The Most Important Elements of Snowboard Fitness: How to avoid injuries, get snow fit and make the most out of your time on the slopes!
Snow season is creeping up slowly but surely! Before it kicks in we wanted to share some tips and tricks to stay fit and remain injury free for the upcoming season! ?
Snowboarding and skiing are extremely fun! Regardless of whether you are hitting rails in the park, carving down the side of the mountain, or exploring some more adventurous trails off-piste. Winter sports always bring a real sense of adventure and exhilaration.
Now here’s today bombshell: Skiing and snowboarding are A LOT more fun when you are physically fit.
Snow sports require a combo of technique, strength and flexibility to keep yourself balanced and capable of navigating your way down the slopes all day. Throughout the day on the mountain you are going to be working your muscles a lot. Spending your time on the slopes may seem like just an extremely enjoyable experience, but if you are doing things right, it should also come with a fair amount of hard work!
Are you planning a ski trip this winter? If you are, then read on and learn how to strengthen your body in order to do more of what you love doing! The majority of these moves are bodyweight and require no equipment which is great as it means that you can do them on your own, wherever you are, whenever you want! Build some strength and endurance, up your game on the slopes and fight off injuries!
Warm Up Properly
In order to ride hard all day and reduce your risk of injury, warming up should be a vital part of your action plan! Warming up will not only get you ready for the upcoming day, it will also improve your overall performance on your board and exercise endurance. There are many crucial reasons for doing a good warm up:
- It is extra important in the snow as it is cold!
- Gets your muscles ready for riding and reduce any muscle stiffness.
- Helps reduce the chance of injury.
- Prepares you mentally for a day on the slopes.
- Gets your heart rate up.
- Increases blood flow and speeds up the contraction and therefore reaction time of your muscles.
For a good solid warm up I always like to start off with:
A good neck and shoulder warm up.
To finish off ensure that you get some good stretches, you want to focus on your hips, calves, and back. Try out this 5-minute yoga routine to get yourself slope ready!
Despite what you may think, snowboarding requires more than strong legs. It is a very physically demanding activity and in order to perform at your peak, your strength training should incorporate full body movements. Your core muscles which include both abdominals and back muscles are extremely important if you want to enjoy your time on the slopes. Without a strong core you will have very little control, balance and you will fatigue very quickly. Snowboarding is a full body workout that engages many little muscles. Don’t neglect these muscles, perform full body workouts in your snow fit training.
Building a strength foundation goes far beyond looking shredded. Your muscles act as a support system for your body, they help you to jump higher, land better and assist with balancing. They act as shock absorbers for our bodies and building strength is key to avoiding injury.
There is nothing that can truly replicate the forces of snowboarding, but there are a few exercises that we have identified which can help prepare your body. Be sure to click on the hyperlinked words to see some videos with technique work or some variations.
- Squats are a vital element of snow fitness, they will strengthen quads, hamstrings, hips, core and glutes. This will help you in multiple ways, from getting you off the chairlift to riding throughout the day. Try them all: air squats, front squats, back squats!
- Deadlift – strengthening your body in flexion is a saver when it comes to stabilise big landings and keeping the knees protected. If you do them right, deadlifts will prepare your back for any hits, jumps or moguls. This move works your hamstrings, which are the main stabilizers for your ACLs, a super important exercise for any snowboard or ski athletes. To further test your balance, do single-leg deadlifts if you can keep good form.
- Lunges – these focus on the same muscles as the squat, however there is an increased focus on the glutes, inner thighs and balance, which will in turn help to further strengthen the knees. There are many lunge variations, try forwards, backwards, sideways, weighted.
- Plank – is one of the most effective core exercises. A strong core will help you finetune everything, it will make it easier for your whole body to move together, and stronger abdominals and back will safeguard you from injury. There are many variations to plank which will work different muscle groups.
- Pull Ups – the upper body is often ignored in snow sport training. It is extremely important to be strong throughout the whole body and not have any weak links. Pull ups are a great drill to work your core, back as well as stabilizing your shoulder muscles. A strong back plays a big role in stability, support and balance, it will also help out if you take a tumble on the slopes!
- Strict Knees to Chest a great drill to work lower core strength while also working on shoulder strength. These will also help to improve grip strength for those long ski lifts!
- Kettlebell Swings are one of the best tools to teach athletes how to actively explode their hips.
- Window Wipers another fantastic core drill. These mimic the action of initiating a spin or turn and are a great way to prepare yourself for the upcoming season.
- The Burpee a great full body tool that works on explosiveness, strength, core and legs!
Challenge your balance
Balance training is a key part of snow fitness. It plays a major role in coordination i.e. the ability to control our bodies. In addition, it also works our agility, which is our capacity to move quickly and easily. By improving these skills, you will undoubtedly improve your overall performance on the snow and in any other sports that you practice.
There are a number of great ways we can challenge our balance:
- Single Leg Drills – such as single leg squats, single leg RDLs, dipping birds or single leg box step ups. By developing single leg strength, it allows you to develop equal strength in both legs, so you are strong and powerful in every direction that you need to move in. Single leg drills also activate stabiliser muscles which help to protect your ankle and knee throughout dynamic movements.
- Bosu Balls are probably my balance tool of choice. These are extremely versatile tools that can provide multiple challenges. Check this video for some inspiration.
- Other balancing tools — balance board, wobble board or indo board – these can all mimic the challenge of balancing on a snowboard. One of my favourite exercises on a balance board is a basic squat. These are a serious core challenge and will work wonders for knee stability.
- Another great way to challenge your balance is through yoga. There are numerous yoga poses that work your balance and strengthen your core. There are many standing balance yoga poses that range from simple to challenging that can be practiced and will help improve your balance as well as improve your mobility.
It won’t come as a surprise that a day on the slopes requires a good cardio base! Due to the nature of snow sports you will need good stamina (also known as aerobic fitness – the kind required to run long distances) if you want to have enough energy to get you through the day. You will also need to work on your anaerobic fitness (the kind needed to perform short sprints). The most effective way to prepare for this combination of longer stamina and short burst aerobics is by combining high-intensity training and longer, more sustained efforts.
Aerobic endurance permits us to tolerate physical performance for sustained periods of time. Aerobic endurance helps your body to effectively distribute oxygen to your muscles. Anaerobic endurance is your muscles’ ability to operate in the absence of oxygen. Some examples of aerobic exercises are running, swimming, rowing, skipping. An example of anaerobic training is High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT or Tabata training.
The purpose of cardio training is to improve our cardiovascular fitness and stamina to a point where we can comfortably make it through a day of riding without feeling gassed out.
A great little cardio blast that combines aerobic and anaerobic training:
Warm up with a 15-minute run
3 rounds of: 30 seconds Burpees 30 seconds off
3 rounds of: 30 seconds Squat Jumps 30 seconds off
3 rounds of: 30 seconds High Knees 30 seconds off
Cool down with 5 minutes skipping.
Good flexibility translates into a good range of movement. This is an exceptionally important element for snowboarders who want to up their game. If you wish to execute spins, flips, or even just try out the snow park you need to train your flexibility. Even simply creating the angles for decent carving demands flexibility, particularly in the hips and lower body. The unique thing about snow sports is that you are wearing bindings, to avoid any potential injury we should pay particular attention to flexibility in our calves, ankles and Achilles tendons.
Tight muscles can lead to many problems, ranging from aches and pains in your knees and lower back, sore shoulders and neck. The great news is that this can be easily dealt with! If you practice proper stretching and even foam rolling or other forms of self-myofascial release most of these aches and pains will be enormously decreased. Stretching will also increase the range of motion of your limbs, making it a lot easier to execute tricks! Check out the videos below for some great ways to get started:
- Here is a great video to get you started with a full body stretching routine for flexibility.
- Some great dynamic stretches specifically designed for snowboarders.
- Full body foam rolling routine
- Yoga is also a great tool for stretching and relieving stress, many pros are now including it in their regular training. Check out this ten-minute yoga for snowboarding video!
Get Faster Reactions Through Plyometric Training
Want to jump higher on your snowboard? There is a simple solution for that: Plyometrics! Plyometrics are exercises designed to increase speed, power, and explosiveness. The National Strength and Conditioning Association defines them as activities that enable a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest amount of time. Plyometrics are often used in sports specific training. Plyometrics can improve leg strength while maximizing your explosive power in way that nothing else can!
- Jump Squats or Box Jumps – these are great tools for teaching explosiveness for take offs and learning how to be soft on landings. If you want to be springy on your board these are the drills you should be doing!
- Jump Lunges similar points of performance to regular lunges. The jumping version, a plyometric alternative, further works balance and gets your heart rate up! Be sure to keep good form when you rebound, this will help with any landings on the snow! Jump lunges help to develop explosive power through your lower body and strengthens each leg individually.
- Skaters – these are a great tool for snowboarders as they help to build balance and coordination; as well as evening out left and right imbalances in the lower body.
The very last thing that you want on a snowboarding holiday is to suffer an injury, so the best way to avoid this is to prepare your body properly. Nutrition also plays a role in this. Remember that you are going to be cold, in high altitude and doing a pretty comprehensive physical activity, so you will need a good dose of good carbohydrates. Keep some snacks on you to ensure your energy levels stay up and KEEP HYDRATED!
We have given you a number of great ways to keep fit for the snow. There is also another tactic you can take when prepping for your return to the slopes! Replicate the demand of the slopes in another way! Surfing, wakeboarding and skateboarding can be great training tools for the snow. These sports closely simulate the demands of the slopes. They will also help with general balance training and overall body awareness. To top it all off these are great fun ways to help you with your snowboarding!