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So you want to learn how to snowboard? Well, before you step out on the slopes with both feet mounted to one board, consider incorporating a few weeks of snowboarding-specific sports training. The more prepared you are for the physical demands of riding, the more successful you will be on day one.
Being a good snowboarder requires the right physical conditioning. Traveling downhill on a variety of terrains with a sideways stance on a board requires core strength, leg strength, balance, flexibility, and even some cardiovascular conditioning.
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The foundation of a good rider is a strong core. Without strong abdominal and back muscles, the primary movements required to carve down the hill have nowhere to power from. A good strengthening program for the core will include exercises such as abdominal crunches, back extensions, medicine ball oblique twists, and planks/bridges. Remember, the core is the most crucial component to becoming a strong snowboarder.
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Lower Body Strength
Once a movement is initiated by the core it is generally taken over by the legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and ankles. A good rider will have strong legs to sustain the long ride down the mountain. Great exercises for a beginner to develop their legs are squats, wall sits, calf and toe raises, and deadlifts for the hamstrings. Keep in mind that whichever leg is the back leg will often be unstrapping to get you from point A to point B if the surface is flat, or you may even need to get uphill. This leg needs to be conditioned for what can often be an exhausting amount of pushing.
You may also find yourself needing to travel a short distance up a steeper hill. Doing so generally requires remaining strapped in, facing up the mountain, and hopping up it which will require great leg strength and endurance. A good exercise to help prepare for hopping with your feet attached to a snowboard is squatting and then jumping onto a low step, or wearing light ankle weights and performing squat jumps.
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It would be silly to neglect balance training for a sport as dynamic as snowboarding. Remember, both feet are strapped to one board, with one leg in front, and you will not be able to just stand up straight and ride smoothly down the mountain on a flat board. Most of a rider's time is spent alternating from the front to back edge of the snowboard. Utilize equipment such as balance boards, wobble boards, half domes and foam rollers, and balance air discs to simulate the unstable environment. Using the wobble board or half foam roller, take a stance that matches your snowboarding stance and rock the board back and forth by shifting your pressure from you toes to your heels while keeping your torso in the center. This is a great way to mimic the movement performed while snowboarding.
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Increase Your Flexibility
As with most sports, flexibility is a critical part of of riding. Poor flexibility in the legs, hips, and lower back can negatively impact your ability to ride and also increase your chance of injury. After performing all of the strength training exercises, end your workout session with ten minutes of stretching that includes the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and lower back.
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Improve Your Aerobic Conditioning
Although snowboarding is primarily an anaerobic activity, you will soon realize how much aerobic conditioning is required, especially in the learning stages. If you do not want to be exhausted after only one hour on your first day, it is recommended that you do some cardiovascular training with your conditioning program. Some options are the bicycle or jump rope since both will also be strengthening muscles in the legs.
Following all these suggestions for a few weeks before you hit the slopes can greatly enhance your performance and enjoyment of your first snowboarding session, and those that follow.
Landis, J. Strength and Conditioning for Snowboarding. NSCA's Performance Training Journal, 5(1): 12-16.
Leopardi-Anderson, K. Strength and Conditioning for Snowboarding. NSCA's Performance Training Journal, 3(1): 15-18.