Snow strength – how to improve your workout routine and prevent injuries

Silvia Mittermueller gym

Snowboarding and skiing both demand physical fitness, especially if you choose to push yourself in the park by doing new tricks off of jumps and rails. Strength and coordination are obviously important assets to possess when it comes to trick execution, but they are even more important when it comes to crashing without injury and preventing soreness the next few days.

With many years of pro snowboarding (and lots of injuries) under my belt, I have played with numerous workout techniques and tweaked a bunch of exercises to make them more suitable for park riding. I generally focus on exercises that help build a strong body that’s best prepared to do the tricks I want to do, and also ready to rebound from the majority of crashes that are going to occur while learning and perfecting a trick.

Below is workout advice that should help you complete new tricks in the park, while protecting you from the falls that accompany learning a new trick and pushing yourself on the slopes.

Coordination – big vs. smart muscles

The biggest change I have done to my workouts over the years is to add an intense coordination component to 90% of the exercises I do. Big muscles built with simple exercises may look great, but they don’t necessarily function as fast or as coordinated as you need them to when you jump and crash.

Smart muscle examples :

  • Silvia Mittermueller snow strengthSquats – do them on a balance board instead of flat ground to improve your balance.
  • One leg squats – do them without holding on or resting your second foot on anything.
  • Jumps – these are exhausting, but build great power. Land on one leg for coordination.
  • Core Exercises – there are a million incredible core exercises, try to use gymnastic/bosu balls wherever you can.
  • Arms/Shoulders – Do handstands! A multipress (to hang from) or a wall (to lean against) help to get better. When you get better, do handstands on a balance board/bosu ball.

Intensity – strength and endurance

Silvia Mittermueller snow strengthIf you do 20+ reps of whatever workout you do, you are not building your maximum strength (which you need to absorb crashes), but instead are building strength endurance. In my opinion, maximum strength is key to preventing injuries. If you already go to the gym you should have a decent base-strength, so focus on keeping the difficulty of your exercises high enough that you generally can’t do more than 8-12 reps per set before you need a break. That also counts for core exercises (I see so many men in the gym doing a million crunches with no extra weight!)

This is especially important for the ladies out there – don’t be scared of higher weights, or doing less reps. Don’t be scared to train your legs or your arms out of fear of getting large muscles. Your muscles wont get that huge. I have been training my behind off for many years and still look like a woman. I might be a bit more defined than the average lady, but I don’t think I ever scared someone with my body.

Recovery – let your body digest the crashes

I am terrible at taking days off. If there’s nice weather, I want to be out on the mountain. Everyday. Luckily, there are some things you can do to recover faster from long days on the mountain or in the gym. My favorite tool is water. Swimming laps in the pool is a great way to still get some physical activity, without risking further injury to a sore body. The cool water and low impact activity help your circulation by transporting lactic acid away, and encourages needed repair mechanisms to start working in your body.

Mellow stretching and foam-roller rolling is great, too. The most important thing though is to be sure you are getting enough sleep. During sleep is the best time for your body to recover.

Mental strength – without the right mindset, even the strongest body will break

The most important strength of all is still your mental strength. I can’t overstate the importance of being in the right mindset -to be in the moment, making the right choices. Focus when you take risks in the park and use your common sense. Don’t go out there drunk or hungover trying things. Don’t rely on luck. Curing a real injury will take a lot longer than sleeping away your hangover or taking off the p.m. after a few après-drinks…

Be safe, stay strong, and have fun!

– Silvia Mittermueller