Low-back pain is the common plight of the skier, especially at the start of the ski season. (After Day 6 on skis, yours truly is currently typing with one hand and slathering on CBD salve with the other.) There’s also a common cause: a weak core.
It might not seem like we use our core muscles much when we’re skiing, but in reality the entire sleeve of muscles surrounding the spine—from the neck to the knees (commonly known as the trunk)—is engaged when we turn our skis down the hill. It’s our core that stabilizes us and helps us counter gravity’s forces on the hill. If those muscles are weak, the muscles in the back are left to bear the brunt of that work and force, which leaves them overworked and tired.
While it’s completely normal to be sore everywhere at the start of the ski season—after all, you’re using muscles you may not have used in a while—you can prevent the worst of it by proactively strengthening your core. And the good news is we are not talking about crunches. Those only target your abdominals, and you’ll want to beef up deep core muscles like your obliques to take a load off your spine.
In this video, former U.S. Ski Team trainer Chris Miller outlines five moves that support the low back. Link them together as Miller recommends, and you’ve got yourself a core-busting circuit that will not only help your back, but get your body ready to tackle variable terrain and snow conditions.
Watch: 5 Core Exercises to Fight Low-Back Pain
Stability Ball Dead Bug
Grab a big medicine ball or stability ball and begin on the floor in a reverse table-top position. Extend arms straight overhead while squeezing the ball between your elbows and knees. Drop and extend opposite arm and leg while continuing to squeeze the ball between the other elbow and knee. Return to starting position and continue to extend alternating arm and leg. Be sure to keep your core engaged and low back pressed firmly against the floor throughout.
Begin in a table-top position with hands directly below both shoulders. Lift your knees off the ground and slowly crawl forward while keeping your core engaged and back flat.
Begin by lying on the floor on your back, then extend legs and arms off the ground and away from the body. Press the low back into the ground as you round your upper back to create a hollowed-out position with your body. From here, rock back and forth, keeping core engaged and legs and arms fully extended.
Grab a kettlebell or any other weight that can easily be carried in one hand. With weight in one hand, slowly walk in a straight line across the room, keeping shoulders level and resisting the pull of the weight. Switch weight to other to walk back across the room to starting position.
In a standing position, hoist a kettlebell or dumbbell onto one shoulder without craning your neck. Slowly march forward in a straight line, keeping weight on the shoulder and bringing knees to hip height. Once you’ve marched across the room, switch the weight to the other shoulder and march back to starting position. The slower you march, the more your core has to work to keep you stabilized.