Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Myth #6

Myth #6 - “Working out can't help me ski/snowboard better?”

While working out is NOT necessary to be a great skier/rider...it most certainly can't hurt! One of my coaches once said that "We will NEVER lose a game due to conditioning...or better yet, a lack of conditioning!" The same hold true for our passion for the slopes. If a lack of conditioning is limiting your abilities on the slopes, then your potential is being restricted!

Let's face it, the demands of the mountain are physically challenging (remember the soreness the first few times you head out every season?). We came up with a list of 6 Physical Requirements for a Skier/Rider (http://snotrainer.blogspot.com/2008/11/skisnowboard-training-and-myths-just.html) that your body needs to do in order to make your way around the mountain. Now, the better one can perform these requirements, the better one can perform ALL TASKS on the slopes.

Since there is a lot of technique that goes into our snow sport of choice, think about IF your technique is suffering DUE TO a lack of physical conditioning. Training the 6 Physical Requirements will allow your body to accept the technique your are trying to learn - whether it is self taught or through professional instruction.

What if you are already a high level skier/rider....can conditioning benefit you? Even if you are proficient with your technique and you can handle whatever the mountain throws in front of you....you too may enhance your movement machinery. Even finely tuned race cars get tuned over and over again, always striving for extra edge against their competitors. Think about Olympic caliber athletes, they spend countless hours in the gym and conditioning throughout the year in hopes of the standing on the podium.

Lastly, I don't know about you guys but I plan on being able to enjoy snowboarding for many years to come. By training with a purpose in mind (the winter festivities), you may hopefully reap the benefits not just on the slopes but in other areas of your life. This is due to the other "side effects" like an improved cardiovascular system, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, etc. Investing in your health and fitness can help you enjoy the mountain with family and friends for many more years. Maybe that's why Ponce de Leon never found the fountain of youth....he never went to the mountains!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

May 2009 bring LOTS of happiness and POWWWWDERRRR!

Thank you all for reading.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The 5 Stations of a Skier/Snowboarder, LAST but not least!!

Making our way up the chain, the Thoracic Spine (TS) is the last stop of the discussion. Following the alternating pattern of mobility and stability from our feet, that makes the TS an area requiring mobility.

1. Foot/Ankle - Mobile

2. Knees - Stable

3. Hips - Mobile

4. Lumbar Spine - Stable

5. Thoracic Spine - Mobile

This can be illustrated by looking at the gait cycle. When our right foot is hitting the ground in front of us, the left are is also in the forward position. The same holds true with the other side of the body which completes the cycle. Motion is a relative term, so the next logical question that someone may ask is that if the arm is swinging forward, how do we know the the TS was a contributor in getting it there?

While walking may be a simple task (relatively speaking of course), to begin to breakdown the motions that occur can get a little silly. That said, we do know that rotation is a large component of walking and ALL human motion. If rotation did not occur, we would move more like robots and less human-like (although this can be another topic of discussion). Specifically, when it comes to the TS, think about the entire ribcage rotating upon a spinal axis (imagine a large rod going through your head and spine). As we walk, our TS should rotate to each side and the arms just go along for a ride.

Tying this into the lower body. As mentioned earlier, the TS and the lower body are linked diagonally (right arm/left leg and vice versa). If functioning properly, this cycle of counter-rotation is intended to get your abdominals loaded or "on stretch" and involved in the gait cycle. If there are any deficiencies in the TS in terms of mobility, then this entire sequence may become inefficient.

Some common compensations include an exaggerated arm swing, side/side swaying (like penguin) and exaggerated hip rotation just to name a few. Interestingly enough, these compensations are all an attempt to get the abdominals involved in the task. While this attempt is successful, to a degree, it is less than optimal and cannot replace how the body was intended to function...in this case by thoracic rotation.

All the illustrations used walking as an example. While it is a "simple unit" of movement, it is not so simple if we really begin to break it down into parts. For us winter enthusiasts, this simple (or not so simple) task helps us get onto the slopes. Once we get there, the tasks only get harder!


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Myth #5 - Too old for power training!

Myth #5 - “I can’t do power training…I’m too old for that!"

First of all, we are ALL in the same boat... I have yet to meet anyone who is getting younger! All jokes aside, there is more evidence of the effects of exercise on the aging process and not only can it slow the process down, but it may even reverse them!

Once the term "power" gets attached to training or exercise, many begin to tighten up just thinking about it. While the "knee-jerk response" may be warranted, if done properly (just like any form of exercise) the effects may be simply amazing!

By definition, power adds an element of speed with a particular exercise. Speed can be added to just about any exercise, however, it must be done in a safe way without compromising the techniques of the exercise or else the risk can outweigh the benefit.

Power training may include many types of activity. While plyometric training will definitely fit the bill, your feet don't have to leave the ground in order to create the stretch reflex (although age has not stopped us from exposing some older clientele to plyo's). For example, the speed squat (as the name implies) is done as fast as possible, forcing the muscles to work rapidly concentrically and eccentrically with a very small transformational zone (where the movement changes direction). This same concept may be applied to the upper body by using an overhead press as an example. Think about pressing and lowering the weight as fast as possible which will create a stretch reflex from the top of the body down. If down with enough speed, you will begin to notice that the lower body begins to get involved to accomplish the task of "pressing the weight as fast as possible." This chain reaction which involves the entire body is a great example of how the body works as a functional unit.

In addition, as pointed out by Gary Gray, with power training, your body may respond by improving its mobility, strength, endurance, coordination and balance. There is no other type of training that will "kill many birds with one stone." Think about it...

To conclude, exercises can be tweaked in a number of ways to add speed to the equation that is safe for all ages and abilities. We all NEED power training as the complexity of everyday life (not just on the slopes) requires our bodies to perform at it's best. Think of it like this, the faster you move during your workout, the faster it will end!! ;)


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The 5 Stations of a Skier/Snowboarder, Continued....

  1. Foot/Ankle - Mobile

  2. Knees - Stable

  3. Hips - Mobile

  4. Lumbar Spine - Stable

  5. Thoracic Spine - Mobile
The Lumbar Spine is the next station up for discussion. This area tends to be a sensitive area since so many people suffer from lower back pain. 9 out of 10 times it is due to the fact that the earlier stations (foot/ankle AND/OR hips) have become restricted and this "forces" the lumbar spine to move more than it should.

If you've ever seen the vertebrae of the lumbar spine compared to the cervical spine (in your neck) you will notice a large size difference. The lumbar vertebrae a designed to handle much more load by way of compressive forces and while they do move in all planes of motion, they are not as mobile as the cervicals are.

With the role of the lumbar spine being that of a stable station, think about why this area is so important when it comes to exercise. This central area has muscles coming up from the bottom attaching to the hips and it also has muscles coming from the top - also attaching at the hips. This union is such a vital part of human movement, not just in human performance but in the simple (and not so simple) tasks of everyday living!

With that thought, we can now see why and how "core training" has become such a big term (and sometimes buzzword) within a number of cultures of gyms and training facilities. However, while training the core may be part of the solution, it may not be the ONLY answer if you have issues in this area of your body. Hypothetically speaking, lets say that my core is weak and not stable....I may add exercises to strengthen my core (assuming I'm doing the right ones) and while I may strengthen them properly, this area may not become more stable because of an issue at another area of my body (possibly my hips that are not mobile enough). So we get into a chicken and egg scenario here. While strengthening the core may help the issue, it may not resolve it because it is not the root cause for the imbalance.

This is the classic example of the domino effect and how well the body will compensate for deficiencies in other parts of the body. Remember, the body is wired to perform tasks. If you are bending down to pick up your keys or if you are absorbing the bumps every time your skis are smacking against them....your body will accomplish the task at hand whether it sequences its' movement properly from every joint or not. And eventually if the improper pattern has been done repetitively and there is damage to an area, then eventually the tasks become harder to do or dare I say, not possible to perform anymore!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

MYTH #4: Warming up for Skiing/Snowboarding is useless!

Myth #4 - “Warming up before skiing/riding is useless!”

Some agree, while some will disagree. I have found that the determining factor with whether someone warms up or not is whether they have had an injury. Being "sidelined" is an experience that nobody wants to experience and the sooner we get back the better. And once we get back "in the game," we don't want to come back out so we will take the necessary (and preventative) actions to keep that from happening.

What classifies as a "warm-up" anyways? Perhaps we should discuss the goals of the warm-up.
A warm up should help prepare you for activity by:

  • Increase core temperature

  • Activate prime movers

  • Activate stabilizing muscles

  • Activate core musculature

  • Mobilize ankles, hips and thoracic spine

  • Stimulate nervous system

What are some or the "routines" that are practiced before we get out onto the slopes?

  • Some leg pulling stretches

  • Some hip circles

  • Some wall leans (as if trying to push wall down)

  • Some toe reaches

  • Some easy warm-up runs

  • Some do nothing at all

After looking at the list of goals list, it may look somewhat daunting. Whatever you choose to do before the snow festivities begin is entirely up to you. However, if done properly, you should be ready to perform on that first run and with that you should also have the internal protection of your nervous system to keep you from watching from the sidelines.

We have an activation sequence that takes only 2 minutes and you can even go through it with all your gear on. You may even opt to do it on the slopes before you ride the first chair or as soon as you ride off.

Either way.....be safe and have fun!

VIEW On-Mountain Activation Manual!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

5 Station Skier/Rider Video!

The 5 Stations explained:


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ski and Snowboard Conditioning Seminar!

Ski and Snowboard Conditioning Seminar!

September 2008 at EAPI/Kinetic Physical Thereapy

Thanks to Evan Chait and his entire staff for making this evening possible!

Here is a clip of some "On-The-Snow" requirements of the body:



Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ski/Snowboard Training: And the Myths just keep on coming...Myth #3

Myth #3 - “Before the ski season, I just hop on an elliptical machine to get me in shape for the slopes!”

The human body is such an amazing gift! It is capable of adapting to WHATEVER environment it is in (watch the discovery channel for more!).

Exercise will produce a specific adaptation that is specific to the TYPE of exercise that you do. For example, if you do strength training (assuming you are training for strength) you will gain strength (hopefully). If you train for power, then you may become more powerful AND so on. The bottom line is...what you put into your training is what you get out of it!

To take a look at what a Ski/Snowboard Training Program should look like, it would be helpful to identify what physical NEEDS are required while we are on the slopes. Factoring in what level skier/rider you are, what terrain you favor, days on mountain, etc. will all factor in to your "winterizing" program. However, there are six components that we all USE while we are out there...despite all the above variables and no matter if we are on one "stick" or two.







1. Endurance:

Our mountainous activities involve two types of endurance; local and systemic. Local can be thought of as pertaining to a specific muscle or group of muscles (think "leg burn"). Enhancing the endurance properties of individual muscles will allow them to work longer. Think of systemic endurance as the entire cardiovascular system. Tied intimately together with the respiratory system, both are the cornerstone to your overall systemic endurance. A great measure of how well your Cardio-Respiratory System is functioning is determined by your VO2 Max. In a nutshell, how well do you take in, deliver and use oxygen.

2. Strength:

With three types of muscle contractions (concentric, eccentric and isometric) being possible by every muscle in the body, which is most prevalent during our winter festivities? Concentric results in muscles shortening, eccentric in lengthening and isometric in no change in length. With all the terrain variability, effects of gravity, momentum and ground reaction forces, the eccentric part of muscle contractions is a popular choice by our nervous system (one of the reasons for the brutal leg soreness after the first few days on the mountain). If this is the case, then why do many programs still focus on the concentric? This does not mean that your training should consist of eccentric only as all human movement and human performance is a blend of all three...as should your training be. However, neglecting the oh-so-important eccentric contraction would be neglectful to say the least!

3. Power:

Power by definition in the physics world is work divided by time. How much work can you do in a certain amount of time? Hence, the more power someone has, the more work they can do or the more "powerful" they are. Power can also be broken down in terms of force production (acceleration) and force reduction (deceleration). Following the pattern of eccentric muscle contractions, we spend much more time absorbing force (terrain changes, carving, bumps, landing jumps, etc.) than we do producing force.

The importance of force absorption CANNOT be underestimated as this is the "loading" phase of human movement (see mobility). Without force absorption there cannot be force production!

4. Mobility:

In order for movement to take place, muscle MUST be able to lengthen BEFORE they contract. Think about the task of jumping into the air. Before you get off the ground, you must FIRST go down or "load" all the muscles that will propel you into the air... much like a rubber band would after you "stretch" it. Now, if muscles are restricted or tight and do not lengthen well, during the loading phase (when muscles lengthen), then the output will also be limited (think about those rubber bands again and the different distances they will travel depending on how far you pull one end back).

With skiing and riding, specific areas need to be mobile enough into order for the OPTIMAL chain reaction to occur at the rest of the body. For example, the foot and ankle joint needs to have enough mobility to flex or push your shins into the boots (calves are lengthening here...hopefully). Limitations in this important movement will produce a compensation or a less than optimal result which limits our ability to learn/advance our mountain skills or keep us from enjoying them to a maximum because our aches, pains and/or discomfort.

5. Balance

Think about how well your body communicated to your brain... and vice versa! Our proprioceptive awareness is vital to every aspect of life, not just the winter festivities. This can be illustrated by standing and balancing on one foot. Once you find your "balance point," close your eyes and try to stay balance on that same leg. I don't know about you, but I now think about the Blind Skiers out there and how well "tuned" there nervous system (senses) are to make up for their lack of vision... AMAZING!!!

This does not mean that everything needs to be done on one leg or on various balance "devices." While that is part of the equation, its not everything. Another component of balance is stability. Having a stable core helps to connect each end of our body together (upper to lower AND lower to upper). Having a "mushy" or "sloppy" core will only complicate our body's balance.

6. Agility:

Agility is defined as the ability to recognize, react, start and move in the required direction, change direction if necessary and stop quickly. To accomplish all that, it requires a lot from the body (strength, power, coordination, skill). Agility pretty much sums up how well all the other physical abilities work with EACH other. Agility starts with how well our senses "take in" our environment that we are in. As we are on the slopes, the terrain and conditions are absorbed by our body's senses forcing us to react. How well and fast we respond is determined by our nervous system as well as other variables on the slopes (our gear, speed, other skiers/riders, etc.). Then and ONLY then, assuming the nervous system is "firing on all cylinders," it is up to the body to perform the physical requirements of the task at hand, smiling all the way down!

Until next time,

Friday, October 24, 2008

The 5 Stations of a Skier and Snowboarder, Continued...

  1. Foot/Ankle - Mobile

  2. Knees - Stable

  3. Hips - Mobile

  4. Lumbar Spine - Stable

  5. Thoracic Spine - Mobile

The stations started at the foot/ankle complex and we are working our way up the chain. The knees are the next stop and they are a popular area when it comes to skiing/riding and even more popular (unfortunately) when it comes to aches and pains.

The knee joint is classified as a hinge joint. By definition, a hinge will swing open and closed...much like a door that only moves along one plane and on it's axis. However, in function, the knee is capable of much more - being involved in motions that require the knee to move in the other two planes (frontal and trasverse), sideways and rotations. These other (and dare I say more important) motions can be illustrated by standing up and rolling the arches of your feet up and down to the floor. "Looking down the barrel" you will note that your shin bones are twisting and this motion is carried further up the leg all the way up to your thigh bones causing your butt muscles to start firing up. This vital motion is referred to as pronation and supination. In the past, these terms have been applied to just the foot/ankle complex. According to Gary Gray, every joint in the body is capable of pronation/supination. In some ways it can be viewed as a more general way to look at how the human body goes through the loading/unloading of groups of muscles together to result in human movement.

All that being said, we are all familiar with the knee flexing and extending (bending and straightening). Sounds simple, but when other joints are not working properly (let's say the foot/ankle becomes restricted which is very common), then the knees will become more of a mobile joint instead of an area of stability. Now all the sudden the knees become less stable (wobbly knees) and over time this gets expressed as various "ouches."

Very often, with "cranky knees" we have found we have matching hips and feet/ankles that are working sub-par. As a result of restrictions in both the hips and feet/ankles, the knees have no choice but to become less stable to perform the tasks at hand by moving more.

On the slopes, your suspension is all thrown off! The inability to flex or absorb the terrain changes with your knees (especially you bump lovers), forces your body to use the next best thing which is usually less than optimal. So, if the knees are becoming more mobile due to a foot/ankle AND/OR hip complex that has become more stable (which is LESS mobile)... now I'm the guy who's knees are not too happy as I look down a field of moguls!

So, the take home message is - if you are the cranky knee guy or girl, you might have to look above and below the joint to see what is going on at your hips and at your feet/ankles.

Next on the list are the hips! We will talk about them a little later....

Until then,


Monday, October 20, 2008

Ski/Snowboard Training: And the myths just keep on coming!

As a society, we are bombarded with tons of information. How do we decide whether the info is good, bad or ugly? All of us have a common denominator when it comes to skiing/snowboarding and exercise, that is, the human body! Obviously, each and every one of us has our own unique and differentiating qualities. However, science and human function unites us all since we all have the same engineering and thus our movement machinery is the same.

Keeping science and human function in mind, we may begin to dispel some of the myths and fallacies that pertain to conditioning for skiing and/or snowboarding. Our philosophy to performance enhancement is we could always do exercises that maximize your adaptations. Think of it like a financial investment. You are always looking to net a return on your investment (the higher the better). Exercise can be thought of like an investment for your body. How much of a return do you expect to get from your training program once the ski/snowboard season kicks off? Below are a few questions that do not always have a black or white answer. We are merely looking at what kind of return you can expect to get from your investment of time and sweat (and money too!)!

Myth #1 - “Wall sits are the BEST exercise when it comes to strengthening your quads for skiing!”

"Snowboard specific wall sit? Think again!" ATTENTION: This is NOT an exercise that we would recommend as it is for dramatization only!

This is the most common answer to preparing for the ski season and the famous leg burn! While the wall sit definitely can help prepare the body to deal with “the burn,” the wall sit may add additional problems while you are trying to solve another. First, there are three types of muscle contractions: Concentric (muscle shortening), Eccentric (muscle lengthening) and Isometric (no muscle movement). Examples of each contraction can be illustrated by ollying off a jump (concentric), absorbing moguls (eccentric) and holding your body position mid-carve (isometric). Skiing and snowboarding is a combination of all three, however the importance of the eccentric portion of a muscle contraction cannot be understated. All human movement as well as all of our on-the-mountain activities starts with the loading phase (which can also be thought of as deceleration or the absorption of force). Without this phase, movement would not take place! Think about the possibility of jumping off the ground without FIRST moving down to “load” your legs like a compressed spring.

The next concern with wall sits is that it limits the role of the ankles. Both, the knees and hips are positioned at a 90-degree bend, while the ankle joints remain unchanged (shin being vertical). This position would not be possible without the wall since your center of gravity is outside your base of support (over the tails of the skis). The ankle joints play a major role as the chain reaction that takes place in the rest your body is a result of what first happens in your boots. In addition, many experts in the ski industry feel that this exercise may promote someone to ski “in the back seat.” So functionally speaking, when we squat, we should bend at all three areas of the body; the ankles, knees and hips (triple flexion).

Lastly, no muscle is an island. The body functions together as a chain with numerous links (or muscles) throughout the chain. To pick on individual muscles would be like only working on part of the equation. Think about selecting exercises that will “train the entire chain!” With so many exercise choices, the wall sit seems to offer a limited overall return on your exercise investment.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The 5 Stations of a Skier and Snowboarder!

From a human movement and performance standpoint, there are some areas of the body that an improved awareness of may actually make the Ski Season of 08-09 the best one yet! While the lower body gets most of the attention in the gym due to the "leg burn" that we ALL have felt, it would be a form of neglect to not train the areas north of the hips.

It is impossible to "single out" one part of the body since the human body is ONE unit and that if one area of the body is "off," then every other will be effected. To simplify this concept, identifying the importance of 5 specific areas of the body or 5 Stations can help illustrate how a deficiency on one part of the chain will effect the other parts of the chain. To no surprise, these 5 Stations span the entire body.
The 5 Stations are the foot/ankle, the knees, the hips, the lumbar spine and the thoracic spine. Further, these areas are assigned to be either an area of stability or mobility (original idea from Gray Cook and Mike Boyle). So if we look at all 5 Stations it should (hopefully) look like this:
  1. Foot/Ankle - Mobile

  2. Knees - Stable

  3. Hips - Mobile

  4. Lumbar Spine - Stable

  5. Thoracic Spine - Mobile

You may note that all these areas alternate from being an area of mobility or stability. Based on these guidelines, if the role of the area changes (due to injury, overuse, lack of proper training, etc.), then the role of the following areas MUST change due to how the body compensates.

For today, let's get into the foot/ankle and we will cover the other 4 stations at a later date. For example, let's assume (very carefully) that my foot/ankle becomes more stable than mobile. Now, if a particular task requires my foot/ankle to be mobile (and it doesn't have it because it is more stable) then it WILL get the mobility from somewhere else. Often, this extra mobility may come from somewhere where we don't want it to come from (knees or lower back...OUCH!). What ends up happening is a domino effect in which every station will start to change it's role (either being an area of stability or mobility) which throws the entire chain "out of whack."

How will the body compensate for a foot/ankle that is not mobile enough? If someone is given the command to squat down and their ankles don't move too well, they will typically more more at the hips to make up what they don't have at the foot/ankle joint. Think about this for yourself...as you sit into your chair, do you decend into a smooth squat where you bend at the feet/ankles, knees and hips? Or on your way down do you reach a point where you just "fall" into your chair...possibly due to a lack of mobility in the foot/ankle complex??

How about on the slopes? A skier and snowboarder is required to "flex" into their boots during a number of different times throughout the day on the mountain. If there is restricted movement in the foot/ankle, what will the compensation look like? Perhaps a skier will be more prone to be a "back-seat" skier and the snowboarder will begin to flex more at the hips to get closer to the snow? These are only speculations, however by applying the laws of human function to the slopes, logic can tell us that something less than optimal will occur. Now, this does not mean that one cannot successfully get down the slopes...its just that you may have to work a little harder, thats all! Offset this with the cost of a lift ticket, gas to get to the mountain and the cost of gear and now it becomes that much more difficult to get "your moneys worth!"


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Holy Hanna!!!

If only it was cold out... could you imagine how much snow Hanna would have dumped this past weekend? One can only wonder!?

We hope everyone had a great summer with lots of "playtime" and not so much of the worktime (yes, there are people like this).

As we prepare for a new season (mentally, physically and financially too), we can't help but have feelings of excitement for what is about to come.

Ski and Snowboard Mags are already starting to hit the shelves and mailboxes with various gear reviews and numerous articles on this year's "Hot Spots" and destinations that are sure to please.

We too are exciting for this year's season as we are also working on the few things of our own. As you wait in suspense, we will let the cat out of the bag a little later.

Let us say, that we (and everyone involved) is VERY excited for this project!

It will be snowing before you know it!
The SNOtrainers

PS - "It is the excitement of becoming - always becoming, trying, probing, falling, resting, and trying again - but always trying and always gaining..."
Lyndon B. Johnson

Thursday, February 14, 2008

On-Mountain Activation

To everyone who is following this blog in conjunction with the articles in SNOWEAST Magazine, you will be able to view the video portion of the ON-Mountain Activation by tomorrow.

We are sorry for the delay and thank you for your understanding!

Enjoy Every Turn!
Tommi and Alex

Friday, January 18, 2008