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Inside The Outdoors
Ski Fitness: Muscles That Matter

Ski Fitness: Muscles That Matter

08.02.2017 | Active

Matt The Trainer here! We’ve been through the gear, the basics and how to beat the altitude, so now it’s time to get you ready to carve powder like a pro.


Ski Fitness: The Muscles That Matter

Well there’s a few obvious big ones that will be attached to your skis as you hurl down the mountain side! Legs are certainly one of the primary muscle groups you will want to work on when trying to get fit for skiing, but there are also a few other muscles you may want to get in shape before you hit the slopes.


Quadriceps (Front of your legs)

These are obviously a key muscle group during skiing, as they’re primarily involved in extending the leg at the knee joint and more importantly so for skiing – also involved eccentrically during flexion at the knee. However most people think that doing just a few squats, lunges and wall sits a week before their ski trip will do the trick in strengthening them. The reality is that when you ski the quads are very rarely working through their ‘full range of movement’, so a more effective and ski specific way to train your quads is by ‘destabilizing’ a squat or lunge & work them more through the ‘eccentric’ (muscle lengthening) phase of your exercise.  *more details below


Hamstrings: (back of your legs)

So if the front of your legs (quads) are primarily involved in extending the legs, then I’m sure you can guess what the hamstring primary movement is….that’s right! Hamstrings are responsible for flexion at the knee joint.  Again when it comes to skiing though we very rarely ‘fully contract’ the hamstrings (heels touching your butt) so like the quads its more important to work on ‘destabilization’ and slowing down the ‘eccentric’ phase of your exercises as this helps your workouts become more beneficial to skiing.


Glutes: (your butt cheeks)

Most people have heard of the Gluteus maximus but not many people know there’s 2 other glute muscles called the Gluteus medius & Gluteus minimus. While your Gluteus medius & minimus are smaller muscles than the Glutues maximus (one of the largest single muscles in the body) they’re certainly no less important – especially when it comes to skiing. When you ski these muscles are constantly working together to rotate the hips (internally & externally) and also to extend the hip joint. So a great way to strengthen these muscles for skiing is to work them through a frontal plane of movement (side to side) and also a transverse plane of movement (rotation around an axis).


Back (particularly your lats)

Your Latissimus dorsi muscle is a big muscle located in your back and it’s responsible for a lot of different movements through the shoulder joint. (Extension, abduction, horizontal abduction and internal rotation) So it’s certainly an important muscle to train for improving upper body control and cross country skiing. Some good exercises to start building up your lats for skiing are Deadlifts (reverse grip) & Bent Over Rows (reverse grip).


Obliques (internal & external)

These muscle are located down the side of the body and are both predominantly used in lateral flexion (side bends) and rotation of the trunk (waist) along with aiding deep (diaphragmatic) & shallow (Intercostal) breathing. As you can imagine training these muscles can involve a lot of twisting, turning and flexing from the trunk, which is great preparation for cutting those lines in the snow. Breath Control Techniques also play an important role in training the obliques, and life on the slopes in general as the air is thinner which makes it harder to breath when you’re skiing.

Try out the breathing technique in the Beat The Altitude blog post.


Arms (Biceps & Triceps)

No workout is complete without a set or two on the guns! But when it comes to training your arms for skiing it’s not always about going really heavy and trying to build ‘bulk’ in the arms. While having big strong arms on the beach looks great, on the slopes however its might be more of a hindrance than anything. The bigger a muscle is the more oxygen it needs (especially during exercise) which is already scares on the slopes and combining this with inevitable fatigue while skiing means having bigger muscles doesn’t always help on the slopes. For skiing fitness you’re best training for endurance on the arms, so you need to do slightly lighter weights and increase the reps and try to add in rotations (twisting the forearms) where possible.


Working these muscles individually in the gym will certainly help you to get fit for skiing, but it’s always best to try and be more ski specific in your movements as this will use more of the ‘synergistic muscles’ that you actually use on the slopes:



This should be common practice if your a regular skier but if it’s your first time skiing this is an important one for you to focus on. As you’re hurtling down the side of a mountain, your body is in constant motion and is fighting to maintain ‘core control’ and in order to do this your body recruits ‘stabilizer muscles’ to keep it in line. So try to do as many of your regular exercises (squats, lunges, crunches etc) on a Bosu or Fit ball to help you ‘destabilize’ your workouts.






This training focuses on learning to move from a muscle extension to a contraction in a rapid or “explosive” manner. Plyometrics includes explosive powerful training exercises that are trained to activate the quick response and elastic properties of the major muscles in the body. Obviously when it comes to skiing we need to look at training the legs as they are going to be doing the most ‘explosive movements’ on the slopes.


Some great plyometric exercise to get fit for skiing are:


Squat jumps: 3 x 10 reps (high as you can)

  1. Load – Squat down & load the glutes & quads muscles.
  2. Hold – Pause for a beat or two at the bottom of the squat.
  3. Explode – Drive through the balls of your feet to explode up into the air using your glutes and quad muscles.
  4. Load – Land softly and smoothly, come back to a ‘loaded’ position to repeat exercise.




Lateral jump: 3 x 30 second sets

  1. Stand like you’re going to do a squat. Feet should be shoulder width apart, hands in front of your chest.
  2. Squat down by pushing your butt back and swing your arms downward in the same movement. Just like the squat jump, except you’ll angle your arms slightly to the right. (This sets you up to jump left.)
  3. Immediately explode upward and left from the squat position, with the goal being to jump somewhat high, but also laterally. (You should be able to jump 2-3 feet laterally.) Instead of going straight up, you’ll swing your arms to the left, which will throw your lower body to the left as well.
  4. Land on both feet. Immediately squat down, with your arms to the left a bit. This time, explode upward and jump to the right. Continue jumping left, right, left, etc.


Squat Box Jumps: 3 x 10 reps

  1. Dip down into a quarter-squat position.
  2. Quickly explode your hip legs upward while swinging your arms in the air to propel yourself on top of the box.
  3. Land softly on the box and come to a standing position.
  4. Slowly step off the box back into starting position.


Vertical Depth Jumps: 3 x 10 Reps

  1. Start standing on top of the box.
  2. Step off the box
  3. Upon touching the floor jump as high as you can with your arms raised high above your head


Eccentric Training (Negative Reps)

During exercise your muscles are forced into ‘phases of muscle contraction’. For example when you do a bicep curl you contract your bicep to lift the weight UP and this ‘shortening’ of the working muscle is called a ‘concentric’ (positive) action, which is also where we use most of our energy.


Now when we ‘lower’ the weight during a bicep curl, we get a ‘lengthening’ of the working muscle (bicep) which is called an ‘eccentric’ (negative) action, where we also use less energy.


Eccentric training should be included in your ski fitness training in order to increase power potential, strengthen connective tissues and for greater flexibility.


3 easy ways to add Eccentric Training to your ski workout

Slow your ‘downward phase’

If the ‘tempo’ of a normal rep is 2 seconds up – 1 second hold – 2 seconds down (2-1-2) then all you need to do is double the time on the down phase, so the tempo of your reps now looks like 2-1-4


Do at least 1 set of Negative reps every exercise in your workout

So if you’ve got 3 sets of 20 squats then your second set of 20 is done with ‘slow downward phase’ control.


Contrast Negative reps with high volume Positive reps

Make sure you use a lighter weight and maintain good form throughout.


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