Physical therapists offer exercises to maximize performance in fall, winter sports |

Physical therapists offer exercises to maximize performance in fall, winter sports

1A. Resisted External Rotation.
Townsend Bessent | |

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Vail Health.

The trees might be shedding their leaves, but there are still a few weeks of fall left before the snow flies in earnest. Time to make the most of fly-fishing, golf and even swimming, as well as preparing for winter sports like Nordic skiing, snow biking and ice climbing.

Here, Howard Head Sports Medicine physical therapists Zack Dicristino, MSPT, OCS, and Ana Robinson, PT, DPT, OCS, demonstrate tips to maximize performance in these sports.


By Jake Bagley, PT, DPT, physical therapist

1A. Resisted External Rotation

• Hold one end of an elastic band, the other being fixed to a door or pole in front of you, at shoulder height.

• Start by positioning your arm slightly away from body (approximately 45 degrees) with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle, palm facing down.

• Maintaining the angle at your elbow, slowly rotate your arm out, away from your body against the resistance of the band.

• Repeat 2 to 3 times for 15 to 20 repetitions.

1B. Internal Rotation

• Position yourself the same way you did for the external rotation exercise. Begin with your arm away from your body.

• Maintaining the 90-degree angle at your elbow, slowly rotate your arm inward toward your body.

• Repeat 2 to 3 times for 15 to 20 repetitions.

2. Full Can

• Start by standing upright with hands by your side, thumbs pointed forward, with 2- to 5-pound dumbbells in both hands.

• Gently squeeze your shoulder blades back, and slowly bring your arms up and slightly out to the side until your hands are level with your shoulders. Thumbs should be pointing up toward the ceiling.

• Slowly lower weights in the same plane to starting position.

• Repeat 2 to 3 times for 15 to 20 repetitions.

3. Posterior Cuff Stretch

• Resting your left arm into the right arm’s elbow, pull the left arm across your chest until a gentle stretch is felt in the back of the shoulder.

• Hold 30 to 45 seconds; repeat 3 to 4 times on each side.


By Todd Ward, PT, CSCS, physical therapist

4. Kneeling Chops

• Kneel on both knees in a tall posture with knees, hips and shoulders aligned. Activate the glutes and core to maintain stability and control.

• With a band or cable attached above shoulder level, grab the band with both hands, looking at the band with your shoulders turned toward the band.

• Pull the band downward and past the opposite hip, keeping your arms extended and your eyes on your hand. The rotation should come from your mid-back and neck with your low back and hips remaining stable.

• Perform on each side for 10 to 15 repetitions.

5. Book Openings

• With your head on a pillow, lie down on one side with your top knee bent up toward your chest.

• Extend both arms in front on your chest, one on top of the other, and open up the top arm and reach back until you feel a stretch, following your arm with your eyes and head throughout.

• Repeat on the opposite side, feeling the motion in your mid-back.


By Shauna Nelson, MS, OTR/L, inpatient occupational therapist

6. Straight Arm Pull Downs

• Using a cable machine with straight bar in the overhead position, stand two feet back with a slight bend in the knees.

• Pull the weight down slowly toward your thighs, rotating only the shoulders.

• Now raise the bar back up to shoulder height and repeat.

• Remember to engage your core and pull your shoulder blades together during the exercise.

• Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

7. Plank Row

• With a dumbbell in each hand, lower into a plank position.

• Keeping feet hip-width apart for balance and stability, lean your body weight onto the left arm and lift the right dumbbell off the floor to the side of your body. Do not rotate your torso, and keep your chest facing the floor.

• Slowly lower dumbbell, transfer body weight, and repeat with the left arm.

• Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each arm.

8. Streamline Flutter Kicks

• Lie on your back with your lower back against the floor and core engaged.

• Place your arms overhead in a tight, streamlined position, squeezing biceps to ears.

• Lift head slightly off the ground and flutter kick your legs about 6 inches off the ground for 30 to 45 seconds.

• Complete 3 sets, holding for 30 to 45 seconds each.


By Ana Robinson PT, DPT, OCS, physical therapist and official medical provider to the US Nordic Ski Team

9. Single Leg Dead Lifts

• Engaging your core and glutes, stand on one leg with hands on your hips.

• Lift your other leg straight behind you while simultaneously lowering your upper body parallel to the ground.

10. Overhead Medicine Ball Press

• Place one foot on a step with the other foot on the floor.

• With a medicine ball between your hands, stretch your arms overhead and lift your back knee to meet the medicine ball. Keep your core engaged, and focus your weight on the standing leg.

• Repeat 10 times on each side, working on balance and hip control.

11. Skaters

• Standing on one leg, maintain balance and push your opposite leg out to the side in a skating motion. You can use a Frisbee or paper plate under the moving foot for better glide.

• Repeat 10 times on each leg.


By Jess Horton, DPT, physical therapist

12. Bear Crawl

• In a low quadruped stance (mid push-up position), keep your head extended to look in front of you.

• Crawl with one arm and opposite leg while keeping hips low and level.

• When you reach the end of the room, go in reverse. Perform two repetitions (forward and back).

13. Hip Hinge

• Stand erect holding a straight rod along the spine, maintaining contact points at buttocks, mid-back and back of head.

• Advance your hips back as you keep a flat spine; bend your knees and lower your trunk forward toward the ground, making sure not to let the knees come forward as they bend.

• Once you feel this tension, engage the hamstrings as you return to an erect position, squeezing the glutes and finishing with fully extended hips.

• Perform 20 repetitions.

14. Single Leg Squat

• In an open doorway, position yourself into a split stance with the front foot flat and toes touching the door jam while the trail foot rests flat against the jam.

• Weight should be evenly distributed through the front foot as you lower your body straight down to the ground with engagement of the quadriceps and gluteus musculature. Utilize your arms on the wall to maintain balance, as needed.

• Return to starting position with force generated through the front leg.

• Perform two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions with each leg forward.


By Zack Dicristino, MSPT, OCS, physical therapist and official medical provider to the USA Climbing teams

15. High Step (Knee to Chest Pull)

• In a standing position, raise one knee toward your chest.

• Pull your knee closer to your chest with your hands.

• Repeat on the other side. Perform 8 to 10 repetitions on each side.

16. Squats with Overhead Reach into Heel Raise

• With feet shoulder-width apart, perform a squat while simultaneously raising both arms overhead.

• Keep your knees in line and behind your toes.

• Return to standing position, bring both arms down by your side and then go into a heel raise. Perform 15 to 20 repetitions.

17. Shoulder Diagonals with Theraband

• Stand while grasping a light-resistance band with both arms outstretched in front of your chest.

• Simultaneously raise one arm diagonally overhead while pulling down with the other arm toward your hip.

• Repeat in the opposite fashion, switching arms. Perform 15 to 20 repetitions.

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