Depending on the weather, we typically will hit the slopes sometime towards the end of December if we are lucky and January if we are not. That conceivably gives us around two months to start a preseason program to get in slope shape. Starting a preseason program now will improve your strength, endurance, and flexibility in time to improve your overall performance and decrease your chance of injury on the slopes. You ever hear anyone on a lift complain that their legs were too strong to handle their rides because they really miss the burn in their thighs half way down the mountain? Yeah, me neither!
Cardio: When it comes to cardio, pick your poison. You can do something as cheap as running, enjoy the fall foliage on your road or mountain bike, or you can spend the money to get a ski trainer. The type of cardio is not as important as the fact you are doing cardio.
Stretching: Stretching is an important component for the slopes. With greater flexibility, you can improve your overall ability and prevent significant injuries. There are various types of stretching techniques; static versus dynamic, to foam roll or not, and various types of yoga. Ultimately, everyone is different and flexibility is just as different between different types of people. Therefore, the key is consistency. Whatever method you feel improves your flexibility the most, utilize it on a consistent basis to get the greatest gains you can.
Preseason Training for the slopes
Over the course of the next few weeks we will be sharing eight total exercises that we separated into two categories, basics and advanced. As we progress through the eight exercises attempt each three times a week as we build your program, either as a stand alone exercise program or as a part of your regular exercising. As always, before you start any type of exercise program, make sure you are healthy enough to start it safely. If you have any questions, doubts or any medical conditions, you should check with your MD first before you rock and roll.
Here are the first two Basic Exercises!
The first exercise is the step down. It is an excellent exercise for the slopes in that it effectively targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and hip abductors in one exercise.
The Set Up: Find a step or flight of stairs in your home, preferably with a railing or other object for you to hold onto. If it is a staircase, step up onto the first step then turn around as if you are heading down the stairs, placing feet shoulder width apart. Place one hand on the handrail and the other on the wall or any other available support.
The Exercise: Take your left leg and extend it out past the step as if you were about to descend the last step. With your right leg, you are going to slowly bend your knee to lower your body down. In so doing, your left heel will come closer to the floor. Continue to lower your body down until your left heel touches the ground. Do not transfer any weight into your left heel, but just allow it to hit the ground. Then slowly raise your body back up to the start position by extending both your knee and hip. That is one rep. Perform 10 times with your left leg extended followed by 10 times with your right leg extended to make one set. Try to perform three sets of 10 reps on each leg.
The Cues: Some things to watch out for are: 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. 2) Bend at your knee. This will ensure that your leg will stay in alignment, maintaining that hip-knee-foot line. 3) Stand tall. Do not bend at your waist in an attempt to get lower but stay tall as if you were in your skis. 4) Do not point your toes out. Keep your toes pointing straight in good posture.
Modifications: Some modifications you can use to reduce/progress the exercise: 1) Change the depth. If this exercise is challenging in the beginning a quick modification would be to not lower your foot 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 an old school phone book (if you still own one) or a similarly large book on the floor to decrease the depth but still provide a target to obtain. As you get stronger, lower the size of the book. 2) In the beginning use both hands for support but as the exercise gets easier 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.
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 knee cap into the patella tendon just below the knee. Decreased mobility in the ankles can lead all 3 of the aforementioned issues.
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: 1)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. 2) 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. 3) Hinge at your hips to ensure a flat back to maintain good posture. 4) 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. 5) Keep your shoulders square to the floor. This will help maintain good trunk posture and improve core stability. 6) Do not point your toes out. Keep your toes pointing straight in good posture.
Modifications: Some modifications you can use to reduce/progress the exercise: 1)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. 2) 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. 3) 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 aforementioned 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 these exercises 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!