BACK CARE for skiers and snowboarders

BACK CARE for skiers and snowboarders

This is not in any way prescriptive but something to help you look after your back, and hopefully avoid flare ups.  I’ve summarised some of the key things which I think will be helpful, after seeing a huge number of high level skiers and ski instructors this year with back pain.  I think the main problem arises from:

  1. being in a slightly forward flexed position, which isn’t great for your posture, and also jeopardises the discs if they are prone to irritation and compression
  2. carrying a ABS/back pack adds more load to that position
  3. varying conditions, race training or travelling at high speeds, often winding the body into deep positions where the body has huge forces to deal with
  4. park – something has to absorb those landings, there is no doubt that this over time will take its toll, but being in balance and having your core to support your spine will significantly help


I’ve split this into 3 key things to work at – even if you can just pick one thing from each of 1) stretches 2) self massage release 3) core to do every day that would be a awesome start!  A lot of the stretches you will have seen before, but it’s the small micro adjustments you can make to really target a muscle group and benefit from the stretch.  Without a one to one session it’s hard to explain, but I’ve tried to give some key pointers.

STRETCHES: hold each for a good 30secs, repeated x3


GLUT STRETCH 1: cross ankle over knee & push knee away from you. The more you lift up through your chest the more you will feel the stretch. Making small left to right movements with the legs will target the different gluts


GLUT STRETCH 2: cross 1 leg over the outside of the opposite knee.  Try anchor your hip to the ground & twist/bind into the pose



HIP FLEXOR : square off your pelvis so its facing forwards. Tuck your tail bone under (posterior pelvic tilt) then slightly arch your back and lean away from your back leg


DOWNWARD DOG: be especially careful in this pose if your disc is irritated. Aim to push shoulders back and heels down – good stretch for the hams and calves


Q/L STRETCH 1: this muscle is needed a lot for lateral separation in skiing and good mobility/stability in snowboarding. Slide one foot over to the side & then look to that foot.


Q/L STRETCH 2: hands planted twist & drop one hip bone down towards the floor. Repeat other side


Q/L & HAMSTRINGS: make an ‘L’ shape with your legs (this will also open up that hip), then reach forwards & to the outside of your foot – the stretch should be in the hams & your side.  Think to look under your armpit



HAMSTRING WALL SIT: Try sit here for a longer duration (i.e 5mins) while reading a book/watching TV etc. Try and get your butt right up against the wall and keep the knees straight. Progress to leaning forwards


SELF MASSAGE RELEASE: spikey massage ball & foam roller


HIP FLEXOR BALL RELEASE: place ball just below & down form the front of the pelvis. Allow your body weight to pressure the ball. Hold for at least 30secs & move down the top 1/3rd of the thigh


HIP FLEXOR BALL RELEASE OPTION 2: as above, but allow the knee to slowly bend up & down



GLUT RELEASE: start with the ball on the outside of the hip. Make small rotations in/out with the knee. Repeat with the ball more in the centre of the butt & your back against the wall!



PARAVERTEBRAL & Q/L RLEASE: Place the ball in near to the spine in the muscles either side. Pressure & wriggle the ball side-side, or flex the spine up &down


FOAM ROLLER QUADS: a) roll from top of hip to knee & back b)hold roller still then straighten/bed knees up & down


CORE:  This is a very brief intro into getting your deep core muscles activating.  This is hugely important in stabilising your spine – no matter how strong or ‘ripped’ you are, you need your deep core to ‘have your back’!!!  Often the more traditional sit up actions can be counterproductive if not done correctly, and you will 100% benefit more from an ABs workout if you deep core is working


TRANSVERSUS ABDOMINUS (Trans abs): tilt & tuck your pelvis several times until you find a neutral spine. Keep the shoulders relaxed. think to draw the LOWER stomach in (as though tightening to tuck your shirt into your jeans), or think of stopping mid pee. Placing your fingers 2 cm in from your pelvis you should feel a discreet tightening of this muscle. Hold between 5-30secs. You know you are cheating you are holding your breath!


SCISSORS: activate your trans abs as above. Keep the rib cage pressed against the mat, then lift one hip & knee to 90 degrees. Breathe out as you slowly lower & repeat. To progress take arms over head as raising a leg.


This is designed only to be an aid to helping your back.  It is always best to get a tailored programme from a professional to suit your needs.  Get in touch if any questions or comments 🙂

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