Snowboarding is not for the weak-kneed -- pun intended. It's power, speed, balance, control and grace all rolled into one, and your knees are at the heart of it all. They carry the bulk of your weight and absorb tremendous pressure. Although you're statistically more likely to injure your wrist when you wipe out, you're still susceptible to the dreaded "pop" that indicates knee ligament damage. Give your knees the attention they need by beefing up the muscles that surround and support them. You'll reduce your chance of injury and feel more secure on your board.
Work out throughout the year, including during the offseason. Be especially diligent during the six to eight weeks before the season opens. Perform strength routines twice a week, resting for 24 to 48 hours between workouts. Increase weight or resistance gradually, adding weight in increments of 5 to 10 percent every 10 to 14 days if you're working out regularly and consistently. For exercises that involve reps, follow the general rule of performing three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, resting briefly between sets.
Design a routine that targets the major muscles that support your knees, including the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves and hips. Emphasize exercises performed while standing, so strength gains match the specific needs of snowboarders.
Warm up thoroughly before your knee workout. Do five to 10 minutes of cardio, such as jogging or jumping rope, to raise your core temperature and increase circulation to your lower body. When you break a light sweat, complete two or three sets of dynamic stretches -- such as step-back lunges or butt kicks -- to fire up the muscles that act on your knee.
Use a variety of isometric, active and compound exercises that build knee strength. Opt for isometric and active isolated exercises when you want to focus intensely on one muscle group. Draw from a vast number of lower-body compound exercises when you want to tackle several muscle groups at once. Wall squats, crab walks, lunges, step-ups and step-downs are examples of excellent compound exercises that build strength in and around your knee.
Throw in plyometrics and proprioceptive training for a truly well-rounded workout. Tuck jumps, single-leg lateral hops, skips and box jumps mimic snowboarding movements and are all fantastic for building knee strength. Proprioceptive training activates and fortifies the muscles around your knee; the various muscles that act on the knee automatically tighten in their effort to keep you upright. Balance one-legged on a wobble board, small cushion or other unstable surface. If that's too easy, close your eyes, rise onto your toes or bend over and touch your standing ankle.
Make use of simple, low-cost exercise equipment to increase exercise intensity and maximize outcome. Resistance bands, ankle weights, stability balls and dumbbells are extremely versatile. Make use of these tools at home or at the gym to increase resistance, boost strength outcomes and inject some life into basic knee exercises.
- American Journal of Sports Medicine: Snowboarding Injuries
- Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation; Ralph Buschbacher, et al.
- Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness: A Sports Specific Approach; David Musnick and Mark Pierce
- American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Knee Exercises
- Stretch the major leg muscle groups after your workout to prevent soreness and preserve flexibility. Include stretches for your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, hips and iliotibial band.
- Don't use excessive weight when you train your knees. Doing so can lead to overload and injury.
- Avoid exercises that result in pain, clicking or grinding in the knee.
- Watch out for muscular imbalances. Snowboarders tend to have strong quads and hip flexors and weaker hamstrings, adductors and glutes. A trainer can evaluate you and design a program that caters to your particular strength needs.
Judy Fisk has been writing professionally since 2011, specializing in fitness, recreation, culture and the arts. A certified fitness instructor with decades of dance training, she has taught older adults, teens and kids. She has written educational and fundraising material for several non-profit organizations and her work has appeared in numerous major online publications. Fisk holds a Bachelor of Arts in public and international affairs from Princeton University.