility type exercises. Some of that harder strength training is something that you’re going to want to either stack onto a shorter ski day or on an off day for skiing.
Overview: Major Muscle Groups
These are some of the major muscle groups that are used during these snow sports that tend to be overworked, or that get neglected. We will discuss these, and then some of the things that we can do to strengthen those muscles and maintain them throughout the season.
Areas of focus:
- Hip Flexors
- Your quads are one of your primary muscle groups, and keeping them strong and efficient is especially important for skiing, snowboarding, or skinning.
- For the most part, people do a pretty good job of strengthening their quads, and injuries often come from your quads not being balanced out. We use our quads a lot in daily life and with some of the basic strength training exercises. Think about walking, running, biking, or even just standing or being on our feet for a long time. Our quads get activated a lot, and exercises like squats and lunges are primarily quad dominant movements.
- If you’re an active person, you probably do a pretty good job of strengthening your quads, but what we often see is that your quads aren’t balanced out well with your hamstrings, and that’s when injury can come in. Sometimes your quads just get beat up because they are so dominant that people don’t use their other muscles around it as well, like your glutes, so the quads take the whole load and can end up strong but very tight.
- One simple way to help with that tightness is gentle foam rolling, specifically on the upper parts of your legs all the way up into the hip flexor area. Do that a couple times a day, pre-ski and post ski, for a couple weeks, and you will start feeling some of that tension loosening.
- Another thing you could do would be to couple foam rolling with using a theragun or wand, or basically whatever you have available to you.
Squat variation - Eccentric
- Find a squat position that is comfortable, with a somewhat vertical upper body. Typically with your squat, your feet are going to be more or less shoulder distance apart, toes can be turned out a little bit or straight forward. The important thing is that your knees should be aligned with your feet, whether they are straight or turned out.
- Eccentric is referring to lowering, muscle-lengthening here. So once you have that position, you are going to sit down slowly in the squat to a count of three, pause for one at the bottom, and then come up on one.
- This motion will help you build your legs well for powder days.
- Gluteus Medius, Minimus, and Maximus. These are your butt muscles and these are important in snow sports as well as everyday life to prevent injuries.
- It’s not just about the muscle group that you’re working; you have to think about how that’s affecting the whole chain, from hip to knee to hamstring to ankle. Your glutes are really part of your whole core – when you think about your core you think of your abdominals, your back, your butt, and that’s what’s connecting your whole body together and supporting those slower extremities.
- Strong, solid glutes are important to skinning in particular, as the push-off is very important. When you’re going to stride and you’re pushing down through your foot, especially on a steep incline, you’re going to be activating those glute muscles, so keeping them strengthened will make your glutes more efficient and stronger.
- Also having a stable base with your glutes will help your body react better with skiing and snowboarding, if you hit a bump or another skier – those are the unexpected times when injuries can happen so you definitely want your body to be ready to deal with those and having strong glutes is the basis of that.
- The basic position is to lie on your back, with your feet hip distance apart, and your palms up to the side.
- The big thing here is to think about tightening those butt muscles and getting those hips all the way up. Also, make sure you’re pushing through your heels on the ground or else you’ll be mainly working out your quads.
- Cross one leg over the other, or just pick up one leg into a bent knee for a single leg bridge.
- Elevate your shoulders using a chair or a workout ball.
- You can also try elevating both or one leg on either one of those surfaces. It is pretty challenging to get those muscles to fire and stabilize.
- You’ll need some kind of exercise band.
- Put the band around your ankles and get into a position like you’re about to sit back in a chair. Your hips should be back slightly and your belly tight, and your feet as wide as you can with your knees aligned to them.
- Take small steps forward until you hit a wall, then small steps backwards, focusing on keeping your feet and knees as wide as you can.
- Try around 15 steps forward and back.
- Moving in this stance forward and back will target those bigger glute muscles, while moving side to side will target the smaller glute muscles.
Effectively strengthening your abs is going to keep your pelvis and your back nice and stable. Your entire core, your abs and your back, work hand in hand, so keeping the core strong will take stress off your back.
When we think about skinning and what muscles we’re using, sometimes we just focus on the legs but driving the knee up will require using those abdominal muscles as well.
Having a strong core will also help you when you carry a touring pack, as it will take some of that strain off your back and shoulders and help you redistribute the weight more evenly while holding a strong posture.
You’ll start in a plank position, shoulders stacked over hands, and then slowly drive your knees to your chest.
You can pause each knee at the chest and really feel that strain on your abdominal muscles.
Have your forearms on a workout ball
Knock the ball with your knees as you drive them in to work on stabilizing
- Have your top leg positioned over your bottom leg and your shoulder over your elbow.
- Side planks focus on the obliques; having strong obliques is helpful to regain control when something causes you to lose it, or even just while carving or turning during skiing or snowboarding.
- Add a weight
- Do a rotation, with your hand starting in the sky and then reaching under your rib cage and then back up
Hip flexors are typically a big problem area for people who skin.
Improving your abdominal strength will help you with hip flexor pain, but also there are mobility exercises to help improve your hip flexors as well.
Hip flexor mobility drill
Start in a half kneeling position and remember the 3 B’s:
Push your front Big toe into the mat, pull your Belly button in, and make sure your Back toes are tucked under.
Then do a pelvic tilt forward like you’re tucking your tail, and add an arm reach up and shift slightly forward to feel that pull on your hip flexor.
The true key is here to remember to tuck your tail – you won’t have to shift forward all that much before you feel the pull, and then just hold that position for 3-5 seconds.
Hamstrings often get neglected as people tend to focus on their quads.
Hamstrings are tricky muscles because of how they connect to the body: they cross over both the hip and knee, so there can be a lot of leverage pulling on them, and therefore they are more susceptible to injuries just based on that.
So we want to prevent our hamstrings from being too stressed and help them balance out the other muscle groups as well.
Skinning is a big place you’ll see hamstring injuries because you can easily strain your hamstring by, say, a ski slipping out, or something similar.
Maintaining strength and balance in your hamstrings is important no matter the sport, but particularly in skinning since hamstrings are relied heavily on when your leg is extended back and used to propel you forward.
Stand 6 inches from a wall and have your hands on your hips.
Push your hips back to the wall and stand tall.
The majority of the movement should be coming from your hips, with your belly tight and back flat.
You should really feel the stretch in your hamstrings and your glutes clench as you stand up tall.
romanian deadlifts (RDL)
- Start standing.
- Stand hip distance apart, trace your legs and come back up.
single leg deadlifts
- Hold your arms out airplane style, and focus on pushing your butt back while keeping your lifted left straight with the toe pointed, and your back as flat as possible.
- Don’t worry about touching the ground; rather just think about how far you can get by pushing your butt back.
putting it together
- A good range for reps is 10-15 repetitions, or slightly more if you’re doing a lighter load if you’re working out at home.
- Repeat those reps for about two to three sets, nothing crazy.
- Repeat the entire thing about two to three times a week; pick four exercises one day, four the next, etc., or do them all at once.
- Whatever works best in your routine – it doesn’t have to be overly complicated.
- You can also do a circuit and set a time for 30 to 45 seconds of each exercise if that motivates your more.
- You could also incorporate these exercises into a full body strength training day if that is best for you.
Mobility v. Stretch?
- With mobility drills, you’re actively moving through that joint rather than just holding the position like you do in a stretch.
favorite pre-season training methods for building endurance & stamina?
Biking, running, power hiking
Start in a steady pace to build your aerobic base and make sure your body is working efficiently.
After you have that base, add in intervals to make it a little harder. Maybe hill intervals for those that skin since both involve a lot of uphill.
At a gym, you could do a circuit called a “step down” where you pick two pieces of equipment, and start on one for say 10 minutes, the next for 9, the first for 8 minutes, and so on.
good exercises to stabilize your knees?
The knees are kind of a suction between your hip and ankles, so it’s hard to specifically target them, but some of these muscle groups we’ve talked about are going to also help strengthen your knees.
For example, glute strengthening and hip stability will help strengthen the knee joint.
Plyometric movements, such as single leg lateral hops or skater jumps would be good as well.
good exercises for plantar fasciitis pains after a long ski day?
- Mobility type exercises
- You can stand on a foot roller to loosen up those tissues.
- Toe yoga, which is just trying to lift your big toe up and down – or the opposite, keeping the big toe stable and trying to lift the other toes up and down, that will also help.
- Another way to address this would be to foam roll out your calves and the top of your shins.
ABOUT the Physiologist
Erin Storck EP-C
Erin Storck EP-C has a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science and is certified as an Exercise Physiologist through ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine). When working with athletes, she loves seeing each individual become more in tune with their bodies. “It’s amazing how much you can gain when you are aware of your movements and the impact of the stressors you put on your body!”
Health and fitness have always been a major part of Erin’s life. In recent years, She has devoted much of her athletic pursuits to splitboarding and to trail and mountain racing while still making time for gym training, climbing, and adventuring. Erin has been personal training for over seven years and has experience in many settings such as rehab, general fitness, athletics, and special populations. She specializes in injury prevention, run-coaching, general fitness, climbing, ski/snowboard conditioning, and overall mountain fitness!