Here is the second in our series of four basic exercises to improve strength and get ready for hitting the slopes. Remember, these four exercises 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 minimal equipment.
As always, before you start any exercise program make sure you’re healthy enough to start it safely and if you have any question/doubt or any medical condition you should check with your MD first.
Single Leg Deadlifts: The second exercise is the single leg deadlift. It is an excellent exercise for the slopes in that it effectively targets your glutes, hamstrings, and hip abductors in one exercise.
The Set Up: Find an open area in your home to accommodate this exercise, preferably in an area where you can hold onto a piece of furniture like a dining room table, couch, stair railing, wall, or, when in a pinch, a chair. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with your supporting piece of furniture on your left side.
The Exercise: Bend and maintain your right knee in a slightly (about 30 degrees) bent position. Hinging at your hips, keeping a straight flat back slowly bend forward reaching for the ground with your right hand. At the same time, as you are leaning forward, your left leg will be extending behind you.
At the midpoint of the motion, your right-hand fingertips will be touching the ground, your right knee will still be bent at 30 degrees, and your left leg will be extended behind you making a straight line with your trunk.
Slowly return to an upright position with your trunk while simultaneously lowering your left leg. That is one rep. Perform ten times with your right leg on the ground, left extending behind you followed by ten times with your left leg on the ground (furniture on the right side now) and your right leg extending behind you to make one set.
Try to perform three sets of 10 reps on each leg.
The Cues: Some things to watch out for:
- You Must maintain a straight line from your hip to your knee to your foot on your stance leg (the one on the ground). Do not allow your knees to go in towards each other, or your hip to stick out to the side.
- Maintain the slight bend in your stance leg to ensure the target muscles are the gluts and hamstrings. This will allow the knee to bend and extend transfers more of the workload to the quads.
- Hinge at your hips to ensure a flat back to maintain good posture.
- Keep the leg that goes in the air as straight as possible. This will help improve the range of motion of your hip hinge, help maintain good posture throughout your trunk, and act as a counterbalance.
- Keep your shoulders square to the floor. This will help maintain good trunk posture and improve core stability,
- Do not point your toes out. Keep your toes pointing straight in good posture.
The Mods: Some modifications you can use to reduce/progress the exercise.
- Change the depth. If this exercise is challenging, in the beginning, a quick modification would be not to lower your hand to the ground but to stop at a depth that makes you feel like you’re working but not so low that you feel pain. In the beginning, it may be useful to put something down (a footstool or yoga block) to decrease the depth but still provide a target to obtain. As you get stronger, lower the size of the object.
- In the beginning, use both hands for support by putting a chair on either side of you. As the exercise gets more comfortable, you can always progress to using only one hand, and then down the line attempting the exercise without holding on to further improve your balance and stability
- To make the exercise more challenging, you can add weights to your hands or challenge your balance more when you return to the upright position instead of putting both feet on the ground keep the suspended leg off the ground. As that gets easier, you can pull the suspended leg in front of you bringing your knee up to your chest.
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 stance leg and creating more pain on the inside of the knee.
Weak hip muscles will also allow the hip to shoot out to the side throwing off your balance.
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 all 3 of the beforementioned issues.
Decreased glute strength can lead to greater 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 some underlying muscle imbalances 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!