Winter is Coming.. Get Your Hips In Shape for Ski Season
The leaves are starting to change color here in the high country, and all the locals are starting to get that cheery eyed look that says it’s almost time to go skiing again. Around here winter is the chosen season. It’s the reason we all moved here, and at about 9 months long, you’d have to be crazy to not at least like it a little bit.
As the days get shorter, and the wind gives that biting sting, we get our skis and snowboards out of the basement for a quick tune up, dust off the snowpants and search for a few days before we find our renewed seasons pass. Winter is upon us and it’s almost time to hit the slopes!
Now before you get lost in your snow dreams, let’s talk about what you’ve been doing all summer. Maybe you’re a biker, or maybe you love to trail run, did you go rock climbing this summer? Great! I hope you had an awesome time outdoors. But let’s talk about what you didn’t do all summer? Ski or snowboard.. So those quads, hips and core might need a quick tune up.
If you were active all summer, than that’s awesome and you might need less of a tune up then if you sat on the couch all summer but you still should spend some time with the muscles you use most when you’re on the slopes.
Let’s talk about hips. Your hips are part of your core, they keep you stable on the slippery snow and they help you turn whether your on skis or on a snowboard.
Did you know that you have approximately 25 muscles that act with the hip joint? If you are a desk jockey, then I would be willing to bet you already have some tightness in at least one of those muscles. Even if you don’t work in an office all day, I bet your hips are tight from sitting in the car, sitting to watch tv and/or sitting on your phone.
The hips are super important to strengthen but also to maintain full range of motion and flexibility. The hips are able to work in all the planes of motion and can flex, extend, abduct, adduct and rotate, so there are a multitude of ways to work on them.
First, let’s talk about mobilizing the hips. Mobility is defined as “the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion”. In order to get your hip joint moving, we want to loosen them up a little bit first. There are a ton of exercises I could show you for mobilizing hips but in the interest of time, I’ll share with you a few of my favorites.
Hip Flexor Mobility Exercises
Hip Flexor/Quad Smash
Foam roll or use a tennis ball to roll out your hips on all sides, quads and glutes. Contract and relax, find those hot spots and stay there for a few minutes until you feel loose. Aim for 2 minutes on each side.
This is great for working out any hot spots and loosen up your muscles. Best timing is before skiing/riding and at night before bed when you start to feel the soreness creep in.
Banded Hip Joint Capsule Mobilization
Once you have done at least 2 minutes on each side, let’s move on to a banded mobilization. Take a monster band and tie it around a vertical bar, table or desk leg works well. Place your hip inside the band in the lunge position, squeeze your glutes to activate the hip flexor and move your femur around the hip socket. Do this for 2 minutes each side.
The idea behind this exercise is to test the range of motion in the front of your hip socket and work on improving it. With the band around your hamstring under your butt you’ll feel the femur bone hitting the front of the socket, as you move around and play with it you’re getting the hip socket used to being pushed to its limits, which is super important for charging on those powder days.
Next let’s stretch your hip flexors using the couch stretch, place your shin vertical along the couch or a wall and your other leg out in front of you. If you can, raise your chest up and you’ll get a great quad and hip flexor stretch. Hold it as long as you can on each side, ideally aiming for 2 minutes each.
This one feels amazing and the more you do it the better your flexibility is. We all know skiing especially can burn out your quads. Bring them back to life by stretching them out. This one is ideal for shortly after your ski/ride day is over while you’re watching TV or hanging out with friends, sneak this one in. I promise there’s no wrong time for a couch stretch.
Pigeon Pose and Figure 4 Stretch
Ahh the glutes, there’s nothing like a good glute stretch. My favorite glute stretch is pigeon pose, or another good one is the figure 4. Hold for 2 minutes at least on each side.
Being able to fire your glutes is super important for both skiing and snowboarding. The glutes should be where most of your power comes from on the slopes. You’re probably engaging them more than you even think while you’re dropping into your favorite run.
Hip Range of Motion Exercise
Now let’s give a full range of motion exercise a try. Get on all fours, knees and wrists in line and wrists in line with shoulders. Pick up your right leg as if going into a clam shell and left as high as you comfortably can without too much strain or moving your hips or back out of alignment. Now shoot that leg backwards until it’s straight behind you and then bring it in. Repeat 5 times and then reverse direction 5 times and switch to the left leg.
If you’re hips are tight like mine are, you won’t be able to get a full range of motion, but the more you work on mobilizing them the better range of motion you’ll be able to move through which will help to feel ready to ski all day.
This is a super quick and easy way to work on hip mobilization which will help to make you skiing and snowboarding a little more effortless and a little less on the verge of injury. Start now doing these exercises a few times every week and work up to making them an everyday habit.