How to Get in Shape for Skiing: The Ultimate Guide
Starting to get nervous about your fitness level with ski season approaching? We’ve all been there. Here are some tips on how to get in shape for skiing so that you’re not leaving the lifts early on your first day on the slopes. To avoid overly sore muscles and minimize risk of injury, read on to learn about essential ski exercises and conditioning that you can do in the off-season to be better prepared.
How to Train for Skiing
What is the best way to get in shape for skiing?
When you’re training for skiing, you need to build up your strength, endurance, and balance. This means focusing on doing exercises that will tone the muscles you use for skiing and incorporating cardio into your workout routine.
The sample workout routines and ski exercises below were put together with this in mind. Our goal is for you to spend more time on the slopes having fun and less time resting your aching body in the lodge.
How long does it take to get in shape for skiing?
Ideally, you should kick off your training routine 8 – 12 weeks before you head to the mountains. However, even a few weeks of exercise can make a difference if you are consistent and include conditioning that will specifically help your skiing.
If you’ve only got a few weeks before your trip, focus on exercises that will help increase your stabilization, such as lunges, planks and lateral hops. Not only will this start to boost your stamina, but it will also help you mentally prepare for being out on the slopes all day.
Ski Training Workouts
You should incorporate both strength training and cardio to fully prepare for a hard day’s work on the mountain. If you don’t already have a workout routine in place, then these workouts may be too challenging at first. Make sure to listen to your body and adjust your routine accordingly.
Including cardio into your weekly routine is essential for boosting your lung capacity and getting your heart rate up. Some common cardio workouts to get in shape for skiing include running, biking, the stairclimber, and the elliptical. To complement your strength workouts, you should do at least 30 minutes of cardio two to three times per week.
The key is to pick a form of cardio that you like the most. Any exercise is going to feel hard at first, so choose something you’re most likely to stick with. Form a plan where you do this cardio routine on the same days at the same time each week and start building a habit. After getting through the first few weeks, you’ll feel accomplished and start to notice the difference in your fitness level.
For these strength routines, we have included exercises that target all of the main muscle groups used to get in shape for skiing – your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. To get the best results, you should do a strength workout two to three times per week. You can mix and match these routines to diversify your workouts each week, or you can choose just one based on your exercise preferences.
As you’re starting out, it’s recommended to only use your bodyweight for each of these exercises. Once you’re comfortable and have built up some muscle, then you can consider adding dumbbell weights or trying more challenging variations. The best part about these ski exercises is that most of them can be done right at home without any equipment.
Ski Strength Routine: Sample #1
- Leg Blaster – 3 sets
- Squat – 10 reps
- Squat Jump – 5 reps
- Jump Lunge – 10 reps
- Lunge – 20 reps
- Hip Bridge – 3 sets of 20 reps
- Plank – 3 sets for 30 seconds each
- Russian Twist – 3 sets of 20 reps
Ski Strength Routine: Sample #2
- Wall Sit – 3 sets for 30 seconds each
- Single Leg Deadlift – 3 sets of 6 reps for each leg
- Curtsy Lunge – 3 sets of 20 reps
- Flutter Kick – 3 sets of 20 reps
- Side Plank – 3 sets for 30 seconds on each side
Ski Strength Routine: Sample #3
- Step Up – 3 sets of 20 reps
- Lateral (Side) Lunge – 3 sets of 20 reps
- Drop (Pop) Squat – 3 sets for 30 seconds each
- Bird Dog – 3 sets of 20 reps
- Bicycle Crunch – 3 sets for 30 seconds on each side
Weekly Ski Training Routine
Here is an example of what your weekly routine could look like if you combine both cardio and strength workouts. Again, be sure to adjust this based on our current fitness level. If you’re extremely sore after doing one of the strength routines, reduce the number of sets for each exercise and add another day or two for recovery. Conversely, if this routine feels too easy for you, add weights to the routine or increase the duration of your workouts.
Ski Training: Weekly Routine Sample
- Day 1: Cardio of Your Choice for 30 Minutes
- Day 2: Strength Routine – Sample #1
- Day 3: Active Recovery, such as Yoga
- Day 4: Cardio of Your Choice for 30 Minutes
- Day 5: Strength Routine – Sample #2
- Day 6: Active Recovery, such as Stretching
- Day 7: Strength Routine – Sample #3
The Best Ski Exercises
There are a few key muscle groups to focus on when training for skiing. Toning your leg muscles and core is important, as well as boosting your overall endurance. Although we’d all love to get more days of skiing in to help with conditioning, that’s not always possible. Thankfully doing fundamental strength and cardio exercises at home or in the gym will translate to better performance on the mountain.
Strengthening Your Lower Body
If you go straight from binging Netflix to strapping into your ski boots without training, your body will not be happy with you. This is especially true for your legs. Even if you are into hiking, biking or some other activity that keeps you active in the off-season, it’s best to build up your lower body muscles with exercises that will specifically benefit your skiing.
Your quadriceps are located on the front of your thigh and are heavily used during skiing. They work hard to keep your skis parallel and your body stable as you turn downhill. Building up these muscles will make a serious difference in your ability to stay out longer on the slopes. Here are a few ski exercises that help strengthen your quads.
Squats are the quintessential ski fitness exercise. They strengthen your legs (and booty) and are an easy way to mimic your skiing stance at home. Practicing squats with proper form at home translates to better form on the mountain, which helps prevent injury to your knees.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
- Lower into a seated position until your thighs are parallel with the ground
- Keep your weight in your heels and maintain a strong core
- Make sure your back is straight, chest is up, and your knees don’t go past your toes
Wall sits are another great way to build your endurance. Imagine being able to ski a challenging run all the way through without stopping because of burning quads. Wall sits are just what you need to boost your leg stamina!
- Put your back up against a wall
- Plant your feet firmly shoulder-width apart
- Slide your back down the wall and keep your core engaged
- Sit at a 90-degree angle with your hands at your sides and hold your stance
Incorporating step ups into your routine will have a lasting effect on your leg strength. This exercise helps tone your quads while also getting your heart rate up. You can use a bench, gym box, or even a sturdy chair at home as long as when you step up, your knee is brought up to a 90-degree angle.
- Lift your right foot onto your stepping platform and press through your right heel
- Bring you left foot up onto the platform so you are standing on the bench with both feet
- Return to the starting position by stepping down first with your right foot
- Then bring your left foot down so both feet are back on the floor
- Repeat and alternate which foot you step up with
Your hamstrings are located on the back of your thighs and help power you through a day of skiing. When you think about your stance while skiing, you’re typically flexing your legs and leaning slightly forward from your hips. This stance works your hamstrings, which are the main stabilizers for your knees. Here are a few ski exercises that help strengthen your hammies.
Squats and lunges go hand-in-hand as the primary exercises for skiers. If you consistently incorporate them into your workouts, you will notice a difference in your endurance on the slopes. Not only are lunges great to build up leg strength, but they also help improve your balance.
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart
- Step your right leg forward so that it forms a 90-degree angle
- Your left leg should be hovering just above the floor
- Keep your upper body straight with your chin up and core engaged
- Push off your right heel and return back to the starting position
- Repeat and alternate which leg you step with
Single Leg Deadlifts
Single leg deadlifts work your hamstrings while also enhancing your balance and ankle stability, which is especially important for skiers. They also help you strengthen the ligaments around your knees which enables you to have better control on the slopes. If you struggle significantly with balancing, start with a regular deadlift where both feet are planted, and work your way up to being able to do them on one leg at a time.
- Stand tall with your feet parallel and hip-width apart
- Lean forward and hinge at your hips, shifting your weight onto your right leg
- Then extend your left leg straight behind you and form “T” shape with your body
- Your arms should be hanging straight down and your standing leg should be slightly bent
- Slowly bring in your extended leg and return to the starting position
- Repeat this sequence on the same leg and then alternate to your other leg
Lateral (Side) Lunges
A great variation of lunges to incorporate into your routine is lateral lunges. They improve your ability to maintain an upright torso while making lateral leg movements, which is important for carving down the mountain. Lateral lunges combine the depth of a squat and the reach of a lunge to put your hamstrings to the test.
- Stand tall with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart
- Take a big step to the side with your right leg and bend your knee into a 90-degree angle
- You should feel the stretch in your hamstring as your left leg is extended out to the side
- Keep your toes facing forward, your torso upright, and your core engaged
- Push off with your right heel back into the starting position
- Repeat and alternate leading with the other leg
Your glutes, better known as your buttocks muscle, help stabilize your body while you’re skiing. These muscles are constantly working to rotate your hips and maintain control as you extend your legs and knees to carve down the slopes. Your ski stance relies on the strength of your glutes to maintain balance. Here are a few ski exercises that help strengthen those booty muscles.
The hip bridge strengthens the muscles in your glutes and inner thighs, which help you keep your skis parallel as you turn. Building these muscles is important for maintaining alignment as you carve swiftly down a groomer or pivot down a mogul run. As you practice, it’s better to hold better form for a shorter time than to go longer with poor form.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet together, and hands at your sides
- Engage your core and glutes to lift your hips upward and hold
- You should be forming a straight line from your knees to your shoulder
- Make sure to plant your feet under your knees and don’t over arch your back
Drop (Pop) Squats
The drop squat is an explosive bodyweight exercise that strengthens your lower body muscles and endurance. If you want to keep up with your family and friends on the mountain, build up your glutes with this intense squat variation. Alternating between a narrow and wide stance with each jump, drop squats are also great for improving your coordination and balance.
- Stand with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart and toes slightly turned out
- Jump with your feet out as you lower into a squat
- At the same time, bring both of your hands down and make contact with the ground
- Quicky pop back up into the starting position, lifting your arms above your head
- Instead, you can also bring just one hand in front of you to make contact with the ground and keep the other relaxed behind your back and alternate with each jump
The curtsy lunge is one of the best lunge variations to activate all three of your gluteal muscles. As you cross your leg behind you and dip into a lunge, you will feel your muscles working to stabilize your body. This movement directly translates to skiing because you are constantly focusing on controlling and balancing your body as you shred down the slopes.
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart
- Step your right foot behind you and to the left while keeping your left foot planted
- Lunge down so that your right knee is hovering just above the floor
- Both of your knees should be bent so that it looks like you’re doing a curtsy
- Drive your right leg upwards in a controlled fashion back to the starting position
- Repeat and alternate which leg you cross behind you with each repetition
Enhancing Your Balance & Core for Skiing
You use your core muscles more than you think you would while skiing. Think of your core as a strong bridge that connects your upper and lower body together. It’s the main group of muscles responsible for stabilizing your body as you tackle tough turns down the mountain.
Better known as the six-pack, your rectus abdominis is the largest core muscle group and is responsible for flexing the spinal column. However, working on your six-pack isn’t just for show. Since all movement originates from the core and moves outward to your extremities, strong abdominal muscles create a foundation for skiing. Here are a few ski exercises that help form that six-pack.
A plank is a simple but effective core exercise that uses your bodyweight. It helps you build stability and strength throughout not just your abdomen, but your entire body. Practicing planks will help you maintain strength in your back, which can help prevent injuries on the slopes.
- Start with your forearms and knees on the ground, shoulder-width apart
- Lift your knees off the ground and push your feet back to fully extend your body
- Keep your elbows stacked under your shoulder and your hips lifted
- Hold this position while keeping your core tight
Your rectus abdominis works when you flex, or bend, your torso at the waist. With flutter kicks, no bending occurs so this muscle functions as a stabilizer, just like it does while skiing. This exercise is also a great way to target not just your core, but also your hips and leg muscles.
- Start by lying down on your back with your legs extended and arms by your sides
- Press your lower back into the floor and lift both legs straight up in the air
- Lower your right leg and hover it above the floor
- Then as you lift your right leg back up, lower your left leg and hover it above the floor
- Continue to alternate your legs back and forth while keeping them as straight as possible
- If this is uncomfortable or challenging at first, you can place your hands under your lower back for added stability
The bird dog is another simple core exercise that improves stability while strengthening your abs. This exercise is particularly useful if you experience lower back pain or tend to have poor posture. Worry less about your back aching after a day on the mountain by including these into your routine.
- Start with your hands and knees on the ground in the tabletop position
- Make sure your knees are under your hips and hands are under your shoulders
- Raise your right arm and left leg, keeping your shoulder and hips parallel to the floor
- Maintain a neutral spine by engaging your core
- Hold this position for a few second and then lower back down to the starting position
- Repeat and alternate which arm and leg you’re extending
Your internal and external oblique muscles are located on the sides of the rectus abdominis and run from your hips to your rib cage. As you shift your weight to turn on your skis, your obliques help with lateral stability. Strengthening these muscles supports your overall ski posture and helps prevent injuries to your back. Here are a few ski exercises that help tighten those obliques.
A classic core exercise, the russian twist works your balance and helps build stability in your spine. The best way to target the obliques in this exercise is to focus on a full range of motion with the rotation. Twist your torso as far as comfortable, and for an extra challenge, lean back as far as you can as this increases the intensity of the movement.
- Sit on the ground and bend your legs with your feet planted in front of you
- Then lift your feet off the floor and rotate your upper body to the right
- Keep your arms out in front of you and your back straight
- Return to the center and then twist to the other side
A variation of the plank that targets the obliques, side planks focus on working one side of your body at a time. By reducing your contact with the floor, side planks make it more challenging to balance. The additional effort required to maintain the position forces you to engage with stabilizing muscles around not only your core, but also your spine, hips, and shoulders.
- Lie on your right side with your right foot stacked over your left foot
- Using your right forearm, lift your upper body off the floor
- Your right elbow should be stacked directly below your shoulder
- Hold this position with your body forming a straight line – don’t let your hips drop
- Release and repeat on your other side
The bicycle crunch is an effective core exercise that should be incorporated into every skier’s routine. Since this exercise engages all three of your core muscle groups at the same time, it forces them to work together, resulting in stronger abdominals. Building up your external obliques, which are activated when you rotate your body, is important to improve your stability and core endurance.
- Lie on your back, lift your knees up, and ben them to form a 90-degree angle
- Place your hands behind you head and lift your shoulder blades off the ground
- Reach your right elbow toward your left knee and simultaneously extend your right leg
- Bring your elbow and leg back to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side
- Alternate reaching your elbows across your body while pedaling your legs
- Move slowly and methodically to get the most out of this exercise
Building Your Endurance for Skiing
To make it to last chair, you need to build up your endurance to ski all day long. In addition to cardio, you can incorporate exercises that trigger lactic acid to form in your legs (this is when you “feel the burn”). This will promote power, speed, and strength and enable you to perform better in short, high-intensity activities, such as a black diamond ski run.
Plyometric exercises can enhance your agility, speed and power, which are all important to improve your skiing. They require you to exert your muscles to their maximum potential in short bursts, which is why you’ll often see plyometrics incorporated in high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. Common plyometric exercises require hopping, jumping or bounding movements. It’s important to have the fitness and stamina level necessary to perform these exercises safely and effectively, so be sure to master the foundational ski exercises listed above first.
Squat jumps strengthen your entire lower body and increase your rate, which results in some significant calorie burn. Targeting your quads, hamstrings and glutes, this exercise forces you to balance your body weight. This results in stronger leg and core muscles, which will help stabilize you as you’re skiing.
- Start by doing a regular squat with your arms out in front of you
- Once your body is lowered, shift your weight from your heels to the balls of your feet
- Press up through your feet and jump up explosively, swinging your arms behind you or overhead
- Land as softly as possible and lower yourself back down to the squatting position to repeat
Jump Lunges (Split Jumps)
Similar to squat jumps, jump lunges strengthen your lower body muscles and provide cardiovascular benefits. They challenge your balance and stability, both of which are essential for skiing. You can either keep your hands clasped in front of you or propel them in the air while you jump to provide momentum and balance support.
- Start by standing with your left foot slightly in front of your right
- Then, looking straight ahead, jump and switch the position of your feet in midair
- When you land, bend your knees and drop into a lunge
- Continue to repeat this sequence, alternating which leg is in front
Combining isometric and dynamic movements, lateral hops are designed to increase your stamina on the ski hill. Skiing is a lateral weight-shifting motion, so this exercise helps to improve your strength and agility as you jump side to side. In addition, lateral hops force you to flex your ankles and work on maintaining control and balance.
- With a wide stance, jump back and forth laterally with your arms bent beside you
- Focus on jumping lightly while keeping your knees the same distance apart throughout
- You can place an object on the ground to jump over to help maintain your form
- For an extra challenge, once you complete the number of desired repetitions, immediately sink down into a squat position and hold to really boost your quad endurance
Other Ski Training Tips
As mentioned above, endurance and strength workouts that hone in on the muscles you use in skiing will help you immensely in getting in shape for the season. There are a couple of important concepts that you should apply throughout your workout routine to get the best results.
The first is to destabilize your body as much as possible during your exercises. Sounds odd, right? All this really means is to throw your body slightly off balance while you go through your standard exercises. For example, you can incorporate more exercises that focus on movements with one leg at a time (we have outlined several examples below). Another great option is to use a Bosu ball for a variety of your leg and abdominal exercises.
Okay, but why are we making things harder with this destabilization tactic? As you’re skiing, your body is constantly in motion and is fighting to maintain control as you move downhill. You are relying on your stabilizer muscles to stay strong so that you can turn smoothly down the slope. So, by destabilizing your body during your workout, you are forcing your muscles to work harder, which prepares you for the fundamental motions of skiing.
In addition to destabilization, you should also focus on eccentric exercises. And no, when we say eccentric, we do not mean we’re recommending doing a bizarre workout routine. The term eccentric in this case describes the movement away (“ex-“) from the center (“-centric”) of a muscle. Think of the lowering of your arm in a bicep curl, the decline of a crunch, or the downward motion of a squat. Eccentric training is all about slowing the “downward” motion of your exercises while maintaining control.
Again, but why is this important? This form of training is intended to lengthen and strengthen your muscles through negative contractions. When you’re skiing, the only way to go is down. Therefore, you’re primarily performing eccentric movements by lowering your body down the slopes and resisting gravity the entire time. So, incorporating eccentric training into your routine will prepare you to control and stabilize your body movements throughout turns and bumps.
As compared to trail running or cycling, skiing may look like pure fun. However, your muscles have to work hard to safely get you down the mountain. Focus on improving your strength, balance, and endurance to condition your body in preparation for ski season.
Most of the ski exercises in this guide hit multiple muscle groups to help increase your overall power and strength. By incorporating a variety of exercises into your routine, you engage your muscles in different ways, which benefits your on mountain performance.
All the hard work you put into training will pay off when you’re doing laps around your family and friends on the next powder day. Good luck and we can’t wait to see you shredding it on the slopes!