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.

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