The Ultimate Ski Workout: Get Yourself Ready For The Slopes

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One of the challenges of skiing as a sport is that depending on where you live in the world, skiing is seasonal, meaning that you can’t necessarily hit the slopes year-round.

Not only is it a bummer for avid skiers who love nothing more than carving the slopes as often as possible, but it also makes staying in shape for skiing rather difficult.

Instead of being able to train for skiing by skiing alone—or even by mostly skiing—many skiers have to get in shape for skiing with other forms of exercise.

In addition to doing cardio workouts for skiing to maintain aerobic fitness so that you don’t tire on the slopes after a long day of runs down the mountain, it’s important to do strength-training ski workouts so that your legs are strong enough to hit the slopes without burning and fatiguing after just a few runs.

In this article, we have designed the ultimate ski workout to prepare you for ski season. 

We will cover: 

  • What Are the Best Ski Exercises?
  • The Best Ski Workouts
  • The Ultimate Ski Workout: Get Yourself Ready For The Slopes

Let’s dive in! 

A person skiing.

What Are the Best Ski Exercises?

The best exercises for skiers increase the strength in the muscles used for skiing, as well as those that oppose the muscles worked by skiing to help prevent muscle imbalances and injuries.

Downhill skiing requires your muscles to generate power through eccentric and isometric contractions, both of which have been shown to significantly improve muscular strength.

However, eccentric contractions, which are lengthening contractions, have been shown to be particularly likely to cause delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is why it’s particularly important to do skiing workouts with strength training exercises that strengthen the eccentric abilities of the muscles used during skiing.

This will best train your body for the muscular demands of skiing and can help prevent muscle soreness after your first day back on the mountain. 

A person skiing.

The Best Ski Workouts

In addition to performing strength training exercises for skiing that target the muscles worked by skiing, a ski workout plan should include cardio exercises, such as running, cycling, rowing, swimming, incline walking, stair climbing, and the elliptical trainer to improve aerobic fitness and endurance to handle a long day on the slopes.

Although downhill skiing is not as cardiovascularly demanding as cross-country skiing, you still need to have decent aerobic capacity and good endurance to feel your best while you ski and prevent the need to take a long break in the lodge because you’re overtired or out of breath.

The energy your muscles need during downhill skiing is actually produced through a combination of aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, so skiing workouts should include exercises that challenge your cardiovascular system in both ways.

While you can do steady-state cardio workouts for skiing, like cycling or running, it’s also important to do anaerobic cardio exercises for skiing, like burpees, mountain climbers, jump squats, and vigorous jump roping.

In terms of how to structure your ski workout plan, depending on your fitness level, experience level as a skier, and the other types of exercise you like to perform, it’s usually best to do strength training ski exercises or your ski workouts at least 2 to 3 times per week for 4-10 weeks prior to ski season, if not year-round.

A person on an elliptical machine.

Ultimate Ski Workout to Prepare You for the Slopes

Here is a total-body workout for skiers. 

Begin with a dynamic warm-up and then complete 2-3 rounds of the ski exercises, depending on your fitness level.

#1: Burpees

Burpees are the exercise everyone loves to hate because they are so tough, but for that reason, the burpee is one of the most effective exercises for skiers or otherwise.

It’s also a great way to train your cardiovascular system and get in some anaerobic training.

A burpee is essentially a jump squat with a push-up cycled together in one seamless move.

A person doing a single leg deadlift.

#2: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts

This is a great skiing exercise because it works the posterior chain muscles, such as the glutes, hamstrings, back extensors, and calves. 

Performing this as a single-leg exercise is a great way to train the body for skiing because it helps ensure each leg is independently strong and it improves balance, which is critical for skiing.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, chest up and proud, arms at your side, and a dumbbell in your right hand.
  2. Bring your left arm out to your side for balance and engage your core.
  3. Bend your left knee (the one on your standing/support leg) about 20 degrees to activate your hamstrings and glutes while you lift your right leg off the ground.
  4. Contract your glutes and hinge from your hips to bring your torso towards the floor, keeping your gaze on the floor to prevent hyperextending your neck. Your right leg should extend behind you as a counterbalance.
  5. Reach the weight in your right hand down towards your left foot until you feel enough of a stretch in the hamstrings of your supporting leg.
  6. Engage your core and glutes to come back up, extending your hips until they are fully locked out. If you need to regain your balance, you can touch your right foot back down to the floor; otherwise, keep it lifted and move into your next rep.
  7. Complete 8-10 reps per side per set.
A person doing a squat.

#3: Squats With Holds

The quads and glutes are two of the primary muscles worked when skiing. 

Furthermore, much of the skiing motion involves isometric and eccentric loading of the quads and glutes, which this version of the squat—with its isometric hold—helps replicate.

Perform a regular squat (with weight, if possible), but pause at the bottom of every squat for 20-30 seconds.

Complete 6-8 reps.

#4: Alternating Jumping Lunge

Jumping lunges are a dynamic, plyometric exercise for skiers that build explosive power and leg strength necessary for carving turns on the slopes.

Jump powerfully and vigorously, launching up as high as you can.

Complete 15 reps per leg.

A person doing a side lunge.

#5: Side Plank With Rotation

Although skiing is predominantly a lower-body exercise, it’s extremely important to have a strong and stable core for balance and a strong upper body to handle ski poles.

This exercise targets your obliques, hip stabilizers, glutes, and abs. Feel free to forgo the dumbbell if you’re a beginner. Otherwise, use a 10-20 pound weight to increase the difficulty.

Here are the steps:

  1. Lie on one side with your elbow stacked under your shoulder and feet stacked on top of one another. 
  2. Lift your hips off the ground and extend your top arm up straight up towards the ceiling, holding a dumbbell. You should be in a side plank position.
  3. Slowly rotate your pelvis towards the floor while reaching your extended arm underneath your body, bringing the dumbbell to tap your shoulder blade. 
  4. While maintaining your balance, rotate back to the starting position, lifting the dumbbell back up into the air.
  5. Complete 12 reps per side.
A class doing box jumps.

#6: Box Jumps 

Most people perform box jumps just by jumping up onto a plyometric box, but a more effective ski exercise is to jump up onto the box, turn around, and then also deliberately jump down and practice the eccentric loading movement.

The focus really needs to be on the explosive speed for each rep on the way up and then using your muscles to absorb the forces with landing, not your joints and bones.

Do not use weight unless you are a very advanced athlete.

#7: Step-Ups

Most ski workouts should involve step-ups of some form because it’s a great way to strengthen the muscles used in skiing in a low-impact but high-intensity way.

Pick a box or step that’s ideally right around knee height, and hold heavy dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand. 

Perform 8-12 reps leading with the right foot and then 8-12 reps leading with the left foot.

A person doing a lateral lunge.

#8: Lateral Lunge to Overhead Press

Skiing works the hip adductors and abductors, especially if you’re a beginner who skis with the plow or wedge technique.

Adding the overhead press turns this into a total-body exercise that challenges the core, shoulders, and arms. 

You’ll hold a single dumbbell in the hand on the side you are lunging towards. For example, if you are lunging to the right, hold the dumbbell and perform the overhead press on the right arm.

As you lean into each lateral lunge, simultaneously press the dumbbell up from shoulder height to completely straight overhead.

A person doing a Russian twist.

#9: Russian Twist

Avid skiers who make quick turns down the slope need to have strong obliques, and this is one of the most effective exercises for skiers to target these abdominal muscles.

When performing this ski workout, focus on power and strength. Use a heavy resistance that you can handle with proper form for no more than 8-12 reps max.

Keep your core tight, your back straight, and your feet off the ground.

Use a medicine ball or dumbbell held between both hands, and bring it back and forth across your body to either side of your hips.

Perform the exercise for 30-60 seconds, depending on your fitness level.

Remember: this skier workout might be tough, but it will make it all the more possible to enjoy the slopes and have this new season of your lifetime!

For a list of explosive exercises to add to your skier workouts, check out our plyometric exercise guide.

A person doing a lunge.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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