I'm about to sit down with the family to enjoy the big hockey game tonight – Team Canada vs Team USA in the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
OK, so I have to admit, that as much as I am proud to be a Canadian, I'm not much of a hockey fan.
Living in Toronto, I'm a (Maple) Leafs fan. And growing up, I used to play street hockey with my buddies and pretend I was Wayne Gretzky (what Canadian kid didn't?).
But truth be told, I don't know how to ice skate.
I do, however, love to snowboard. I think that stems from the days when I used to ride my Caballero skateboard all over this city as young and care-free punk. Snowboarding, I guess, seemed like a "mature" transition.
So when Shaun White, the best snowboarder in the world, took to the half-pipe earlier last week, I was glued to the TV set to see what this kid would come up with next.
Athletes like White, Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn all have incredible abs and body control and really know how to use rotational force and their abilities to "anti-rotate" to excel at their respective sports.
So in the spirit of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, here's how I would train for 2 of the more popular recreational winter sports – skiing and snowboarding – using only Kettlebells and bodyweight exercises.
Both Snowboarding and Skiing involve a lot of isometric strength and endurance.
You have to be able to maintain a certain position – knees bent, butt back, abs tight, forward tuck (for skiing) – for a relatively lengthy period of time.
That said, I think all winter athletes will benefit from some isometric ab work. Planks, side planks and bridges are king here. "Core" work is key for any athlete but especially so for those who have to maintain their center of gravity over an object such as set of skis or a snowboard.
Maintaining balance, turning, taking on moguls or jumps or stopping suddenly are controlled through your abs.
After that, let's talk about power. An athlete's ability to jump, get air and to really accelerate will come from their ability to explosively perform "triple extension" – which is the ability to powerfully extend their hips, knees and ankles (think vertical jumping).
To build that type of power, it would do a lot of good for athletes to do some type of plyometric exercise like box jumps or straight vertical jumps.
One of the biggest mistakes that I've seen when performing plyometrics is mistaking them with conditioning exercises. I've seen people and trainers do box jumps until they puke and that isn't how you develop flat out power. Limit your plyometric exercises to 3-5 reps and focus on quality (jumping as high as you can and landing as safely as you can) and you will increase your power.
Lower body endurance is also very important for winter sports. Especially for the recreational athlete. If you think about a typical ski or snowboarding run, you're on that hill for anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes on average, swerving, jumping, avoiding obstacles and turning. You have to remain in an athletic position with relatively good "bounce" in the hips, knees and ankles.
By far, my favorite KB exercises to perform to help develop endurance and power endurance are the 1-arm KB snatch and 2-arm KB swings. For those 2 exercises, I suggest you try to get as many reps in as possible within a certain amount of time – say 2 to 5 minutes (similar to the length of a typical ski/snowboard run – I didn't do that coincidence, btw) 🙂
Record your reps for workout 1 and then try to successively beat that record each and every time you attempt the same workout.
Finally, we have to consider the "PRE"-habilitation aspect of training for these sports.
Because you spend a large amount of time in a forward-flexed position, you'll have to do a few exercises and stretches to counteract the anterior dominance of these sports.
KB Rows (like renegade rows or 1-arm rows) and chin-ups are great for really balancing out the over use of the muscles in front of your body. They'll help you strengthen your shoulder girdle and help you with being able to pull your shoulders back into good posture.
Chances are that after a day of skiing or snowboarding you'll end up with really tight pecs, hip flexors and quads as well. I suggest getting on a foam roller and rolling out all of your tight areas – especially your upper back – and really stretching out your hip flexors.
In fact, here's a great video that I did last year of how to really gain mobility in your upper back and help fix your posture…
Being active and enjoying the outdoors is one of the best ways to stay in shape without having to go to the gym. And in the winter months, as much as my family and I love the warm weather, we try to get outside as often as possible.
Snowboarding is one of my favorite activities and I can't wait until all 7 of us can go on a trip and snowboard together.
-Chris, CSCS, CTT
P.S. It's not too late to get really well conditioned for the snowboarding season. Get the TT Kettlebell Revolution and get started today!