The winter Olympics has arrived which usually brings a renewed national interest in sports like downhill skiing, snowboarding and figure skating. I’ve already provided Workouts of the Month to train for downhill skiing and gliding sports like cross-country skiing and ice hockey. But recreational activities like snowboarding and figure skating rely specifically upon excellent balance for optimal performance and injury prevention and deserve their own unique training regimen. I recommend this workout not only for snowboarding and figure skating enthusiasts but also for those who participate in skateboarding, surfing, waterskiing, gymnastics and dance. This would also be a great strength training workout to compliment mind-body activities such as yoga and martial arts.
Activity-Specific Workout of the Month Defined: A 30 minute strength and stretch training workout tailored to benefit those who engage in a particular recreational sport or activity. The workouts will be challenging and safe for the novice but will also offer progressions for the experienced. If your children participate in these activities, know that strength and flexibility training is not only safe for kids but beneficial as well. The workouts will have minimal equipment requirements so they can be done anywhere. The goal is to properly strengthen and stretch the key muscle groups involved in the activity so the participant can achieve performance improvements and reduce the risk of injury. Click on the exercise to link to examples and step-by-step descriptions provided by www.acefitness.org.
Strength and Flexibility Training for Balance-Centric Activities
Concept: The primary strengthening focus is the core – abdominal and back muscles – as the core is responsible for stabilizing the body when balance is challenged. Secondary targets for strengthening are the thigh and hip muscles as the legs are providing the base of support in most of the activities involved in balance-based sports. The flexibility portion focuses on the core and hips because being limber in these areas is just as important as being strong when external forces cause one’s center of gravity to be in constant flux. While I prefer to structure Workouts of the Month around using little to no equipment, the best way to train balance is to use unstable surfaces within a workout. Therefore progressions include using common balance training equipment. Fortunately, many of these props are space efficient and affordable. (*Examples of common balance training devices and price points are listed below.) Be sure you can master the base exercise with excellent form before incorporating a progression. Perform this workout 1-3 times per week, allowing a minimum of 48 hours rest between workout sessions, starting several weeks before and continuing throughout the season:
Warm-Up: 2-5 minutes of high knee marching, swinging opposing arms to shoulder height as you lift knees to hip height.
Strength Workout: Perform the following exercise circuit in succession with no rest between exercises:
Front Plank: Hold for 10-30 seconds. Strengthens entire core. Progression: hold plank for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, return to plank for 10-30 seconds
- Side Plank with Bent Knee: Hold for 10-30 seconds each side. Strengthens entire core including obliques with balance challenge. Progression: Side Planks with Straight Leg, hold for 10-30 seconds each side
- Squats: 8-16 repetitions. Works quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes. Progression: Single Leg Squats, 8-16 repetitions each side or Squats on Stability Prop*, 8-16 repetitions
- V-Ups: 10-20 repetitions. Strengthens core. Three progressions are included in the exercise. Master each progression before moving onto the next one.
- After performing each exercise once, rest for 1-2 minutes and repeat the circuit (front plank through v-ups) for a second set of each exercise. After performing the circuit twice, perform the flexibility workout.
Flexibility Workout: Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds
- Warrior I: full-body stretch with emphasis on hips & thighs
- Standing Triangle Straddle Bends: stretches back & outer thighs
- Cat-Cow: stretches core
- Leg Cross-Over Stretch: opens up the hips & stretches the outer thigh muscles
- Childs Pose: targets core and provides instant relaxation to end your workout
The keys to safe and effective strength training are the same regardless of gender or age – proper warm-up, form, breathing, load, progressions and stretching. The cues for these exercises provided by ACE Fitness (via my links) are excellent and, if followed, anyone can perform this workout safely, even a novice. It’s important to focus on your own body’s feedback and listen to the cues your body is providing you. Adults are much better at reading those cues than children are. For this reason, if any of these exercises are new to your child, I recommend having a professional (such as your child’s coach, gym teacher or sports trainer) review the proper form for each of these exercises with your student athlete.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how just a few weeks of balance-specific training will improve your over-all performance in these activities. Whether you’re maneuvering snow moguls, practicing your lutz jump or catching a wave – be safe while you’re showing off your new balance skills.
*Common balance training equipment: Stability Air Pads ($10-50), Wobble Boards ($20-100), BOSU Trainer ($100+) – Important Note: if you have a history of knee or ankle injuries, be sure to check with your orthopedist before working with this equipment.
Author’s Note: Always consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program.
Click on the link to view previous Activity-Specific Workouts of the Month: Hockey & Cross-Country Skiing, Snowboarding & Figure Skating, Golf & Softball, Distance Running, Racquet Sports, Swimming, Waterskiing & Surfing, Cycling, Rowing & Desk Jockeys, Track, Field & Court Sports, Throwing & Pitching, Dancing, Downhill Skiing