Exercises to Get Your Body Ready for Skiing

2 Things to do before you go skiing

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Snow skiing is one of the reasons many of us can't wait for winter temperatures. Skiing is not only fun; it's also an excellent snow sport exercise for the entire body, emphasizing endurance, balance, and core strength.

Because most of us can only ski for a few months out of the year, it can be hard on the body the first time you hit the slopes. Skiing involves so many muscle groups and everything from cardio endurance to core strength, and it's easy to get exhausted early on and put your body at risk for injury.

It pays to prepare your body before heading to the ski slopes during winter; taking a proactive stance before ski season is the key to getting in shape so that your ski trips are fun, safe, and injury-free. Start in late summer or early fall to be in peak condition before the first snowfall.

Health Benefits of Snow Skiing

Downhill skiing can foster healthy aging, especially when you do it consistently. Skiing can be an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle as an enjoyable way to boost physical activity levels.

Skiing also benefits the musculoskeletal system, building stronger muscles and bones and improving postural muscles. Downhill turns force you to work against gravity using muscular power through eccentric and isometric contractions.

Skiing is also a form of cardiovascular exercise, boosting heart health and reducing risks for several diseases. The energy needed for skiing is produced anaerobically and aerobically, challenging your cardiovascular system in unique ways.

Another aspect of skiing is the psychosocial benefits it can provide. Skiing is often a group activity that fosters relationship-building and social benefits.

Build Your Endurance

Most of us hit the slopes and plan on skiing all day, even if it's been months or years since we last skied. By the time afternoon rolls around, your body is tired, which is a prime time for injuries and accidents. Taking a break between runs can help, but prepping your body as much as you can enables you to ski longer.

If you want to get your money's worth out of that expensive lift ticket, you'll need plenty of cardio endurance. To prepare your heart and body for long-term skiing, your cardio program should include three to five days each week.

The best workouts for skiing include running, the stair climber, the elliptical trainer, or any other activity that gets your heart rate up and works your entire body. Your cardio workouts should vary intensities and last from 20 to 45 minutes each.

You should perform one long, slow workout each week. This workout should be for 60 or more minutes to condition your legs and lungs for long days of skiing.

Sample Skiing Cardio Workout Schedule

Give yourself plenty of time before you hit the slopes to build your endurance and you'll be able to do more and enjoy it. This is what an effective cardio workout for upcoming skiers looks like:

If you're not already working out, these workouts may be a little too challenging at first. If that's the case, consider starting with beginner workouts and slowly work your way up to more challenging activities.

Build Your Strength

What makes skiing such a great exercise is that it uses all of your muscle groups. However, some muscles are used more than others. Those are the ones you want to concentrate on for your strength workouts.

Lower Body

Probably the most used muscle in skiing are the quads. These muscles hold you in position as you ski and also provide protection for your knees. Great exercises for the quads include squats and lunges.

When skiing downhill, you typically hold your body in a flexed position—meaning you lean forward from the hips. This requires great strength from your hamstrings and glutes as they help stabilize your body. Work your hams and glutes with deadlifts, one-legged deadlifts, pull throughs, step-ups, and hamstring rolls.

Your inner thighs work like crazy to keep your skis together. Your outer thighs keep your body stable and help you steer. Work these muscles with side lunges, sliding side lunges, inner-thigh leg lifts, inner-thigh squeezes, side-step squats, and leg lifts.

Because your knees are bent as you ski, your calves (specifically the soleus) help you stay upright so you don't fall over (your ski boots help too). You can work this muscle by doing standing calf raises or machine calf raises.

Upper Body

Because you're in a flexed position, bent over, your back has to work like a maniac to hold your body in that position. Your abs help in that endeavor while also protecting your spine. Your lats get involved as you ski on a flat surface or uphill, using your poles for leverage.

Work these muscles with exercises like bicycles, wood chops, back extensions, and dumbbell rows.

Along with the back, your arms help push off with your poles while stabilizing your shoulder joints. Be sure to work your biceps and triceps along with the rest of your body.

Putting It All Together

There is no perfect routine, but you'll be on the right track if you can try to fit in at least two strength workouts and three cardio workouts.

This sample workout targets strength, endurance, stability, and overall fitness. Don't forget to include plenty of stretching as well. This is just one way to set up your workouts, and, of course, you need to work up the endurance and conditioning for all that exercise.

Sample Skiing Workout Routine

  • Day 1: Elliptical Interval Workout
  • Day 2: Total Body Ski Workout
  • Day 3: Sprint Interval Workout
  • Day 4: Rest or yoga
  • Day 5: Total Body Ski Workout
  • Day 6: Cardio-Medley Workout
  • Day 7: Long, slow endurance workout, such as walking, jogging, etc.

Safety Tips

What makes skiing so fun is that you can only do it at certain times of the year. That's also what makes it dangerous.

Because you can't practice skiing before the snow comes down, your body isn't always ready for that kind of strenuous activity. On top of that, many of us only ski a few times a year, so we don't have enough consistency to keep our bodies conditioned for it.

To avoid injury, excessive soreness, and misery, take some time to prepare your body before your trip. If you don't already have a regular exercise routine, it's not too late to start one.

Knowing you're doing it to enjoy your ski holiday will help you stay motivated. Below are step-by-step instructions for getting in shape for skiing.

A Word From Verywell

Make this the year you focus on getting in the best shape you can for skiing. Start with what you can handle and focus on the goal: to get strong for an activity you love. Building strength and endurance will keep your body strong and help you avoid injuries while making your skiing much more fluid and effortless.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Burtscher M, Federolf PA, Nachbauer W, Kopp M. Potential health benefits from downhill skiing. Front Physiol. 2019;0.

  2. Burtscher M, Federolf PA, Nachbauer W, Kopp M. Potential health benefits from downhill skiing. Front Physiol. 2019;9:1924.

  3. Stöggl T, Schwarzl C, Müller EE, et al. A comparison between alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and indoor cycling on cardiorespiratory and metabolic response. J Sports Sci Med. 2016;15(1):184-195.

  4. U.S. Ski & Snowboard. Muscles involved in alpine skiing.

  5. American Council on Exercise. 6 exercise swaps that will kick up the intensity of your workout.

  6. American Council on Exercise. Standing Calf Raises - Wall.

Additional Reading

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."