Health and Fitness

Pre Season Fitness-Part 1 Stretching and Mobilisation

We’ve established it’s a good idea to start getting some flexibility before trying jumping squats off your bed. The exercises here are aimed at the major muscle groups used when skiing. It’s by no means a definitive list and if you have your own stretches you already find effective, stick with them. At this stage we’re doing ‘developmental stretches’, which differ from the warm-up stretches that you might do before playing sport. Developmental stretches are generally held 30-60 seconds, the aim being to increase the working length of the muscle for an extended period of time, i.e. to keep your flexibility.

Bear these points in mind when stretching:

-Go easy!
Bring the stretch on slowly, as soon as you feel a gentle tension in the target muscle hold the stretch there. If, after a while you feel the tension ease as the muscle lengthens, gently increase the stretch until you feel a good tension again, and hold until the end of the stretch.

-Use your breathing.
Take a deep breath and as you breath out ‘sink’ further into the stretch to really increase your range.

-Vary the angle of your stretches.
When you stretch a large muscle such as the Hamstrings, say by reaching towards an outstretched leg, your body will try to take the path of least resistance. By that I mean your body will try to ‘cheat’ in order to make the stretch as easy as possible. In the case of the Hamstrings you may subconsciously turn your leg out as you stretch or bend your knee slightly to make it easier. By slightly varying the angle of some stretches you can find out where you’re really tight.

-Stretch little and often.
Stretching is most effective when done regularly. A minute or two here and there throughout the day works best and gets the muscles used to being lengthened.

And remember, the stretches you least like doing are probably the ones you should do most!

The stretches

You can do all the stretches consecutively as a routine or individually throughout the day.  Here they are demonstrated by consumate ski professional Paddy Graham!

Trunk stretches:

Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, arms by your side, slide one hand along the outside of your thigh until you feel a stretch in your opposite flank. After doing the stretch a couple of times to each side put your hand behind your head on the side you’re stretching out, you should feel the stretch coming up into your ribs and mid-back.
Stand a couple of feet away from a wall with your back to it. With your feet facing forward turn as fully as comfortable and try to put your hands on the wall behind you. You should feel a good stretch through your spine as you wind up, then repeat to the other side.

Quadriceps stretch-front thigh:

(A)While standing, grab your right ankle with your right hand and pull your heel towards your backside until you feel a good stretch down the front of your thigh. (B) Next, as a variation, grab your right ankle with your left hand and pull your foot towards your left cheek, this should wind up a slightly different part of the muscle. Repeat on each side.

Hamstring stretches-back thigh:
There are numerous ways to stretch the Hamstrings.

A good stretch to try starts with you sitting with your legs crossed and out straight, then slide your hands down your thighs towards your feet until you feel the Hamstrings stretching. Cross your legs over the other way and repeat.
You can achieve a similar stretch crossing your legs standing and reaching down towards your toes.

Gluteal stretches-backside:
These are the muscles of your backside.

Lying on your back, knees bent feet flat, cross one leg over the other, grab your bottom leg around the knee and pull both legs towards your chest. You should feel a strong stretch in one cheek, cross your legs over the other way and repeat.

You can stretch your Gluts a similar way at your desk or in front of the TV. Just cross your legs and pull your top knee towards your opposite shoulder, jiggle the angle around until you feel a stretch in your Gluts.

Hip Flexors:
You’re aiming to get a stretch on the front of your hips/top of thigh.

From a kneeling position place your right foot flat on the floor in front of you with your foot slightly forward of your knee. Keeping your back upright shift forwards on your right foot until you feel a stretch on the front of your left hip, then hold and repeat for the other side.

Ankle Mobility:

Assume an active ski position, knees bent. Roll your ankles over together so that the weight is on the outside of one and inside of the other, as if you were edging, then roll the ankles over the other way. You can vary the pressure from the front to the back of the foot, leaning forward onto a wall from this position should give you a good stretch into your calf muscles to vary the exercise.

You should notice a significant improvement in your range of movement if you find time to stretch regularly, especially if you don’t stretch often. If you have any old injuries or health problems seek some expert advice before starting a program, there may be some exercises that are contraindicated.

Next time we’ll add to the program exercises aimed at improving balance and co-ordination as we build up towards the season. Now get stretching!

For any specific advice on stretching and mobility training or sport specific exercises get in touch with Peter Banister

Words: Mike Nixon, City Osteopathics
Photos:Pally Learmond


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