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Skiing works the entire body, but especially the quadriceps, core and forearms. Don’t let your ski season be cut short by an injury that could possibly have been prevented by stretching, such as skier’s thumb, muscle strains, knee injuries and delayed-onset muscle soreness.
Skier’s thumb can be extremely painful and can severely impact your skiing abilities. Skier’s thumb is caused when the ulnar collateral ligament, which connects the bones to the base of the thumb, is stretched too far. It often occurs when thumbs are caught on a ski pole during a fall or jarring movement.
Knee injuries make up about a third of ski injuries, with ligament injury being the most common aspect. Menisci, cruciate and collateral injuries can occur when a skier falls and twists the lower leg, but the binding does not release in time.
Tibial injuries such as a spiral fractures and boot top injuries are also common among skiers.
Upper limb injuries such as shoulder injuries include dislocations and rotator cuff tears.
Muscle strains often occur in the lower back by overstretching or tearing the muscles or tendons. Tendons are the tissues that connect the muscle to the bone. Decreased elasticity of muscles is the most common cause of muscle strains in the lower back for skiers. Treatment often includes cessation of physical activity for 4-6 weeks.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness, known as DOMS, is typified by muscles stiffness that occurs up to two days after engaging in intense physical exercise. The cause of delayed-onset muscle soreness is thought to be miniscule tears in muscle fibers. Doctors suggest engaging in low-impact exercises such as yoga or stationary cycling to promote blood flow to your muscles. Gentle stretching is also helpful for pain relief.
Stretches for Skiers
Top 6 Stretches (Calf, Quadriceps, Hamstrings & Shoulders, Trunk rotation, Hip Flexor & Psoas, Inner Thighs)
Top 12 Stretches (Add to the above: Downward-facing Dog, Groin, Hips, Gluteus, Lower Back, Chest)
Top 18 Stretches (Add to the above: Achilles Tendon, Hamstring, Seated Piriformis, Upper Back, Triceps & Shoulder, Neck)
Performing the Stretches Correctly
Achilles Tendon – Stand straight with your hands against a wall with one leg slightly behind your other leg. Keeping your heels flat on the floor, slowly bend both knees. You should feel the stretch in the lower part of your leg. Repeat on the other side.
Calf – Stand facing a wall or other support, approximately one leg’s length away. Lunge forward with right leg, extending arms to allow the wall to balance you. Feet should be about hip width apart, toes forward and left leg extended back with the knee straight and the foot flat on the floor. Push the left heal to the floor and move hips slightly forward. Repeat on the other side.
Chest – With right arm extended, place hand on a fixed structure at about shoulder height. Turn your body away from the right arm until gentle stretch occurs in the chest. Note that the upper chest stretch increases with the elbow lower and the lower chest stretch increases with the elbow higher. Repeat on the other side.
Downward-facing Dog – Start on all fours, stacking wrists directly below the elbows and elbows directly below the shoulders. Adjust the hips until they are directly above the knees. Straighten your legs and send your hips high while trying to place your heels on the ground. Remember to engage your core. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Gluteus Maximus – Stand facing the back of a park bench. Take your left foot and cross it over your right knee, creating a figure-four-type posture. Holding on to the bench with both hands, begin to ease your rear end down until it is parallel to the floor. It should feel like you are sitting in an imaginary chair. If possible, release the left hand from the bench and press your left elbow down on your left knee for a deeper stretch. Release your elbow from your knee, put both hands on the bench, and slowly return to standing position. Release your crossed foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Groin – Stand with your feet about 2 meters apart, toes pointing forward. Gradually shift all your weight to your left leg by bending your left knee. Your right leg stays straight. You can increase the starting distance between your feet for a greater stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstring – Stand with your left foot on a park bench or low wall, no higher than hip height, with the middle of your shoe on the edge. Lock your left leg straight and bend your right leg slightly. Gently bend forward from the hip bringing your head towards the leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the left hamstring. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstrings & Shoulders – Begin standing upright. Extend your arms behind you, clasping hands together. Maintain a flat back while folding forward from the hip, releasing the shoulders and letting your hands and arms hang towards the ground. Feel the deep stretch in both your hamstrings and your chest. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Hip Flexor & Psoas – Stand facing a bench or elevated platform, approximately one leg’s length away. Place right foot on bench or platform. Slowly lunge forward by bending right leg. With chest high, straighten hip of left leg by pushing hips forward. Keep torso upright, close to vertical and hips square to the wall. Repeat on the other side.
Hips – The double pigeon is an excellent hip stretch because it gives you a deep stretch right where you need it after a day on the slopes.
Sit on the floor, cross-legged. Stack your ankles, knees, and shins. Flex your feet and lean forward to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and then switch sides so the other leg is on top.
Inner Thighs – Stand with your feet wide and fold forward, placing your hands on the floor. Then walk your feet out as wide as you can go. Stay on your hands, or if you’re more flexible, lower onto your forearms. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
Lower Back – This is just what your back needs after a vigorous day on the mountain.
With your feet shoulder width apart and pointed outwards to about a 15 degree angle and your heels on the ground, bend your knees and squat. Then lean slightly forward and try to lower the backside as close to the heels as possible until you feel a gentle stretch in the lower back.
Neck – Bend your head forward and slightly to the right. With your right hand, gently pull your head downward. You’ll feel a nice, easy stretch along the back left side of your neck. Repeat on other side.
Quadriceps – Near a wall or bench, stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend your left knee and grasp the top of your left foot with your left hand. Bring your heel as close as possible to the left side of your buttocks, feeling a gentle stretch of the quad and shin. Keep your back straight, your left knee vertically in alignment with your left hip and horizontally in alignment with your right knee. Repeat on the other side.
Seated Piriformis – Begin in a seated position, crossing the right leg on top of the left being careful to stack the right ankle directly above the left knee. Fold forward and hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Triceps & Shoulder – Extend your right arm straight up in the air. Bend arm at the elbow, pointing the elbow towards the sky and letting the forearm fall behind your back. Take your left hand and grab your right elbow. Pull the elbow behind your head feeling a gentle stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Trunk rotation – With feet hip width apart and arms crossed over your chest, twist only at your torso until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Upper Back – This stretch gets right underneath your shoulder blades, which feels amazing after a day bent over your poles! It also does a good job of stretching your shoulders too.
With a straight back, put your left hand straight out in front of you. Twist your right arm underneath your left one. Reach up and grab the palm of your left hand with your right fingers. This is the start position. Now lift both of your arms towards the ceiling until you feel a stretch between your shoulder blades. Repeat on the other side.