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Almost the entire body is at risk when it comes to falling while snowboarding. Everything from wrist sprains or fractures and shoulder dislocations, to bruised tailbones, concussions and more can occur. Many of these injuries can be prevented with a proper training program.
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The Training Program
A thorough strength and conditioning program will incorporate exercises that can strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, improve flexibility, and enhance balance. Both the lower and upper body require physical training, and should be done year round.
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Training the Upper Body
Wrist injuries account for 23-25% of all injuries that occur while riding. Shoulder injuries are the second most common. For these reasons it is imperative to strengthen the upper body so that bones are more dense and less likely to fracture, and so that the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are better able to respond to a joint collision.
Appropriate exercises for the upper body include push-ups, wrist curls with resistance, shoulder internal and external rotation, and shoulder raises.
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Dynamic Balance Training
Typically wrist injuries occur due to a rider losing their balance and reaching out to break the fall with their hand. Therefore if a snowboarder has better balance these falls will occur less often. A training program should incorporate both stationary and dynamic balance training drills. Wobble boards, half foam rollers, and air cushions will all be very useful. Working with such equipment will allow the rider to get used to having both feet attached to the board, and teach the ankles to respond appropriately to instabilities.
Here is an exercise to try with the half foam roller: place the flat side up and stand on it as you would a snowboard, begin by slowly rocking the roller back and forth with ankle flexions, and then speed it up and make the moves more dynamic. You will be simulating the movement of riding while strengthening the ankle joints and developing your balance.
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The more experienced snowboarder will benefit from a training program that incorporates jump exercises due to the aggressive nature of freestyle riding. Once a rider learns to comfortably carve down the hill it is usually time to hit some jumps. The balance training will have laid the foundation for staying on your feet upon landing, but a more dynamic workout is crucial to safely hitting and landing jumps.
Practice straight jump squats or knee tucks, and jump squats with a twist - landing fakie. Use plyometric boxes of progressive heights to practice landing a jump to prepare the lower body for the impact it will experience. To progress even more try landing on a softer surface such as a mat or air cushion to simulate landing in soft snow.
Remember that a great training program for a snowboarder should be year round. During the season, and while out riding, remember to stretch as often as possible to keep the muscles and joints limber, this is just another way to help prevent injury. Happy trails!
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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.