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"Do about 10 to 12 (five or six on each side) to open up your hips, stretch out your back and stretch out your hip flexors as well," said Manhard.
Dowel Stretch #1 — Pick up your dowel/broomstick, and place your hands as far apart as possible. Keeping your arms straight, lift the dowel over your head and behind your back as far as you can go — all the way to your hips if you can do it — before bringing forward again. Do 10 to 12 times to open up your shoulders. "Cross-country skiers have very poor shoulder flexibility," explained Manhard, "so much that it affects the rest of their upper body. Cross-country athletes get a lot of back injuries especially, as a sport it's second only to rowing. You have to take care of your back and your shoulders to stay healthy."
Dowel Stretch #2 — Grip the doweling as wide as possible, and while keeping arms straight dip one end down to the floor while lifting the other hand high over your head. This continues the work of opening up your shoulders while stretching out your back and obliques as well.
The Clock — For the warm-up, pick a medicine ball that's on the light side — no more than 10 pounds for men and five to seven pounds for women. If you don't have a medicine ball you can use any kind of weight, whether it's a dumbbell or a rock. With feet about shoulder width apart, lower the ball to the floor and lift it out to the side, then over your head, then to your other side and then back to the ground, keeping your movement as fluid as possible. Do 10 to 12 times each side. "This activates different parts of the core, your obliques and some of the major muscle groups in your arms and legs. The key is keeping your hips stable to open up your lower back. Don't rotate your hips too much."
The Pendulum — In the same stance, lift the medicine ball forward and up over your head before dropping down again and moving it through your legs. No jerky movements, try to keep things as stable and smooth as possible. "This warms up your mid back and lower back," Manhard explained. "Start with your upper body and work down so you can feel the curve of your spine. You can slouch into this one to get used to that feeling." Do 10 to 12.