5 Wakeboard Exercises You Should Be Performing This Off-Season
For many of us, it is almost time to put away our boards and winterize our boats. Yes, the off-season is here, but just because your opportunities to improve on the water are "on hold" for a few months doesn't mean you can't improve your riding off the water. Include the following 5 exercises twice weekly in your off-season strength and conditioning program to "injury proof" your body and build your base of conditioning for the '08 season.
This is a phenomenal and efficient exercise for building strength and stamina in the chest, shoulders, triceps, upper back, hips, abdominals, and lower back. This gives you a great "bang for your buck" in terms of training economy and will really carry over well to the water.
The thing you want to concentrate on while in the pillar bridge position is to keep your back perfectly flat and your shoulder blades pulled apart. You should not feel (or see) a "bowing" of your lower back. Keeping the back flat will optimally recruit your core muscles. Similarly, on the push-up portion of the exercise, the back should also remain flat. Furthermore, the push-ups should be done through a full range of motion with a brief pause at the top of each rep to reduce momentum: ideally, your forehead should lightly touch the floor on each rep. Finally, DO NOT REST DURING THE TRANSITION BETWEEN THE PILLAR BRIDGE AND PUSH-UP & DON'T PUT YOUR KNEES DOWN. Try to mimic the video demo of this exercise above.
As for sets and repetitions, I would recommend starting with 25-30 second pillar bridges and 5-8 push-ups per circuit for a total of 3 circuits. Rest 90 seconds and perform a second set. You should add time to the pillar bridges and/or reps to the push-ups each week. Your ultimate goal should be to build up to 3 one minute pillar bridges alternated with 3 circuits of 15 push-ups by next season.
The muscles on the backside of your body from the base of your skull to the back of your knees, known as the "posterior chain", are extremely important to water sports enthusiasts from both an injury prevention and performance perspective. These muscles are responsible for keeping your body in proper alignment during most water sports, and body alignment directly affects your riding mechanics. Most athletes, water sports enthusiasts included, are weak in the muscles which make up this chain.
This exercise will build strength and stamina throughout this entire chain of muscle, and, like the pillar bridge/push-up above, is very efficient. It allows you to train multiple muscle groups simultaneously, which is the nature of all water sports…you don't "isolate" on the water.
Depending on your current fitness level, 25-45 lb. dumbbells are going to be more than adequate for most guys. For the females out there, again, depending on current fitness level, 10-30 lb. bells will probably suffice. A few pointers:
On the first part of the movement, the Romanian deadlift, the emphasis should be on "tipping the hips" and pushing the butt back while keeping just a little softness in your knees (but don't bend them as you go down). DO NOT just bend over at the waist…this is the last thing you want to do. If you do this first segment correctly, you'll feel a mild stretch in your hamstrings. Secondly, as shown in the video demo, keep the back flat. Do not round the back. For most people, the dumbbells will only reach a level just below the knee cap…if you go any lower than this your back is going to round out.
On the second part of the movement, the row, focus on pulling the shoulder blades together as you pull the bells to your chest. Act like you are trying to grab a pencil between your shoulder blades.
On the third and final part, the extension, DO NOT accelerate up so quickly that you go into excessive extension at your lower back. Only pull up to a neutral position.
As for sets and reps, 2-3 sets of 30 repetitions (10 reps of each exercise) will suffice. Again, pay attention to your body alignment and do the exercise correctly. Only increase the resistance if you are able to keep perfect form, and, in my experience, most people will never need more weight than the high end of what is recommended above. This is not a "max out" exercise where you want to see what your limit strength is. This is more of a corrective type exercise to strengthen what are typically weak and inhibited muscles in most water sports athletes.
This exercise has been around forever and is still one of the very best exercises one can do. It provides a high level of stimulation to the lattisimus dorsi (the "lats"…the big muscles in your back), the biceps in the front of the arm, the intrinsic muscles of the hands and forearms and the abdominals as well. This is an exercise which requires the integration and recruitment of multiple muscle groups, just as water sports do-"practice how you play. Also, the muscles involved in the chin-up help to stabilize the shoulder joint, which can help to prevent pec and rotator cuff tears (and I've seen a lot of these types of injuries since I've been involved in wakeboarding).
As for sets and reps, there are a lot of different ways one can go about it. You could do 2-3 sets of maximum repetitions or you could pick a goal number of reps to complete and do as many sets as needed to accomplish this goal. Also, if you know what the maximum number of reps you can currently perform is, you can cut that number in half and do sets of this number with 1 minute in between sets until you can no longer perform half of your maximum reps. If you are quite strong and can perform double digit repetitions, the addition of extra weight may be necessary to continue overloading the involved muscles. A weighted X-Vest, which can be purchased HERE, is a convenient way to increase the difficulty of your chin-ups.
Chin-ups require a decent pre-existing level of fitness, so, if you are new to strength training and are unable to perform chin-ups, that's certainly ok. I would recommend doing negative only chin-ups instead. In order to do this, you'll need bench, chair, or stool which you can climb up on. Once you are elevated on this surface, grab the bar with the proper grip with your chin already over the bar and try to lower yourself in an 8 second count towards the floor. Climb back up and repeat again. 2-3 sets of 8 reps should be all you need initially. Over 4-6 weeks, you should see your ability to perform regular chin-ups improve.
Torn hamstrings, menisci, and knee ligaments (ACL, MCL) are probably the most frequent injuries that occur during participation in water sports. There is a tremendous amount of force and torque on the knee joint while skiing, boarding, wake skating or bare footing and if the muscles that cross your knee joint, the hamstrings in particular, are not strong enough or are too inhibited (which means they can't be recruited correctly by your central nervous system), you are going to be much more susceptible to traumatic injuries.
In my opinion, a lot of these types of injuries are preventable with just a little preventative work, and this exercise is excellent for building strength, stamina and mobility in the knee joint, with a particular focus on the hamstrings and gluteals (your ass muscles). If you need a stability ball, you can purchase one HERE. 2-3 sets of 12-20 repetitions will plenty on this movement.
What water sports enthusiast doesn't like getting big air? Wake World readers certainly love their heel side and toe side wake jumps, inverts, etc. However, the impact forces of the landing or the awkwardness of "casing" the wake on a jump can cause knee injuries. A member of the crew I ride with blew out his ACL this past season on a seemingly harmless toe side wake jump because he landed just a little out of whack.
Again, I feel a little preventative training can go a long way towards preventing-or least minimizing-injury to the knee. Including jump training in your off-season regimen is a great way to prepare your joints for the impact forces of on water jumps where your muscles are required to contract quickly and forcefully while also decelerating your body.
Box jumps are one of a number of drills which will allow you to attain this training goal. Simply explode up onto a box as shown in the video and then step-don't jump-back down. Reset yourself and go again. 3-5 sets of 3-5 jumps twice weekly is a good general recommendation. You should try to progress in terms of the height of the box you are jumping onto, or, try to add additional weight through a weighted X-VEST. Another big key to this drill is to try to land softly and quietly on the box: do not land with locked knees and do not create a loud "thud" when sticking your landing. If you don't have a box, a standard stationary weight training bench or similar elevated surface 20-40 inches off the ground (if you are a beginner, start on the lower end of the surface height recommendations) will suffice (just make sure it's sturdy). If you want a sturdy box for your jumps, you can purchase one HERE.
To review, just because you can't ride for a few months doesn't mean you can't improve. Implementing the 5 exercises described in this article into your off-season regimen will take you a long way towards getting your body prepared for the rigors of your chosen water sport and will allow you to ride harder, longer, and safer in 2008…now get to it!
P. J. Striet, an avid wakeboarder, is the owner of FORCE Fitness and Sports Performance in Cincinnati, OH where he trains and coaches a wide array of competitive and recreational athletes. He holds a BS degree in Exercise Physiology and is available for online training, consulting, and public speaking engagements through his website www.cincinnatifitnesstrainer.com. Also, check out his new blog www.water-sports-workout.blogspot.com, which is dedicated specifically to water sports performance enhancement through strength training, conditioning and preventative corrective excercise. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.