Remember those cold winter mornings when you would wake up for 6am practice. You pulled into to the rink, and were the first car in the parking lot. As you stepped out onto the ice you didn’t have a care in the world. As you through your first rock………..Wait rock?? Yes curling! Remember that other Canadian winter sport. Although curling may be slightly less popular than ice hockey, it is a favourite of many Canadians young and old.
Regularly thought of as a past time, curling requires a significant amount of strength, flexibility and core stability. Along with the physical demand comes mental acuity and motor control as you attempt to be accurate with the weight, distance and spin of the rock. While throwing the rock, almost every joint in the body is under load, all this while demanding significant range of motion. As a result the risk of injury while curling is high and I treat quite a few curling injuries every winter season.
One of the largest mistakes I see in the sport of curling is lack of warm up. Many people stand around on the ice, and the first part of their warm up is to throw a rock. This takes the body from 0 to 100 without any warning. In reality throwing the rock should be the last part of your warm up. Like many sports warm-up should precede skill development, or skills are to be worked into later parts of your warm up routine.
Today I have provided a curling specific warm up that addresses both the upper and lower body. Be sure to address any prior injuries or health concerns with a professional prior to performing these exercises. If there is an exercise that aggravates an injury do not attempt to “push” through pain. Be particular mindful of knee injuries while curling as this is one of the most commonly injured areas in the sport. Remember while curling requires mental focus and fine touch, if the body is uncomfortable or in pain your mental game will suffer, GOOD LUCK!
Mid-back Mobilization – This exercise will help increase range of motion in the mid back, and prevent pain between the shoulder blades from sweeping! Sit with a chair placed in front of you. Cross your arms above your head and rest them on the back of the chair. While keeping your low back in a neutral position, lean forward allowing your mid back to move towards the floor. Be mindful to relax any tension through your neck during this exercise. Perform 10-15 repetitions, take a break and perform twice more.
Ankle Rocker Exercise – This exercise is vital to increase mobility in the ankles. While preventing knee pain this exercise also improves strength and comfort of the ankle while throwing a rock. Start in a lunge position on the floor with your shoes off. Keep one leg forward while extending the other behind you. Place your hand and forearm on the inside of the instep of the front foot. Keep the weight on your front heel, rock the knee over the foot being sure it stays outside your forearm. Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each side of the body.
Hip Pull Up – This exercise will help increase mobility in the hips. This will not only improve rock throwing but also prevent knee injuries. While standing, elevate and externally rotate one leg by pulling up on the shin while pressing down on the upper leg. Be sure to apply the majority of force with the hand on the upper leg to avoid aggravating the knee. For additional support you can lean against a wall during the exercise. Return to the starting position and repeat, perform 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions of this exercise.
Cat to Camel – Your goal during this exercise is to warm up the low back. Curling can increase stress in the low back; neglecting this in warm up can result in post game soreness and even injury. Start on the floor with the hands underneath the shoulders and knees slightly wider than hip width apart. Keeping the hips and shoulder blades tight, slowly arch your low back towards the ceiling like a cat. Pause for a moment, then push your belly button back down towards the floor and move the hips backwards. Perform 6-10 repetitions, take a break, and perform twice more. If you have a preexisting back condition, be sure to be evaluated prior to introducing this exercise.
Sumo Squat – This exercise helps to improve overall flexibility and mobility of the hips, groin and ankles helping to keep you limber during later ends. Start in standing with the knees wider than the hips and the feet externally rotated 15-20 degrees. Keeping the low back in a neutral position squat down until the hips are at 90 degrees. For an additional stretch, place you hands or forearms on the inside of your legs and slightly press outward. Pause for a moment and while pushing through the heels return to the standing. Perform 6-10 repetitions, take a break and perform twice more.
Conor Collins is a Sports Injury Therapist and Active Release Therapy provider at the Foot Knee Back Clinic in Ancaster, Ontario. For more information visit www.conorpcollins.com or call 905-304-6556.