Special thanks to the Chiropractic Sports Institute for this article!
Whether you are pulling for the jump of your life, trying for that last buoy at 39 1/2 off, setting up for that big air trick on the board, or just cruising at 20 mph, your upper back takes a beating. When you hold onto a rope with another force at the other end a considerable amount of tension is applied to the upper back and neck.
Muscles present in the upper back include the rhomboids (which can be found between the shoulder blades) and the trapezius (which can be found on the top of the shoulders, down to the midback). The trapezius muscle mainly raises the shoulders, as in shrugging. The rhomboids function to the shoulder blades together, as in drawing the shoulders back. Along the back of the neck are the upper paraspinals, which lay on either side of the spine and are used in supporting the head. Along the sides of the neck are your splenius and sternocleidomastoid muscles which are responsible for bringing your ears to your shoulders.
These muscles develop tension and result in soreness as a requirement of the skier to hold onto the rope. To alleviate the tension and soreness, it is recommended that you stretch the muscles groups just mentioned. Stretches must be specific to the muscle groups and must be done daily. To stretch the rhomboids, perform what is called the dive stretch. Entwine the hands, raising the arms to shoulder level. Tuck the chin to the chest. Keeping the arms at shoulder level, reach out with arms. Continue this reaching motion for a count of 20-30 seconds, repeating the stretch 3-4 times. The anchor stretch will release tension in the trapezius. To perform the stretch, stand on one end of a towel with your left foot. With the left arm straight at your side, grasp the towel (make sure the towel remains taut). Slowly bring your right ear towards your right shoulder. You will feel a stretching sensation along the side of your neck down to your shoulder. Hold the stretch for a count of 20-30 seconds, repeating 3-4 times.
To stretch the upper paraspinals, perform what is called the head glide. Keeping your shoulders stationary, glide your head straight forward, being sure not to dip down or up. This can be likened to a turtle sticking its head out of its shell. Perform this movement 10 times slowly and repeat twice. You will feel the benefits of this stretch mostly along the back of the neck, and also along the sides of the neck as well. A good stretch that will target all the muscles is the shoulder square shrugs. Wherever your shoulders are to begin with, raise them directly up, like you are shrugging. From that position, bring the shoulders straight back, then straight down, then straight forward to the beginning position. You want to focus on drawing a square with your shoulders instead of merely shrugging them. Perform the motion smoothly and slowly ten times, repeating twice.
Stretching should be done consistently, even after tension and soreness are alleviated. This will result in better performance and prevention of injuries that may arise due to inflexibility. Relief can be felt almost immediately, and continuing to stretch will only further aid in the elimination of soreness. No pain means a stronger pull for an increase in performance.