Shred Prep

Shred Prep

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Pakula, Amy

Ski season will be upon us soon, and now’s the time to prepare for it and thus avoid injury. Although knee injuries are certainly prevalent in skiing, back injuries are also common because the spine must absorb large amounts of force with terrain changes, moguls, and landings. How well your spine does this largely depends on your lumbar spine, hip range of motion, and core strength.

Core strengthening is a component of most skiers’ conditioning regimes, but lumbar spine and hip flexibility are often neglected, which can lead to injuries over time. Adding the following exercises to your routine will improve lumbar spine and hip flexibility (and improve core strength). Try to do these three to four times a week throughout the fall and into the winter.

Low Lunge
Step your right leg forward into a lunge position, with your shin perpendicular to the ground and your right knee directly over your right heel. Drop your left knee to the ground, well behind your left hip. Keep your pelvis tucked under and squared to the front of the room. Lift from your torso and stretch your arms overhead. Hold for five breaths and repeat on opposite side. This stretches the hip flexors, which helps reverse the effects of keeping the hips in a semi-flexed position from skiing, sitting on chairlifts, and hiking.

Sitting Side Stretch
Sit on the floor with both legs folded to the left side. Focus on keeping the right sit bone grounded as the stretch extends up and over toward the left. Reach your right arm overhead as far as you can. Do not let your back arch, and keep your abdominals gently engaged. Allow the head to move as an extension of the spine. Hold for five breaths and repeat on the opposite side. This stretches the lateral trunk muscles, improves the ability to sidebend, and creates more efficient edging through turns.

Reclined Twisting Back Stretch
Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms stretched out to the sides, just below shoulder height. Bend your right knee and hip until your thigh is upright and your shin is parallel to the floor. Take your right knee across your body toward the floor on the other side. Hold for five breaths and repeat on opposite side. (Alternative: place a small ball under the right knee and gently engage the inner thigh muscles to maintain contact with the ball as you circle the right arm. This alternative promotes dissociation of the upper and lower trunk, which is necessary when keeping shoulders pointed downhill, allowing the lower trunk to rotate and drive turns. Repeat on opposite side.)

Physioball Knee Tucks
Begin in push-up position with hands on floor and shins on the ball. Keep abdominal muscles engaged while pulling knees toward right shoulder until your toes are on the ball. The upper body remains stationary; the hips and knees flex. Return to the starting position and alternate sides. Aim to complete three sets of 12 to 15 reps. This exercise simulates absorbing terrain changes or moguls.

Amy Pakula, DPT, is a physical therapist at Excel Orthopedic Physical Therapy in Bozeman and Manhattan.

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