Here is the second in our series of four advanced exercises to improve strength, power, and endurance to get ready for the slopes. These exercises continue to target primary leg muscles used in skiing and snowboarding (your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and hip abductors) with a conscious effort to focus on exercises that could be easily performed in the home with no equipment.
The Advanced four exercises do require enough room to execute, so please take a moment to find a place in your home where there is a more significant amount of free space. Even try to move some furniture around to make room, and check to make sure the ceiling is not too low if you are in your basement.
Again, before you start any exercise program make sure you’re healthy enough to start it safely. If you have any question/doubt or any medical condition you should check with your MD first before beginning.
Speed Skaters: The second exercise is the speed skater. It is an excellent exercise for the slopes in that it effectively targets your hip abductors, hip adductors, quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings in one exercise.
The Set Up: Find an open area in your home to accommodate this exercise, preferably in an area with enough space to accommodate moving side to side without hitting anything. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
The Exercise: Standing with your feet shoulder width apart (start/end position) toes parallel to each other pointing forward you are going to leap to your right like you are jumping over a small stream or large puddle, landing on your slightly bent right leg.
Once your right foot lands on the ground you are going to further bend your right knee to load your right leg into a one-legged squat position (back flat, butt sticking out behind you slightly, right hip bent) while allowing the momentum to carry your left leg behind your body, crossing past your right leg. At the same time, your right arm will swing behind you from the moment you land while your left arm will cross in front of your chest. Once your right leg is loaded, you will immediately leap back to your left, again like you are jumping sideways over a small stream or large puddle, landing on your slightly bent left leg.
Again, once your left foot lands on the ground you are going to further bend your left knee to load your left leg into a one-legged squat position (back flat, butt sticking out behind you slightly, left hip bent) while allowing your momentum to now carry your right leg behind your body, crossing past your left leg. Similar to when leaping to the right your left arm will swing behind you from the moment you land while your right arm will cross in front of your chest. That is one rep.
Perform ten times leaping to the right and then immediately back to the left as if both leaps are one fluid motion to make one set. Try to perform three sets of 10 reps.
The Cues: Some things to watch out for:
1) You Must leap out far enough to the side with your leg to increase the force production used, the further the leap the higher the force production and consequently the more significant the knee bend required on the landing leg.
2) Maintain a slightly bent trunk position to counteract the weight of your opposite leg crossing behind you. Think of an Olympic speed skater’s position during their race.
3) Keep your butt back to prevent loading the toes and knee when landing and pushing off on the stance leg.
4) Allow momentum to help load each side by allowing both the opposite leg and both arms to swing somewhat freely.
5) Maintain your feet pointing forward each time your stance leg lands on the ground.
The Mods: Some modifications you can use to reduce/progress the exercise.
1) Change the distance of the leap. If this exercise is challenging, in the beginning, a quick modification would be to not leap out as far to decrease the depth you squat sown. Attempt a distance that makes you feel like you’re working but not so far that you feel pain. In the beginning, it may be useful to just hop from one leg to the other. As you get stronger, attempt to increase the distance you travel sideways.
2) To make the exercise more challenging, you can increase the distance traveled in each sideways leap. Try adding some type of marker to jump past as a goal. Additionally, you can make the exercise harder by pausing in the single legged squat position prior to leaping back the other direction, set a goal of a 2 second pause between jumps where you are paused like a loaded spring before jumping back the other direction, and as you get stronger you can increase the tie of the pause.
The Issues: There are a variety of issues that people can experience with this exercise, but a few of the more common are:
Weakness in the hips can contribute to the knee pointing in on the landing leg creating more pain in the knee both when landing and when pushing off to leap.
Weak quadriceps can increase pain and pressure along the knee cap into the patella tendon just below the knee.
Decreased mobility in the ankles can lead to all the aforementioned issues while reduced ankle stability can contribute to laterally rolling the ankle upon landing.
Decreased glute strength can lead to more excellent use of the lumbar spine muscles potentially creating low back soreness.
If you are having difficulty figuring this exercise out or are experiencing pain that you would describe as being more than just out of shape give us a call, and we can give you a free screening to see if there are some underlying muscle imbalances that may be contributing to your issues as well as further education to make sure you are performing the exercise correctly.
Check back next week for our next blog post in our new Getting Ready for Skiing and Snowboarding: Exercises and Tips Blog Series!