Snowshoeing is a fun way to exercise while enjoying the great outdoors. Unfortunately, injuries can happen and force us to spend more time indoors than outside playing in the snow. Prolonged walking and standing can cause muscle strain and fatigue, especially in the lower back region when the hiker hasn’t developed sufficient endurance and strength necessary for the day’s planned trip.
However, with a few basic back exercises, you can improve your ability to snowshoe over greater distances and improve your posture in everyday activities. And who doesn’t want to play in the snow or with your kids as long as possible?!
Here are some quick exercises that you can do in just minutes to help improve the flexibility and strength in your back:
Lie on your back on the floor, preferably on a towel or yoga mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Gently rotate your knees to one side while twisting your upper body to the opposite side until you feel a nice stretch. You should feel a gentle stretch in your lower back, while you may also feel a stretch in your abdomen. Hold for 30 seconds, breathing relaxed, and then repeat on the other side. Aim for 3-5 repetitions.
For those that may struggle with getting into or out of a supine position, you can modify this exercise by performing a twist while standing up. Stand sideways next to a wall or chair and twist gently toward the wall while holding the chair or using the wall for support with your arm until you feel a gentle stretch. To stretch the opposite side of the body, face the opposite direction. Then use your opposite arm for support and perform the twist.
First, place your hands and knees on the ground as if you were going to do a pushup. Your arms and legs should be about 90 degrees from your torso, perpendicular to the floor mat. Now arch your back like a cat, stretching and hold for 30 seconds. This exercise is called the cat pose in yoga. Similarly, drop your back down and raise your head and chest, allowing your back to sink slightly below you. This exercise is called the cow pose.
Repeat each pose three times, exhaling as you stretch, and perform the pose. Then, inhale as you come back to your starting/neutral position. Focus on your breathing, especially exhaling as you stretch. Breathing will help to get an even deeper and more relaxed stretch.
You can also perform this stretch standing up if you feel pain or discomfort when on the floor. To perform this stretch while standing, bend your knees and place your hands on your legs for added support. Then complete the poses, arching and lowering your back gently while breathing slowly for a deeper stretch.
Begin on your hands and knees, in much the same way as the cat/cow pose. Then gently lift your knees off the ground, pushing up with your arms, letting your toes and feet roll back, so your feet are flat on the ground. Take a step or two backward, depending on your comfort and ability, until you feel a stretch in your spine and legs. Your body should form an inverted V shape.
Downward dog is a great exercise to help lengthen the spine while also stretching the hamstrings and calves. Hold this pose for 30 seconds. Aim for 3-5 repetitions.
If you struggle with this exercise because of tight hamstrings or calves, try bending your knees when holding this stretch. Alternatively, place your hands on a chair or wall for added support. Then stretch your back without going all the way down to the floor.
Read More: Yoga in the Snow
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands at your sides with your forearms pronated (palms down). Slowly raise your hips using your legs, glutes, and lower back to create a straight line from your knees to your torso. Take care not to raise your hips too far up, as your body should not form an arch, only a straight line. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
If you can’t hold this position for that long, stay as long as you can with the correct form, letting yourself come back down if you’re struggling to keep the line. Proper form is much more important than straining to hold the position for an extra few seconds. Complete 5-7 repetitions or as many as you can do with the correct technique.
You can also perform this exercise using a yoga block for added support by placing the block on the floor in a comfortable position below your waist.
Lie on your chest, face down on the floor with your arms extended in front of you. Slowly begin to raise your arms and legs off the floor. Hold this position as if you were flying like superman. You may feel this exercise working your glutes, hamstrings, and upper back as well as your lower back. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
You can also modify this back exercise and start on your hands and knees if you feel any pain or discomfort. This modification is called the superman plank or the kneeling superman exercise. This exercise places more demand on your shoulders, arms, and knees. It also requires more balance than the standard superman exercise.
For the superman plank, extend your left arm in front of you and your right leg behind you while stabilizing yourself with your opposite arm and leg. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat with your opposite arm and leg and aim for 6-10 repetitions. If you experience pain in your shoulders, knees, or other areas or if you struggle to maintain your balance discontinue the exercise.
Read More: Thoracic Pain and Snowshoeing
Tips To Keep In Mind For Back Exercises
Always remember to do a brief warm-up before performing these movements. Walking and jogging are great activities to warm up with before a daily stretching routine.
Always focus on your breathing and proper technique when performing any exercise, even if that means doing one or even several repetitions less than your goal for that day. Remember, using the correct technique is always the most important thing you can do when performing any exercise.
Additionally, it’s recommended to check with your doctor before performing these exercises, especially if recovering from an injury or illness.
What are your favorite exercises for your back? Please let us know in the comments below.
This article was originally published on Dec 12, 2019. It was updated on February 4, 2021.
Don’t Forget To Stretch For Snowshoeing!
Chiropractor Approved Injury Prevention Tips for Snowshoers
7 Exercises You Can Do to Support Your Snowshoeing
Improve Your Ankle and Wrist Mobility for Snowshoeing