Preparing your body for snow season by Physiotherapist at Kieser Camberwell, Drew McGuinness.
APA Titled Sports & Exercise Physiotherapist, Drew McGuinness, has 17 years experience as a physio including two seasons work in the Australian mountains with elite and recreational skiers and snowboarders. Since 2004 he has been affiliated with the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) with various experiences working with ski and snowboard disciplines.
There is one good thing about the weather getting colder - June is the official start of the snow season in Australia!
It’s a fact that as we get older we lose muscle mass and strength. In the context of snow sports this leads to earlier fatigue, a higher risk of injury, slower recovery times and the inevitable third day burn-out. Just as it’s important to keep your equipment sharp and ready for the slopes, keeping the body in tune is vital and in doing so will pay substantial dividends allowing you to keep skiing for longer whilst the rest of the field return to rest their weary bodies.
Strength training and snow sports
Strength training plays a crucial role in enhancing performance and reducing the risk of injury in snow sports. Whether you're hitting the slopes for skiing or snowboarding, a well-rounded strength training program can significantly improve your abilities on the snow. Snow sports demand a combination of lower body strength, core stability, and upper body strength to navigate the challenging terrain and maintain balance. Skiiers and snowboarders at all levels are prone to acute injuries, such as joint sprains, spinal injuries and muscle strains, due to the physical demands of the sport. If you correctly prepare your body you can reduce the risk of sustaining an injury, recover more quickly from injuries if they arise, and improve your overall performance.
Benefits of Strength Training for Snow Sports
To avoid pain and injuries on the slopes it is crucial that you prepare the body through strength training. Full body exercise programs are important and should include specific exercises for the stability muscles surrounding the legs, gluteals, back and ankles as well as all joints that have been previously injured (as these areas are always more vulnerable). We often see skiiers or snowboarders come in who have tried to ignore an injury or who have done an incorrect rehab program which has left them with muscular deficits. These issues can be improved with a targeted exercise program, such as what is on offer at Kieser.
Key Muscle Groups for Snow Sports
Snow sports require a combination of strength, power, endurance, and stability in various muscle groups throughout the body. While there are several muscle groups involved, some key ones to focus on for snow sports include:
- Core muscles: The core is crucial to maintaining stability and balance on the slopes. On a snowboard, your legs are fixed to the board and so the chest has to absorb the entire force, in particular the high rotational forces that require a dynamic control of core stability. This makes strong core muscles absolutely essential.
Quadriceps: Located in the front of the thigh, the quadriceps play a crucial role in skiing and snowboarding. They help you maintain a stable position, absorb shocks and generate power during turns and jumps.
Hamstrings: The muscles at the back of the thigh, the hamstrings, work in conjunction with the quadriceps to provide stability and control. They assist in decelerating and stabilising movements, especially during downhill skiing or landing jumps.
Glutes: The gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, are responsible for hip extension, rotation, and stabilisation. Strong glutes are vital for generating power, maintaining balance, and absorbing impact during snow sports.
It's important to have a well-rounded training program that targets all major muscle groups to ensure overall strength, stability, and endurance for snow sports. A Kieser Physiotherapist or Exercise Scientist can help you tailor your strength training program to meet your specific needs and goals.
Strength Training Exercises for Snow Sports
At Kieser we can tailor your program to enhance your performance in snow sports. When designing a program for snow sports, some of the below exercise may be included:
- A2 Torso flexion - This exercise isolates and strengthens the straight abdominals muscles and hip flexors. As antagonists to the back muscles, strong abdominal and hip muscles are essential for effective core stability when you turn or do other ski manoeuvres.
B1 Leg extension - The quadriceps muslces in the front of the thigh work continuously while skiing or snowboarding. They help to absorb the bumps, provide stability in the crouched downhill position and during turns.
B7 Seated leg curl - The importance of the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh are often underestimated. They too have to work continuously in order to stabilise the knees.
A3 Hip abduction - The lateral gluteal muscles stabilise the hips when the bodyweight is not evenly distributed on the skis, e.g. when doing turns or on uneven ground.
B8 Tibia dorsiflexion - The shin muscles help to keep the body in the forward position.
F3 Lower back - The downhill position puts an enormous load on the lower back. To maintain the correct position over the skis, strong back and core muscles are essential.
F1 Rotary torso - Obliques are part of the core musculature, along with the abdominals and lower back muscles. A strong core is crucial for maintaining stability and balance while skiing. When you're in a skiing position, the obliques engage to help stabilise your torso and maintain an upright posture. This stability is particularly important when navigating challenging terrain, absorbing shocks, and making quick turns.
C1 Pullover - A strong latissimus dorsi muscles allows an effective use of the poles when traversing terrain with a shallow or uphill gradient.
Physiotherapy for snow sports
If you are recovering from a snow sports injury or looking to try snow sports for the first time, we recommend an assessment from a Physiotherapist. A Physiotherapist will assess your specific needs, develop a tailored treatment plan and provide guidance to help you recover from injuries, improve performance, and enjoy snow sports safely.
Injury prevention and rehabilitation
If you do have an injury, it is important to see a health professional straight away. If you continue to ski or snowboard without properly rehabilitating the body while allowing the injured tissues to heal, then you are putting yourself at high risk of re-injury. Additionally, when we have pain, or an injury, our body’s natural response is to modify movement patterns. Pain also causes muscles to be inhibited or “switch off”, which leads to atrophy or further weakening of the muscles. As a result other muscles compensate or become overactive, which leads to imbalances in the body, further increasing the risk of not only re-injuring the same area, but also putting extra strain on other parts of the kinetic chain, which may then lead to a new injury. An experienced Physiotherapist can help you rehabilitate the injury to reduce pain, improve function and prevent recurrences of the pain or injury.
If you're interested in getting out on the slopes this winter, talk to your local Kieser clinic about customising your training plan to build up those important leg, core and gluteal muscles to have your best snow season yet!