Here is the first in our series of four advanced exercises to improve strength, power, and endurance to get ready for the slopes. These four 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 considerable amount of space free or move some furniture around to make room, and check to make sure the ceiling isn’t 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.
Squat Jumps: The first exercise is the squat jump. It is an excellent exercise for the slopes in that it effectively targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluts dynamically just like descending the uneven slopes.
The Set Up: Find an open area in your home to accommodate this exercise, preferably in an area with enough space to accommodate variations in your jumping and landing. 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 slowly bend your knees to lower your body into a squat position; back flat, butt sticking out behind you, hips turned. At the same time gradually bring both of your arms back behind you fingers pointing towards the ground. Once you lower your body down as far as you can while maintaining proper form, you should pause before swinging your arms forward in front of your body towards the ceiling as you jump as high as you can in one motion, both arms and legs going at the same time. You want to land on your toes while maintaining your feet shoulder length apart and immediately bend your knees to lower yourself back down to the start/end position while swinging your outstretched arms behind you in an arc. That is one rep. Perform ten times to make one set. Try to perform three sets of 10 reps.
The Cues: Some things to watch out for:
1) You Must maintain a straight line from your hip to your knee to your foot. Do not allow your knees to go in towards each other, or your hip to stick out to the side especially when landing or jumping up as these two times require the greatest force production in your legs.
2) Hinge at your hips to ensure a flat back to maintain good posture.
3) Keep your butt back to prevent loading the knees when going into the squat.
4) Keep your knees ‘soft’ when landing. This means your legs should not be held rigid or straight on landing but that you should immediately absorb the landing and be in control back to the start/end position.
Think of your legs like a spring that needs to be loaded (when you absorb the landing and squat down) before springing up into the air (when you jump back up).
5). Depending on your ceiling height you may not be able to swing your outstretched arms overhead. In that case, keep your elbows bent and swing them to shoulder height while jumping instead of overhead.
The Mods: Some modifications you can use to reduce/progress the exercise.
1) Change the jump height. If this exercise is challenging, in the beginning, a quick modification would be to not jump as high to decrease the force production and maintain better control/form on the landing. Attempt a distance that makes you feel like you’re working but not so low that you feel pain.
2) Stand and rest between each rep of the set. This will allow you time to ensure you are in proper setup form before each rep.
3) To make the exercise more challenging you can attempt to jump as high as possible, the higher you jump, the greater power and control you will need.
4) Link your jumps. Instead of pausing after each rep in the start/end position you can immediately jump up into the ensuing reps, turning the exercise into one constant fluid arc of motion throughout the ten reps.
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 knees pointing in and creating more pain on the inside of the knee.
Weak hip muscles will also allow the hip to shoot out to the side.
Weak quadriceps can increase pain and pressure along the kneecap into the patella tendon just below the knee.
Decreased mobility in the ankles can lead to all 3 of the issues mentioned above.
Ankle instability can lead to unevenness when landing which could contribute to rolling the ankle.
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.
Check back next week for our next blog post in our new Getting Ready for Skiing and Snowboarding: Exercises and Tips Blog Series!