Practical Strength Training and Stretching Tips to Help You Prevent Pain and Injury on the Slopes: Part 2

skiing bannerNow that ski season is nearly over, you may be wondering why we’re posting the second part of this blog.  Well, as PTs we figure it’s never too late to teach folks how to avoid pain and injury—and by now you may have discovered that a full day of skiing or boarding is leaving you with some aches and pains as you start your Monday morning.  So, that makes you a particularly captive audience!  Training (before you ski/board) and Recovery (during the day and before you get in your car to drive home from the mountain) are both important when you’re hitting the slopes.  Here are some tips:

Training

Before and During Ski Season:

Everyone knows that squats and lunges are the key to enduring a full day on the slopes.  But did you know that your quads and gluts aren’t the only muscles that are important to keep strong to ensure an epic day?

  1. Hamstring to Quad ratio:  Don’t neglect your hammies.  Research suggests that the hamstrings should be at least 50-80% as strong as the quads.  Skiing and boarding will naturally work your quads, so during ski season it’s important to continue to strengthen your hamstrings.
    1. Hamstring Curls on a Swiss Ball (see YouTube video)
    2. Hamstring Curls with a cable or theraband  (see YouTube video)
    3. Straight Leg Dead Lifts  (see YouTube video)
  2. Spine and Pelvis Stability:  Abdominals support spine and pelvis.  Latissimus Dorsi support spine and shoulders.  Skiing and boarding will naturally work your gluts, so during ski season it’s important to continue to strengthen your abs and lats.
    1. Swiss Ball Crunch (see YouTube video)
    2. Lat Pull Downs

Grasp tubing with arms wider than shoulder width.  Lean back slightly.  Depress shoulder blades.  Then pull elbows toward waist.

Recovery

During and Après Ski

If you can squeeze a few moments of stretching into your day (while in a lift line or when you’re taking a hot cocoa break) your body will feel much better by the time you get to the last chair.  And since most of us drive (at least a few miles) to get to the slopes, it’s also important to loosen up before you get in the car to drive home.

Kelli Crosby, PT, COMPT

Owner

Synergy Manual Physical Therapy – South Office

North Office (map)
4105 Briargate Parkway
Suite 255
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
phone 719.282.2320
fax 719.282.2330

South Office (map)
600 South 21st Street
Suite 130
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
phone 719.634.1110
fax 719.634.1112

A Hip Flexor stretch you’ll truly love

Whether you run long distance, sit in a chair all day, or find yourself somewhere in between, our challenging modern lifestyles guarantees you may find yourself with tight hip flexors or living your life with an anterior pelvic tilt.

When your hip flexors become overly tight, everything may seem out of sync.  You may feel like you walk funny, can’t run without knee pain, your lunges and squats are “off”, and your low back may ache or fatigue easily.  Sound familiar? You may have tight hip flexors.

Hip Flexor Anatomy and Biomechanics

The hip flexors are a group of muscles on the front of the body that crosses the hip.  These muscles include the iliopsoas group, and the quadriceps group (specifically the Rectus Femoris).  The hip flexors work in concert with your legs while walking or running and are responsible for flexing (bending) your hip, or drawing your thighs toward your torso. Sitting up, kicking a ball, marching, and lifting a leg to climb a ladder are all activities that involve your hip flexors.

Issues and Symptoms

You might imagine that your hip flexors get tight from overuse, while this is true, your hip flexors can actually get so tight from underuse that they stop or inhibit other muscles in your body from working.

You may have tight hip flexors if you feel discomfort in the front of the hip that feels worse when moving your leg toward your chest or if you have difficulty taking your leg behind your body and feel your low back working in order to do so.

Chronic sitting also leads to short and tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexor’s pull on the pelvis rotating it forward (anteriorly).This changes your posture by causing excessive curvature of the lower back (lumbar lordosis), a protruding belly (we all want that right?), knee dysfunction, and altered weight bearing through the spine.  Tight hip flexors can even inhibit your glutes from activating when you walk. If this happens, not only can your bottom become flat and flabby, but back pain and or discomfort generally follow.

A true stretch for those tight hip flexors

Hip flexor stretching has become very popular in the fitness and sports performance world, and rightly so.  However, this seems to be one of those stretches that either is performed incorrectly or too aggressively.

So here’s a stretch for those hip flexors that has increasingly become one of my favorites. IT is the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch. It is a true hip flexor stretch because when done correctly it truly stretches the hip flexor and doesn’t just torque your body into hip and lumbar extension.

Key Points to the Half-kneeling hip flexor stretch

  • There is a difference between a quadriceps stretch and a hip flexor stretch. When your rationale for performing the stretch is to work on stretching the hip flexor, focus on the psoas and not the rectus femoris muscle.
  • Keep it to a one joint stretch.  Many people want to jump right to performing a hip flexor stretch while flexing the knee.  This incorporates both the rectus and the psoas, but I find that there are far too many people who cannot perform this stretch appropriately. They compensate by usually stretching their anterior capsule too much or hyperextending their lumbar spine.
  • Stay tall. Resist the urge to lean into the stretch and really extend your hip.  Most people are too tight for this, trust me.  You will end up stretching out your anterior hip joint and abdominals more than the hip flexor.
  •  Incorporate a posterior pelvic tilt.  Contract your abdominals and your glutes to perform a posterior pelvic tilt.  This will give you the “true” stretch you are looking for. Most people won’t even need to lean in a little; they feel it immediately in the front of their hip.
  • If you don’t feel it, squeeze your glutes harder.  Many people have a hard time turning on their glutes while performing this stretch, but it’s key to this stretch.
  • Use your hands to guide your hips.  I will usually start this stretch with my hands on my hips so I can feel the posterior pelvic tilt.  Place your fingers in the front and your thumbs in the back and cue them to posteriorly tilt to make your thumbs move down.
  • Engage your core.  Once you can master the posterior pelvic tilt, progress to assist by cueing core engagement. Do this by placing both hands together on top of your front knee and push straight down, or hold a “massage” stick or dowel in front of you and push down “into the ground”. The key is to have your arms straight and to push down with your core, not your triceps.

So there you have it. The half-kneeling hip flexor stretch is a great stretch for those tight hip flexors and requires no equipment other than your own body. This works great for those with low back pain, hip pain, and postural or biomechanical issues related to having too much anterior pelvic tilt.  Give it a try and if you still need guidance, stop by and talk to one of the therapists atSynergy Manual Physical Therapy.

 – Albert Song Levingston, LPTA  

Synergy Manual Physical Therapy

North Office (map)
4105 Briargate Parkway
Suite 255
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
phone 719.282.2320
fax 719.282.2330

South Office (map)
600 South 21st Street
Suite 130
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
phone 719.634.1110
fax 719.634.1112

Hamstring Injury Prevention

Hamstring injuryWe all know about the dreaded hamstring pull or strain. We fear that feeling of a sharp pain in the back of our thigh as we are running down the field or about to cross the finish line. The recovery can take months and the loss of playing or training time can be priceless. So what can we do about this? Can we actually prevent the invisible sniper from targeting our hamstrings? Good questions, but the answer is not so straightforward.

We know exactly what hamstring injuries are. We know how to treat them once they are torn or strained. But what we still, as a medical community, have yet to nail down is exactly why they occur and what we can do to stop them. We do however have some very good advice. So if you really want to decrease your odds, the best advice out there is a proper warm up!

What should I do for a warm-up?

Our bodies work best when the blood is flowing and the body has some clue on what you are going to require it to do. So before you do any physical activity I would suggest at minimum a five to ten minute warm up. This can include light jogging or riding a stationary bike prior to participating in a run or other light-to-medium activity level event. But if you are going to be participating in a competitive sport, an intense workout or other physically demanding event you need to be performing a dynamic warm up routine that includes several exercises and stretches prior to the actual activity. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, has released a great guide called the “+11” that has been used by soccer clubs around the world for injury prevention and warm ups. You can their Injury Prevention Guide by clicking the link and it is free to download. And just because it was made for the sport of soccer does not mean it will not translate well into other sports or events! I also found this great website article: “Try This Full-Body Dynamic Warm-up to Prep for Any Workout”  that has pictures, descriptions, and videos to other dynamic exercises you can use to warm up.

Other than warming up, is there other things that may prevent a hamstring injury?

Yes, anything that places undue stress on your hamstrings will be putting them at risk for a tear or injury. This can come from un-obvious places like your core muscles, ankles, or the way your position your body when doing an activity. For example, if you have a weak core then your hamstrings may be placed under increased stress as they try to stabilize your hips when running. Or, if you have a stiff ankle that does not allow for one of your ankles to go through the full range when doing an activity, your hamstring maybe responding by tightening up. During sporting events or intense activities your body really needs all systems to work together. If one system is not working properly, than other systems will be placed under stress to compensate. This is when injuries occur.

How about stretching?

This can, and probably will, be another whole blog post in itself! To sum it up here, stretching is not all it was once thought to be in terms of a tool to enhance performance or prevent injuries. Recent literature and studies suggest that while stretching is good for improving flexibility it has not shown to reduce the rates of injuries. It was thought that injuries occur when you stress the muscle to the limits of your flexibility and then it tears. However, most injuries to the hamstrings occurs during the normal ranges, and not at the extremes. So should you stretch, yes! But your muscles should be warmed up and you may not want to rely solely on stretching to prevent hamstring injuries as we once did in the past.

So while there is nothing you can do to absolutely prevent hamstrings tears or pulls, there are things that you can do to reduce your odds. Not only will these tips and techniques help prevent hamstrings injuries, it can also reduce your odds of other injuries as well. So warm-up properly and don’t let that sniper take aim at your hamstrings!

– Synergy Manual Physical Therapy Team

North Office (map)

4105 Briargate Parkway
Suite 255
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
phone 719.282.2320
fax 719.282.2330

South Office (map)

600 South 21st Street
Suite 130
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
phone 719.634.1110
fax 719.634.1112