Exercises for Splitboard Conditioning and Recovery
What should a splitboarding conditioning program include?
Any Splitboarding conditioning program worth its salt should focus on strength and endurance in the muscles that we use for both the up and the down in the backcountry. The most common complaints we hear from patients, friends and feel in our own bodies when out in the mountain are hip flexor pain, knee pain and lower back pain. To address these issues in a way that will help you to get stronger and stay out longer we’ve designed the ATP Backcountry Pre-season and In-season conditioning and recovery programs. These programs are designed by physical therapists with advanced training in exercise prescription and many years of backcountry ski and splitboarding experience. The programs are designed to get ready to start your season at full power, maintain your gains and recover from long days of touring so you can stack up multiple days in a row when the snow is flying.
The exercises in these programs work to improve the following areas:
- Eccentric quad control and endurance
- Hip, and trunk mobility
- Dynamic stability and core control
- Agility and Responsiveness
Eccentric Quad Control
An eccentric muscle contraction is known as a braking contraction where the muscle fires producing force while it is lengthening. An example would be the action of the quads and glutes when you land a jump or absorb a bump on your board. Muscles are very good at doing exactly what they’re told. So good in fact that they can get better or worse with different types of muscle contractions and speeds of contraction depending on how you train. Therefore including exercises that mimic the eccentric demands of splitboarding is essential.
Hip and Trunk Mobility
Hip and trunk mobility is key for maintaining the health of your hips and back but also help you pull off the most challenging kick turns with style and grace. We focus on cleaning up your ability to hip hinge and the rotational mobility of your hips. This helps to improve your movement and prevent overloading the joints near-by such as the knees and lower back.
Dynamic Stability and Control
Issues with dynamic stability and trunk control have been shown to be associated with increased chances for injury in numerous studies. Our program strives to improve your core stability and hip control to improve the align of your knee, hip and back while landing jumps, carving turns, absorbing unexpected terrain obstacles, and pushing your sliding sticks up hill over and over again. If your alignment is off you can experience unwanted wear on your joints just like the treads on your tires wear if your vehicle’s alignment is off.
Agility and Responsiveness
Adapting to changing snow conditions and staying on your line takes coordination and agility. Plyometric exercises can help keep you light on your edges and improve your explosiveness when you need it.
When should you start training for skiing and snowboarding season?
Mid-October to Early November.
Typically it takes you body between 6 and 8 weeks for you to completely on ramp into the season. So for example if you’re in the Northwest we recommend starting in Mid-October so when we get into the 1st week of December and our early season base is laid down you are ready to roll.
How Does ATP structures their exercises for splitboarding?
We structure our program in 3 phases. Each phase has a 2+ week duration. We start with a self-assessment that will identify weakness and mobility deficits that you will want to focus on during the 3 phases. The first 2 weeks are focused cleaning your mobility and improving strength is key muscle groups. In phase II we increase the complexity of movement and increase the load challenging your dynamic control and eccentric muscle performance. In phase III we hit you with sport specific movements and build upon the strength and control developed in phases I and II with more intense plyometrics and tri-planar movements and exercises.
How Many Days a Week Should I train?
Depending on the intensity of the phase you are in we recommend between 2 and 3 days a week. Once you introduce more intense activities later in your training you want to allow for the right amount of recovery. While your in-season and you’ve laid down a good base with our pre-season program we recommend 2 days of restorative and maintenance work that has an increased focus on mobility and recovery.
What Splitboarding Exercises should I do in-season?
Your time spent getting out touring and riding will maintain your sports specific strength like your eccentric control and dynamic stability, but there are some areas that need maintenance to enhance performance, improve recovery and reduce injury. Our skihab in-season program has a focus on recovery exercises like foam rolling, stretches, and mobility drills as well as more moderate strength training exercises. Training to hard during the season can make you feel sluggish when your out trying to enjoy your efforts. We’ve seen this in some of our more motivated patients over the years.
What are the best stretches for splitboarding?
Stretching is great for enhancing muscle recovery, circulation and reducing muscle spasm. You want to focus on your shoulder, thoracic spine, quads, piriformis and hip flexors. We offer a flow yoga program specifically designed for skiiers and boarders that can help address all of these areas this in a flow series. If yoga isn’t your bag you can follow the recovery series in our skihab program. This includes stretches, and tissues mobility drills using balls and foam rollers.
What can I do to warm up before touring and charging my line?
We recommend dynamic stretching where you move in a way that places a light to moderate stretch on key muscle groups with a quick short duration hold moving into and out of the stretch. Our in-season program has a dynamic warm up series for lift lines and waking up your downhill muscles after a long tour.
If you’re looking to get stronger, stay out longer so you can stack up the vertical this year then check out reduced and high impact training programs for backcountry skiing and splitboarding.
About the Author: This article was written by Mitch Owens PT. Mitch is a long time backcountry snowboarding enthusiast and one of the creators of the Alpine Training Project. He owns Union Physical Therapy in Seattle with his wife Elisa Owens. Union PT is a clinic focused on treating outdoor athletes that offers specialty training and injury reduction programs for climbers and downhill athletes.