John Seivert: Preventing skiing and snowboarding injuries |

John Seivert: Preventing skiing and snowboarding injuries

John Seivert

Once the snow starts to fall and the ski resorts are functioning on all cylinders we can start heading up the hill to strap on our boards and enjoy our winter sports.

If you are planning on enjoying the white stuff and haven’t been training it’s not too late to get in some training to prevent injuries. (Last week’s “Healthy Tuesday” article written by Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital offered some great injury prevention tips like dressing in layers, wearing your helmet, and staying in control while on the slopes).

Allow me to go into a bit more detail with some training tips to help make this winter season in the high country a success.

Aerobic Fitness

Skiing is done at high altitude so having some aerobic fitness is key to having a good experience. I would suggest getting in some aerobic conditioning in the form of riding a bike (outdoors or indoors with a stationary bike) or any other indoor aerobic exercise machine.

Other great forms of aerobic exercises that will get you in shape to ski are running, especially up and down hills, hiking, or power walking with ski poles or trekking poles. These aerobic exercises should be done daily and for at least 30-60 minutes.

Gain Flexibility

Stretching is another key component to a good pre and post skiing exercise program. For years I have been training my patients/athletes to stretch before and after workouts or competitions.

The pre-workout stretching routine gets the body ready to move quickly and efficiently without straining tissue that has not been stressed in a lengthened position (for example, quad stretches, pulling the heel to the buttocks, prepares the quads to allow you to squat down and up repeatedly without straining the muscles). This is just one example of many stretches one should do before working out.

Other muscle groups that need to be stretched for skiing (alpine, cross country, backcountry) and snowboarding are the lower back extensors (paraspinals), hip rotators, hamstrings, and calf muscles.

The upper body also needs stretching to prevent injuries. These muscles are the upper back extensors, neck, and shoulder muscles.

The post-workout stretching routine is an excellent assessment of how well you are balanced in your body with performing an exercise routine. Performing all your stretches allows you to feel what muscles are tight, sore or even painful.

Then you can do something about this issue such as stretch the tight muscle group more, cut back on the activity that is causing the discomfort, or rest those muscles.

So use that post-workout time to stretch a bit to make sure you are moving in the right direction of improved fitness to have a great full day of skiing or snowboarding. Stretching after a workout is very important and it allows you to make sure your body is becoming more fit in preparation for skiing or snowboarding.

Stretching routines should be done several times a day to enhance improved muscle length.

Strength Training

Strengthening exercises for skiing come in all kinds of forms. I warn you, Please do not go to YouTube and look up strengthening exercises by the USA ski team and try and perform these exercises as you will likely get injured if you are not already in fantastic shape with great mobility and strength.

The Internet is filled with examples of very challenging and intense ballistic exercises. So, even if the exercises look really cool and fun to try, I wouldn’t recommend it. Why do I say this so emphatically?

Well, because physical therapists spend a great deal of time treating athletes who have injured themselves and our jobs also involve preventing injuries in the first place to keep you on the slopes and out of our rehab clinics.

The basics of a good strength training program to get you up on the slopes for skiing must entail a number of exercises for the lower extremities, trunk muscles, and upper extremities.

You can do all the exercises without expensive equipment (no need to belong to a health club) and get great results. Some of these exercises include full squats (i.e. thighs parallel to the floor), lunges with or without weights, balancing on an unstable surface (BOSU ball or a couch pillow) forward / side planks, power cord arm pull-backs and spinal twists from a plank position on the floor.

These are just a few of the great strengthening exercises you can do to prepare your body for skiing and snowboarding. Strength training exercises should be performed every other day (about three to four times a week) to allow for proper muscle recovery between workouts.

During this muscle recovery time it’s appropriate to continue the stretching and aerobic exercises, which can actually enhance and shorten the muscle recovery process. To have a look at a series of safe and effective pre-skiing exercises that covers flexibility, balance and strength, visit our website where we have created a guide with helpful videos to get you started:

Backcountry Skiing

The sport of backcountry skiing is becoming more popular each year. This is due to several factors. You can spend the entire day backcountry skiing without purchasing a lift ticket and you can ski up and down a mountain face once or many times depending on your fitness level.

The skills needed for backcountry skiing are the same for alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, or snowboarding but require better overall fitness.

Backcountry skiing involves being on the mountain for many hours pushing, pulling, descending, or traversing at a continuous pace. Therefore, we have included a few exercises especially for the backcountry skiers with helpful videos on our website:

Enjoy yourself out there and let it snow.

John Seivert is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and he has been practicing for 34 years. He opened Body Logic Physical Therapy in Grass Valley in 2001. He has been educating Physical therapists since 1986. Contact him at

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