Oh, My Aching Back

Colder weather, larger pack loads, and unsure footing on snow all lead to excessive motion in or around the spine, which can lead to sore backs and even repetitive-stress injuries. Here are some ways to prepare for winter and gain reprieve from back discomfort.

First, stabilizing your trunk by strengthening the core musculature in a neutral spine position. Four exercises can comprehensively strengthen your front, back, and sides:

Plank Progression. Facing the floor, hold your body in a plank position while keeping off the floor only with toes and with elbows, which are positioned directly below the shoulders. Hold as long as possible; for more difficulty, shift weight and raise an unweighted limb.

Stability Ball Rollout. Kneel behind a stability ball. Using just your arms, lean onto the ball without bending at the waist; pull your arms back in to raise back up. Repeat.

Mcgill Raise. Place a stability ball between the feet. Laying on side and using elbow as support, press up to a lateral plank. Hold and then return to ground.
Superman. Place a stability ball on a stable weight bench. Lean over the ball and get a firm hold of the bench. Hold yourself so your feet are off the ground. Using your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, lift your body until it is straight like a board.

Second, prepare your body to control twisting forces or motion in the transverse plane. Three exercises teach your body to be strong against rotational forces or a sloppy pack load.

Unilateral Overhead Press. Stand on one leg with other leg slightly bent. Holding a dumbbell press the weight up. As you increase the weight, use your support leg to create more force.

Unilateral Ball Bench Press. Recline on a stability ball. Be sure your head and back are supported. Holding a weight in one hand, perform a dumbbell bench press motion.

Cable Punch. Using a pulley directly above the shoulder, stand in a long functional stance and keep your knees over your ankles. Make a punching motion, keeping your wrist in front of your elbow at all times.

Maintenance and recovery is certainly the key to longevity in cold-weather sports. A comprehensive regular stretching routine is best, and yoga reigns supreme.

Steve Conant, MS, HFI, CSCS, of Alliance Sports Medicine serves on the executive board of the ACSM—Northwest and will be teaching ski conditioning at various locations in Bozeman this fall.