Gian Simmen's Snowboard Warm-Up
Swiss rider Gian Simmen shows you some moves that'll help you ride harder for longer
Since winning Olympic gold as an unfancied youngster at the first ever Winter Olympics halfpipe event in Nagano, Japan, in 1998, Gian Simmen has entered and won countless core snowboard competitions. He has also competed in the two subsequent Olympics halfpipe championships. While he was unable to replicate his earlier win, he still came a creditable 19th in Salt Lake City, USA, in 2002, and 26th in Turin, Italy, in 2006.
But this Swiss snowboarding star is not a man to rest on his Olympic laurels. Jaw-dropping parts in exciting snowboard films such as King Size and Green have helped him to stay at the forefront of a sport that prizes footage as highly as competition wins. And although Simmen is 33, his victory at the 2009 Walliser Tour - one of Switzerland's biggest snowboard events - shows that he still has the ability to compete with the 20-somethings that dominate the sport.
Serious injuries, however, including two badly torn cruciate ligaments, mean he increasingly opts for a more forgiving, yet equally rewarding, type of riding. "As a kid you just want to hit the biggest jumps and rails in the park," he says. "As you get older you start to think about the other things the sport can offer. In my case that's building and riding jumps away from resort-maintained slopes.
"It takes a lot of experience to do this kind of thing safely because of the risk of off-piste avalanches. Once you understand how the snow behaves it's great, because you can still push yourself – falling in the soft back-country snow doesn't hurt as much as landing on hard-packed snow in an icy park."
As he has gets older Simmen has had to adapt to his body's changing fitness requirements. "Recovery time for a 19-year old is short, but for a 33-year-old it takes so much longer," says Simmen. "That's not to say you can't remain a top-level pro for a long time, you just have to look after yourself."
"If you want to ride hard all day and minimise your risk of injury, you need to get the muscles in your legs, core and back firing before you get on the hill," he explains. That’s why performing warm-up exercises are so important.
Simmen's warm-up routine will minimise the risk of injury and give you the flexibility you need for tricks. Do it just before you strap in for a day's riding.
1 Side-to-side leg swing
Sets 2 Reps 10 with each leg
- Start with your right foot raised off the floor, arms outstretched to help you stay balanced.
- Swing your raised leg and twist your core to the left so that your leg makes contact with your left hand.
- Lower your leg to the start position.
- Once you've done this ten times, swap legs so you're raising your left leg towards your right hand.
Simmen's tip: "This routine warms up your legs, hips and core – the body parts you use to drive most snowboard movements. By doing it standing up and by keeping your working leg off the floor, you also improve your onboard balance."
2 Tuck jump
Sets 2 Reps 12
- Drop down into a shallow squat.
- Explode up into the air, pulling your legs to your chest.
- You can have your arms outstretched if you're struggling to keep your balance.
Simmen's tip: "This will give you the lower-body explosive power to pull everything from quick ollies over piste debris to body-tweaking tricks off massive kickers."
3 The plough
Sets 4 Time 20 seconds
- Lie facing up, with your arms at 45˚ to your body and your legs together.
- Use your core to lift your legs and lower back off the floor and, in a controlled manner, bring your legs over your head till your toes touch the floor.
- Hold for ten seconds, then bring your legs slowly back to the start.
Simmen's tip: "Stretching your back like this helps prevent twisting injuries. Your abs control the move, which builds core strength."
4 Leg matrix
Sets 2 Target time 75 seconds (Steps 1 and 2: 15 seconds on each side, Step 3: 15 seconds)
- With feet shoulder-width apart and your right hand out for balance, lift your left foot, grasp it with your left hand and pull up to make contact with your bum.
- Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you, your right hand behind you. Tuck your right leg over your left and wrap your left hand around the knee while twisting your upper body to the right.
- Legs straight, one-and-a-half times shoulder-width apart, lean forwards slowly until your hands touch the floor.
Simmen's tip: "This set of stretches before a run will avoid tweaks to calves, hams, quads and lower back."
5 Knee circles
Sets 2 Target 10 each direction
- Stand with your feet together, then sink down into a shallow squat and put your hands on your knees.
- Push your knees forward, to the left, back, then to the right in a circular motion.
- Use your hips as well as your knees to drive the move.
Simmen's tip: "The ligaments, muscles and tendons around your knees take a battering when you're in the park. To minimise the risk of injury you need to make sure they're as mobile as possible before you start jumping. That's what this move does – and as a bonus it also fires up the rest of the muscles in your legs and hips too."
More About Snowboarding
- Physiotherapist Lucy Macdonald explains how to treat and prevent some of the most common snowboarding injuries
- Take a lesson or two from champion British snowboarder Billy Morgan and improve your snowboarding skills
- We glean some thoughts on snowboarding and staying in shape from US snowboarding star in this Pat Moore interview
- The most influential snowboarder of all time, Terje Haakonsen shares what's going on inside his head
- An interview with Jamie Nicholls ahead of him riding at the 2012 Freeze Festival
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Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.