Winter Athletes: How to Train for Snowboarding Season
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When training for any sport or activity, it’s important to first identify the muscles, movements, and skills involved. Once you have this information plus the appropriate fitness assessments (to understand your client’s abilities and limitations), you can start building a program to help them get to where they need to be.
Snowboarding requires balance, leg strength and endurance, core strength and flexibility, and the ability to react quickly. Although every client will have a different starting point and needs for each of these skills, we’ll explore some of our favorite exercises to help you start building a snowboard workout.
Training for Snowboarding Season
Keep in mind, snowboarding is a full-body sport. So, although we focus on some of the primary fitness skills needed, it’s important to remember the body’s kinetic chain works together. Just because there is an emphasis on core strength and flexibility for snowboarding doesn’t mean shoulder strength and flexibility isn’t also important for your client. Train to their needs and limitations in alignment with the end goal.
Good balance is essential for most sports. However, even some of the best athletes need to improve in this area. Balance is a key skill for snowboarding and injury prevention. The following list provides a few examples of balance training exercises with varying skill levels.
Beginner: Single-Leg Balance
The client will place their hands on their hips and ensure their toes are pointed forward. The knees and hips should be in alignment with the toes. They will gently lift the right foot a few inches off the ground while keeping the legs slightly separated. They should maintain a level pelvis, neutral spine, and level shoulders. They will hold this position for 30-60 seconds and switch to the opposite foot.
- Eyes closed
- Balance pad or a piece of foam under balancing foot
- Single-leg balance and reach (non-balancing foot reaches forward, to the side, transverse rotation, and back)
Intermediate: Bosu Ball Balance
Flip the Bosu ball upside down so the ball portion is pressing into the ground and the flat portion is up. The client will stand on the flat portion with both feet and maintain proper alignment and balance. Like the single-leg balance, the toes, knees, and hips should point forward and the pelvis and shoulders should remain level. The client will hold this position for 30-60 seconds.
- One foot
- Eyes closed
- Add movement (bodyweight squats, lateral arm raises, etc.)
Advanced: Balance Board (Skateboard Shape)
With the same toe, knee, hip, and shoulder alignment as the Bosu ball balance exercise, the client will step on the balance board with both feet. They’ll find and maintain their center of balance for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Eyes closed
- Bodyweight squats
Leg Strength and Endurance Training
Snowboarding requires a ton of lower body strength. It’s also a test of lower body endurance because the athlete is in a partial squat position for most of the time.
Squats are a great foundational exercise to build leg strength. They also engage the core muscles, which is important for snowboarding.
Tips for success: Clients should use a heavy weight that is challenging (able to do 6 reps or less). But remember, correct form is essential before progressing to a heavy weight. However, proper form can vary from client to client. Clients should focus on keeping their spine straight and hips level, engage their glutes, and lower to the appropriate depth.
Forward lunge, side lunge, and rotational lunge are solid exercises to build endurance. The other training benefit is they are all unilateral exercises. This means the client minimizes one side of the body taking over the movement because each side of the body is trained independently. It’s also essential to make sure clients are training in more than one plane of motion (side to side, front to back, and rotational/transverse).
Tips for success: Use light or medium weight that allows the client to do high reps (12-25). With all three exercises, clients should focus on keeping the knee over the ankle. Keep the head up, the spine and hips neutral, and the core engaged throughout the movement.
Core Strength and Flexibility Training
Strength and flexibility of the spine and core are a critical foundation for snowboarding.
The client will begin on all fours and gently lower the weight of their upper body onto their forearms. Shoulders should be over the elbows. Keeping their head in alignment with their spine, they will extend their legs behind them, bringing the knees off the floor and feet hip-width apart. The client should engage their core and ensure their hips are lifted creating a straight spine. Hold the plank position for 20-60 seconds.
This core exercise can help build strength and flexibility. Beginning in a crunch position, the client will raise their upper body off the floor (about a 45-degree angle) and lift their feet off the floor so they are balancing on their hips and glutes. The client will clasp their hands in front of them (can also hold a weight, if appropriate), keep the spine straight and the lower body still. They will twist their upper body side to side and allow their clasped hands to rotate from one side of the floor to the other.
It’s important not to forget about the posterior (back) portion of the core. The client will rest the front of their upper legs on the back-extension equipment and hinge at the hips so the upper body is hanging over the front of the equipment. With the neck in alignment with the spine and hands across the chest or behind the head, the client with slowly raise to the starting position.
A slippery patch of ice, a tree, a change in the grade of the hill, or another person all require the snowboarder’s brain to be able to see or feel an obstacle and quickly adjust their weight to maintain balance or shift directions. A fun way to work on a client’s reaction time for snowboarding is with a reaction ball.
Check out the different kinds of reaction balls and how to use them here.
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