Freshies. Fluffies. Powder. Whatever you want to call it, snow is falling and calling to snowboarders across the country.
Before you head out on your first gnarly adventure of the new season, however, it behooves you to do the minimum of targeted stretching and strength training to get you back in boarding shape. Just a few simple exercises can make a world of difference on your first trip back, whether you plan to take advantage of the recent California deluge and the free Opening Day lift tickets at Mammoth, tear it up at Telluride, or carve a sick path at Crested Butte (heh, still hard not to laugh at that name). A few different stretches and exercises will keep you from looking like a kook out there on the course. Apologies for the overuse of boarding buzz words.
A quick note: some of these exercises are designed to strengthen your muscles in ways that optimize the way you are able to move on a board and complete the repeated movements that are integral to snowboarding. Other exercises are designed to make sure you don’t Rodeo your way into a shattered wrist in a feeble failure to impress the cute chick on your first bunny hill jump. She will not help you convalesce with all of the seniors in wool sweaters sipping watery, insta-cocoa back at the snow lodge. Trust us. Stay on the slopes and laugh when your bonehead buddy faceplants his way into a body cast because he didn’t prepare. When his legs are burning and he’s out of breath after the first run, you’ll already be headed back to the lift.
Core Muscles Are Key
In a sport of constant balance, shifting hips, and total body strength, the core muscle group is king. Since core muscle strength is a bit of a vague, trendy term, it’s important to really define what the damn "core" is in the first place. Core muscles are the muscle groupings around the torso and back that stabilize the spine and pelvis when they contract. Contrary to popular belief in the gym, building up your "core" doesn’t just have to do with crunching your abs. It requires strengthening your back, hips, legs, lower chest, and shoulders–in other words, having good core strength is about great posture. Every time your mom snapped at you for hunching your shoulders, she was trying to help strengthen your core. A weird prospect, but it’s true. In snowboarding, every strong movement should emanate outward from your innate balance and strong center of gravity.
The major areas to focus on for snowboarding, however, are the oblique muscles and the hip flexors. Strengthening both of these muscle sets will help you turn more sharply (in the case of the hip flexors) and absorb shock/maintain balance more efficiently (oblique muscles).
Start off with simple oblique twists, shown below. Try doing the twists with a medicine ball and have your feet elevated slightly off the ground. That will ensure that your hip flexors will get worked as well, improving your stabilization and leg strength when you get on your board.
And for more hip flexor stretching, try this modification on the normal lunge step. Basically, all of these simple exercises are designed to work your hips, legs, and all the ancillary muscles that keep you up straight on your board. Stretching all of these muslces as a unit will also help you get up off your butt after hitting that patch of chocolate chips that appeared out of nowhere on that seemingly clear run.
After enough practice with exercises like the one above, you might be strong enough to pull off the stretch that this guy does. Its application to snowboarding, or boarding of any kind, is pretty self-evident.
Get Low: Leg Strengthening
Snowboarding requires a lot of leg strength. Also, snow is cold. Both statements are stupidly obvious, but many returning boarders and first-timers can take the first statement too much for granted, which is a lapse in preparation that can make for a lot of lost time on the mountain when you have to take 10 minutes to rest between runs. A minimal amount of focus on building strength through balancing exercises can make a huge difference in endurance. Skip the heavy weight squats, though–a hernia and/or popped testicle could keep you off the mountain until spring thaw.
If you’re a snowboarding junkie, chances are you already have a balance board [Buy One] for off-season training. Novices, get out there and buy yourself one if you ever want to be half-way decent on a double diamond. No matter what your skill level, these easy techniques will help you put a little spring in your next big air.
Here’s a good illustration of what a normal balance board squat should look like, which should improve general stability while strengthening your legs. Bear with the funny music in the background, as this is the best clip without stupid ads before it.
Calf Raises are an often over-looked exercise that can make a huge difference in your carving ability. Your calves are integral in maintaing balance and quickly changing directions during every turn that you make. Of course, having stronger calf muscles increases the ever-important level of general stability that you’ve already worked hard to improve. Plus, chicks dig guys with big calves. It’s a fact; look it up.
Stay Up: Upper Body Strength
Upper body exercise is often sorely neglected by amateur snowboarders because they feel like it doesn’t have anything to do with their sport. They couldn’t be further from the truth. The benefits of a full body workout are clearly evidenced in the importance of full-body strength (yeah, yeah, we talk about core ad nauseum, but it’s true), and having a strong back, chest, and arms can help reduce injuries when you fall. Oh yeah, and your feet are completely immobilized in this sport, so weakness up top can make you look like a chubby two-year old when you’re trying to get up from a spill.
Upper body strength is especially important for newbies, since the new guys are sure to fall many, many times on the first day. However, pros know that the keys to awesome handplants and better rotations for tricks are a tough torso and strong shoulders.
Regular push-ups can get pretty boring, so try out fewer reps during your workout with varied hand placements. Diamond pushups are a nice variation to start with, as they’ll force your to really burn your back and triceps, making the process of getting up a little easier on the mountain when you can afford to push up from a wider stance. Turn your hands inward and make a Jay-Z Rocafella diamond, then get to pushing. It’ll be tough at first, but infinitely rewarding, as this Aussie will tell you.
Add a stability ball [buy it] to incorporate all upper body muscles during the standard push up. A decline push up will provide the most benefit for your upper back, shoulders and lower pectoral muscles.
Finally, to strengthen up those back muscles, try dumbbell rows in three sets: start out with the heaviest weight you can manage for the first set, then lower the weight of the dumbbell that you use by 15 pounds for each of the successive sets. Do 5 to 10 more reps in each successive set than you did in the last one. This process will encourage muscle gain (by starting out with the heaviest set first) and increase muscle endurance (by doing more reps with lighter weight).
The Dumbbell Rows Free Weight Exercise — powered by ExpertVillage.com