Temperatures have started to drop and winter sport season is upon us! For many, this means bundling up and getting out on the mountain! However, when it comes to snowboarding, what does it take to have a great season? Let’s talk about that it takes and how to prepare for snowboarding like pros do.
Unfortunately, despite the increase in its popularity and physical requirements, until now there was no published articles that recommend physical fitness or training as injury prevention strategies for the snowboarders. However, we do know that due to the diversity of activities in snowboarding, athletes require a range of physical attributes in order to maximize performance and reduce injury risk.
There are 4 essential physical demands of snowboarding:
- Muscular strength
- Neuromuscular power
- Energy System Conditioning
There is no evidence to show that superior levels of strength correlates to superior levels of performance on the snow. However, such correlation does exist for similar sports such as surfing. Lower body eccentric strength, rate of force development (RFD), quadriceps and trunk strength, rotational and antirotational strength, and upper body puling strength have all been identified as essential types of strength for snowboarding athletes.
One thing we do know for sure is ECCENTRICS, ECCENTRICS, ECCENTRICS! Lower body eccentric strength should be included as a significant component of snowboarding athletes’ injury prevention plan to assist with landing mechanics. Eccentric strengthening should be done for ankles, knees and hips, with majority of focus being on the quadriceps, as they have been identified with an important role while riding, as well as jumping/landing.
A common injury that has been identified for the snowboarders is shoulder dislocation. Therefore, in order to work on injury prevention, it is important to focus on strengthening the shoulder structure as well. However, it is important to note that while working on strengthening the quads and the shoulders, muscle hypertrophy should be avoided, as more hypertrophy=more mass=more stress on the joints when landing and riding.
The nature of competitive snowboarding relies heavily on the neuromuscular system and it involves high volumes of explosive and heigh velocity movements. One way to improve the force development is to incorporate short bouts of plyometric training into the warm up of each strength and skill session. Lower body power and trunk rotational power have been positively correlated with improved performance.
There is currently no evidence to suggest an optimal degree of mobility or flexibility for snowboarding athletes. Regardless, incorporating mobility session should be considered in the training to ensure adequate range of movement for the sport specific requirements. It is important to specifically focus on the joint range of motion of the ankle, knee, and hip, as well as thoracic rotation.
Energy system conditioning
There is currently no available is evidence to suggest that superior aerobic or anaerobic capacity leads to improved snowboarding performance. However, snowboarding athletes do spend a great amount of time at higher elevations and therefore, it is recommended that a minimum of three to five days is spent at higher altitude before competition.
Bottom line, when designing an exercise program for a competitive snowboarding athlete, it is important to devote a great amount of attention towards improving general physical requirements such as, baseline strength, power, and mobility.
If you’re out on the mountain, don’t forget to hydrate! Learn more with our winter hydration post!
Rick A. Dann, MPhil1 and Vincent Kelly, PhDASpS2 1 School of Human Movement and Nutritional Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia; and 2 School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia