How to Get in Shape for Skiing: The Ultimate Guide?

Once summer is over, there is only one thing that we start to look forward to in the winter months: skiing. It’s the perfect activity for couples, families, and friendship groups, alike! It’s a sport that combines endorphin highs and fresh air with the raucous atmosphere of après ski bars.

It is an activity which can be transformed into a trip to a winter wonderland, filled with hot cocoa and cheese fondues. Skiing trips combine our love of the sport with our affection for sweater vests and balaclavas. No one can deny that skiing is not merely a sport; it is a whole magical experience.

Whether you have already got your ski holiday booked, or are still mulling it over, it is important to know that your preparation for your ski trip should start long before you begin packing…

Skiing is one of the most exhilarating sports out there; it’s fun, freeing, and – when done right – can literally make you feel like you are flying! However, it is also an extremely physically intense sport, and one which demands a lot from your body.

That is why you should undertake some fitness training and start getting into shape well in advance of your trip. If your body is not up to the challenge, a ski trip can turn from a week of bliss into weeks of aches and pains.

From hauling your equipment around the resort, to trudging through thick snow, to maintaining good form and balance on a long run, skiing really makes you work for it and is a challenge even for the fittest among us.

If you have not trained your body for a ski trip, especially if you are not a regular gym-goer or sportsperson anyway, you are bound to struggle with the stresses and strains of daily skiing. Alongside risking your enjoyment of the sport, failing to prepare your body for skiing can also up your risk of injury and serious harm. 

On a positive note, there is so much you can do to get your body ready for a ski trip! In fact, we have gathered together all of the information you need to ensure that you are giving your body the best chance at acing it on the slopes.

Keep on reading to find out everything you need to know to prepare your body for skiing, including which muscles the sport uses, how to strengthen them, and more!

What Do You Need to Work on Before Skiing?

Skiing requires the use of pretty much every part of the body, as well as strong cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility – among other things! It is like a full-body workout that combines strength training with endurance.

Basically, it’s intense! So which muscles do you need to strengthen in order to enjoy skiing? What do you need to work on improving prior to your trip? If you don’t have time to work on every single muscle before you go skiing, don’t worry. We’re about to highlight the most important attributes that you could work on. 

While upper body strength is important to the sport, skiing predominantly relies on the lower body. The main lower body muscles that are engaged and used during skiing include the gluteus maximus (the big muscle in your butt cheeks and part of your thighs); the quadriceps (on the upper front of your leg); and the hamstring (on the back of your leg).

As well as these lower body muscles, the core abdominal muscles also play an essential role when skiing. 

What Do These Things Do, and How Can I Strengthen Them?


Knowing that you need to strengthen certain muscles, as well as your cardiovascular endurance and balance, is one thing. Actually strengthening them is another! Below we explain the significance of the different muscles when skiing, and tell you exactly how you can strengthen them. 

1. Gluteus Maximus

These large, fleshy muscles are some of the strongest in the human body, and are therefore responsible for many of the movements that we perform whilst skiing. Whilst skiing, you often rely on your glutes to take much of your weight when you lean forward – especially when skiing downhill.

This is because when you ski downhill, you need to counteract the weight which is going forwards with a weight which is pulling you back. The stronger your glutes are, the easier it will be for you to counteract the downwards force and stay in position.

As well as holding a lot of your weight, the glutes are also an essential factor in remaining balanced, and they stabilize your body while it takes on various positions which require your legs and knees to be extended away from your center. 

Exercises you can do to strengthen your glutes:

  • Squats. Whether you prefer bodyweight or barbell squats, any type of squatting will help you to strengthen your gluteus maximus. You can do squats wherever you are; whether you want to do a home workout or hit the gym, which means that they are super easy to fit into your pre-skiing exercise routine.

If you want to improve your balance at the same time as strengthening your glutes, we would recommend trying jump squats or one-legged squats. One-legged squats also help you to isolate each glute muscle, which in turn enables you to ensure they are being equally strengthened. 

  • Lunges. Lunges are a little bit like single-leg squats, but they are much easier! If, like us, you can’t quite manage a single-leg squat yet, lunges are the next best thing. To strengthen different areas of your glutes, try doing both front lunges and side lunges.  
  • Hip thrusts. These exercises are really great at targeting the glutes, and can be done with or without added weight. If you fancy a challenge, try doing single leg hip thrusts to really feel those cheeks burn!
  • Leg press. If you have access to a gym, or are lucky enough to have your own one of these, use it! Find a weight that you are comfortable with, and try to progress each week to build muscle and increase your strength. Try out different foot placements on the footpad to work different muscle areas. 

2. Quadriceps

This muscle at the front of your thigh is heavily relied on during skiing. Not only do they take a fair share of your weight when you lean forward, but they are also partly responsible for your hip and knee movements. Your quads also play a very important role in keeping your body balanced and in holding your skis parallel to one another.

This is extremely important when you need to change direction on the slopes. Because of how much they are activated and relied upon during the sport, you need to make sure your quads are strong before going skiing

Exercises you can do to strengthen your quadriceps:

  • Walking lunge. As well as engaging your glutes, lunges also build up your quads. Walking lunges tend to engage the quadriceps more so than regular lunges, as the quads take more of the weight as you move forwards and upwards, as opposed to just upwards.

Once you have mastered the walking lunge, try holding a dumbbell in each hand to make it a little harder. The heavier you go, the stronger you will be! A great thing about walking lunges is that they also force you to work on your balance. 

This exercise works on your explosivity in your quads, too, to build up their strength in a different way. This will make it easier for you to do jumps and tricks on the slopes, if that’s your kind of thing! 

  • Wall sits. This exercise is great for increasing the endurance strength of your quads. Sit with your back against the wall and your knees bent at 90 degrees, and try to hold it for as long as you can. Increase the amount of time every time you do this exercise, and you are bound to see and feel positive results. 
  • Leg extensions. If you have access to a gym, this is a great machine that enables you to solely engage your quadriceps. Most of the other exercises on this list work other muscles simultaneously, so this can be great if you really want to hone in on your quads.

This is a really beneficial exercise to add into your routine, as you can add weight, which will provide faster and better results than simply doing bodyweight exercises alone. 

3. Hamstring

This muscle is almost entirely responsible for the bending and flexing of the knee. As pretty much all your time on the slopes will be spent with bent knees, we’d say that it’s a pretty important muscle to train before your trip.

Your hamstrings also help you to move and rotate the lower parts of your leg, so are very important when changing direction and affecting the angles of your skis. Strengthening your hamstrings will also help you to slow your speed more easily on the slopes, which could save you from a few wipeouts! 

Exercises you can do to strengthen your hamstrings: 

  • Deadlift. This exercise can either be done with dumbbells or a barbell. When you practice good technique, this is one of the most effective hamstring exercises. While it works a range of muscles all over your body, one of the most activated muscles during this exercise is the hamstring.

The hamstring and glute take on most of the weight when lifting it back up towards your body, so are effectively isolated by the movement. Start out with a fairly light weight, and increase it each time you work out to get definitive results. 

  • Single leg deadlift. If you prefer working with lighter weights, but still want a challenge, try doing some single leg deadlifts. These will work the hamstrings just as well as regular deadlifts, but will enable you to focus on one at a time.

This might help you to activate your muscles more effectively during training, and thus could lead you to better results. 

  • Leg curl. If you have access to a gym, use this machine which is designed to activate and strengthen your hamstrings. It is a little bit similar to the leg extension machine for your quads, except on this one you lie on your front and bend your knees upwards while lifting weight, to strengthen your hamstrings. 
  • Kettlebell swings. These exercises work the whole body, but really do help to strengthen your hammies. Once you have the technique down, try to do as many reps as it takes for your hamstrings to start burning! Much like deadlifts, this exercise relies heavily on the hamstrings to lift the weight up.

If you want to challenge yourself, try swinging the dumbbell with one hand instead of both, and alternate which hand holds it each time it reaches your eye level. You can also progress this exercise by increasing the weight of the kettlebell. 

4. Abdominal Muscles

Within this group of muscles are smaller groups of muscles, including: internal oblique muscles, external oblique muscles, rectus abdominis, and transversus abdominis. All of these muscles combine to cover our internal organs, and to create a strong muscle base at the core of our bodies. These core muscles connect the upper part of our body with the lower part, and are an intrinsic part of nearly every movement we perform.

When combined, these groups of muscles are responsible for our balance, spinal stability, and rapid arm movements. As we know, balance is an essential part of skiing, and spinal stability is particularly important when we change direction on the slopes. Strengthening our abdominal muscles will not only help us to improve our skiing, but will also reduce our likelihood of injury. 

Exercises you can do to strengthen your abdominals:

  • Crunches. Also known as ab curls, this exercise helps to engage and strengthen your rectus abdominis and oblique muscles. If you do enough reps, we can guarantee that you will feel a fiery burn!

These crunches will help to improve your balance and the general strength of your torso. If you want to work your oblique muscles even harder, add in a rotation to the curl each time you reach the highest point of the crunch. 

  • Plank. Planks are very effective at strengthening a wide range of our abdominal muscles. This exercise works pretty much all of our core muscles equally, meaning that it is one of the best all-round ab exercises that you can do.

Doing planks regularly, and increasing their duration, will really aid you in improving your balance and reduce your risk of injury while skiing. 

  • Bicycle crunches. This exercise incorporates a range of motions to target a variety of your core muscles. When you twist to each side, your oblique muscles are worked.

As we know, strengthening our obliques will help with changes in direction and support of our spine. The initial motion of the bicycle crunch also works the rectus abdominis, so will really improve your balance and help to support your lower back. 

5. Balance

Although balance comes pretty naturally to most of us, it is definitely worth doing what you can to improve your balance before you go skiing. Having good balance is an essential skill of every skier, and one which cannot just be developed during skiing. If you work on your balance before your ski trip, you will be more likely to be able to perform all the motions necessary on the slopes.

Staying upright on your skis is only possible when you are balanced; as is changing direction without falling, and changing decline without wobbling! Balance is, whether you notice it or not, being practiced at every point of your ski run.

Many of the aforementioned muscle-related exercises can contribute to better balance, even though balance is not a muscle itself. There are definitely an array of exercises that you can do which will help you to improve your balance. 

  • Tree pose. This first balance-related exercise is not only beneficial for your balance, but also for your core muscles and your ankles. Standing on one foot at a time enables you to practice distributing your weight evenly, and at the same time strengths your ankles by relying on each one individually.

Balancing like this also strengthens your abdominal muscles, and the stronger your abdominal muscles are, the better your balance will be! It’s like a cycle of strength. 

  • Single leg deadlift. As well as working your hamstrings, this exercise is also great for improving your balance. You have to slowly lean forward over one slightly bent leg, and counteract this motion by placing your other leg up behind you. This is a great way to practice balance, and to improve your abdominal strength. 
  • Squats on a BOSU. A BOSU, for those of you who do not know (we didn’t before writing this article!), is a fitness training device that is made up of an inflated rubber hemisphere above a solid base. It is a little bit like a big bouncy ball, but cut in half and with a platform, so that it can stay in one place.

A regular squat can somewhat challenge your balance, but performing the exercise on one of these takes that challenge to a whole new level! As you slowly lower yourself on the uneven semi-ball, the only things that will stop you from falling are your balance and your abdominal muscles. Because the surface of the BOSU changes as you move, your balance is constantly tested, and your abdominal muscles have to adapt the whole time you are on it.

This means that nearly all of your core muscles are worked by this exercise, and it is a great way to get them all to cooperate whilst strengthening them, and therefore strengthening your balance. The more you do this exercise, the better your balance will become. You can also adapt other exercises to work with the BOSU. For example, you can do lunges with one leg on the BOSU and one leg off. This will also really help you to work on your balance. 

6. Cardiovascular Endurance

In order to ski down mountains, you have to be pretty fit. Ski runs can be as long as 22 kilometers long, which means 22 kilometers’ worth of hard graft! As well as making sure that your muscles are ready for this challenge, you have to make sure that your cardiovascular endurance is on point.

Cardiovascular endurance is essentially a measure of your ability to exercise your whole body at a relatively high intensity for a prolonged period of time. In other words, it measures how long you can do aerobic exercise before you start to flag.

Skiing is definitely an aerobic activity; instead of comprising of short bursts of exercise that need little oxygen to fulfill, it entails long periods of exercise where you need a constant source of oxygen. To improve your cardiovascular endurance, try doing aerobic exercises for sessions between twenty minutes and one hour long. 

Exercises you can do to improve your cardiovascular endurance: 

  • Cycling. Cycling is an excellent way to improve your endurance for aerobic activities like skiing. It is easy on the joints, and helps you to work your leg muscles at the same time as working on your endurance. It is so beneficial for skiing that many professional skiers incorporate it into their training and rely on its cardiovascular benefits.

If you are not used to cycling, start off with a short twenty minute ride, and slowly increase this time to challenge your aerobic fitness. You can cycle either on regular bikes or on training bike machines that you find in the gym. 

  • Running. Running is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to work on your cardiovascular endurance. You don’t need any equipment to do it, and can do it wherever you like.

Running can be quite hard on your knees and joints, though, so if you have the option, use a treadmill instead of running on hard sidewalks and roads. 

  • Swimming. Swimming is a great aerobic exercise, and is particularly beneficial for those with weak joints. The water supports your joints while you exercise, and is very low impact.

Swimming will undeniably improve your cardiovascular endurance, nut may work your upper body a little too much. Skiing is highly dependent on the lower body, so try to find an exercise that focuses more on the lower body than the upper. 

  • Rollerblading. This aerobic exercise not only contributes to your cardiovascular endurance, but also imitates the motions of skiing. It requires similar movements, and thus helps to improve your balance and works many of the same muscles as skiing does. If you are up for a challenge, try ice skating – it has many of the same benefits but works your balance even harder! 

7. Flexibility

 When you ski, your body has to get itself into all sorts of positions that it wouldn’t usually have to in day-to-day life. Because of this, most of us would find it pretty difficult to adapt to the physical requirements of skiing if we didn’t somewhat work on our flexibility beforehand.

The more flexible you are, the bigger your range of motion, and therefore the easier it will be for you to transform from one position to another while you ski. Working on your flexibility will make you more agile as a skier, and improve the speed with which you can change direction. Also, the more flexible your muscles are, the less likely they are to get injured during exercise. The areas that require the most flexibility for skiing are your hips and pelvis.

Your hip flexors play an incredibly important role on the slope; they help you to get into flexed positions, and help you to change direction quickly and accurately. Hip flexors are renowned for being pretty inflexible, so if you manage to increase flexibility in that area it will definitely aid your skiing performance. 

Exercises you can do to improve your flexibility: 

  • Yoga poses. Yoga is very effective at strengthening your muscles and simultaneously improving your flexibility. It is a widely-used exercise among skiers, and for good reason. One pose you should try out is the Mountain Pose. This pose engages almost all of your body, improves your balance, and increases the flexibility in your ankles and achilles tendon.

Flexibility in these areas is essential for when you bend your knees and pull your tendon in order to remain balanced. Increasing the flexibility of these areas will help you to ski with good form without getting injured. 

  • Hip flexor stretches. As we now know, flexibility of your hip flexors can really benefit your skiing. First off, try a standing lunge stretch. This stretch will improve the flexibility in your hip flexors, as well as in your inner thighs and groin. If you don’t feel this stretch strongly, try doing it while kneeling, to get a deeper and more intense stretch.

Another stretch that will improve your hip flexor flexibility is the seated butterfly stretch. This easy exercise will elongate your thigh muscles and increase your overall flexibility in that area. 

  • Hamstring stretches. Hamstrings are heavily relied upon in skiing, and are also very difficult to keep limber. To increase their flexibility, make sure that you incorporate plenty of hamstring stretches into your routine. One of the simplest hamstring stretches is toe touching, which can be done either while standing up or sitting on the floor.

It may be simple, but, boy! does it make your hammies burn! Another effective hamstring stretch is the standing hamstring stretch. This is perfect for those who want to stretch one leg at a time, and for those who – no matter how hard they try – cannot reach their toes!

  • Quadricep stretches. We know that quads are used all the time in skiing, so we need to make sure they are as supple as possible before we put them to the test!

The standing quad stretch is one of the easiest you can do. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and as well as improving your quad flexibility, it also helps your balance! 

  • Gluteus maximus stretches. By stretching these big muscles, you help to release any tension or tightness that builds up there, which in turn increases the area’s flexibility. Our favorite choice of glute stretch is the pigeon stretch. It increases your glutes’ flexibility, whilst also improving the flexibility in your hip flexors. Another way you can successfully stretch your glutes is to bring your knee, one at a time, to the opposing shoulder.

The harder you pull on your knee, the more intense the stretch will be. Try to increase the strength with which you pull the knee back in order to improve your glute flexibility over time. The seated twist is also an excellent way to stretch out your glutes one at a time, whilst also stretching your back muscles.

8. Upper Body Muscles, If You Have the Time and Energy!

Most of our focus in this article has been on the lower body, as the lower body plays a much more important role in skiing than the upper body does. However, that is not to say that you could benefit from strengthening your upper body, too!

Working on your upper body strength is particularly beneficial if you choose to use your poles a lot for momentum and balance. If you do a lot of snowboarding, upper body strength is essential if you want to get back up quickly after a wipeout! 

Exercises you can do to strengthen your upper body for skiing:

  • Push exercises. Push exercises will strengthen your ability to push off from your poles, or to get back off the ground after a fall. 
    • The first area you should train is your chest. Try doing push ups, barbell or dumbbell chest presses, incline dumbbell bench presses, and cable chest flies to work all areas of your chest thoroughly. 
    • Your front deltoids also play an important role in push-related movements. To increase the strength of your front deltoids, try doing some of the following exercises: dumbbell front raises, dumbbell Arnold press, and dumbbell or machine shoulder presses. 
    • Our triceps in our arms also contribute to our push strength. To strengthen your triceps, there are lots of exercises that you can do. Our favorite tricep exercises are tricep push downs, skull crushers (they’re not as bad as they sound, honestly!), French press, and rope tricep push downs. 
  • Pull exercises. Improving your body’s capacity for pull-oriented movements can benefit many facets of your skiing technique. One of the main skiing movements that benefits from strong pulling muscles is pushing off from your poles to gain speed or momentum. Another instance in which you use your pull muscles is when you use your poles to change direction or to slow down. 
    • Your latissimus dorsi spans across the majority of your back, so is responsible for a lot of your back’s strength. The best exercises for strengthening your lat include pull ups, chin ups, assisted pull ups, assisted chin ups, lat pull down, and row variations. 
    • Your rear delts provide much of your shoulder strength. To get these muscles stronger, try doing reverse pec deck flies, bent over rows, rear delt flies, face pulls, and high rows. 
    • Your biceps are the main pull muscle located in your upper arm. Exercises that strengthen biceps include bicep curls (hammer curls, barbell curls, and dumbbell curls), narrow lat pull downs, and chin ups.

How to Get in Shape for Skiing The Ultimate Guide (2)

Final Thoughts

If this extensive amount of information overwhelmed you, try not to worry! Most of these exercises can be very easily implemented into your workout routine in the weeks leading up to your ski trip, and remember that you don’t have to do all of them! As long as you are hitting the main focus areas, we are sure that your skiing experience will be improved.

To recap, the most important things to work on when getting into shape for skiing are:

  • Cardiovascular Endurance. When you go on a ski trip, you can find yourself out in the mountains for hours at a time – during most of which time you will be exercising and skiing down the slopes.

In order to manage these lengthy and intense periods of activity, and in order to enjoy them, it is really helpful to increase your cardiovascular endurance as much as you can before you get into skiing. From jogging to cycling, there are plenty of ways that you can increase your aerobic capacity in the weeks leading up to your getaway.

  • The relevant muscles. Your focus should primarily be on your lower body, more specifically on your gluteus maximus; your hamstrings, and your quadriceps. You should also spend a lot of time improving your abdominal strength, as your abs play a vital role in pretty much every movement you perform whilst skiing.

Although your lower body bears more of the strains of skiing, it is also important to work your upper body. Doing a variety of both push and pull exercises will help to prepare your body for the movements that skiing requires. Essentially, skiing requires strength from all over your body. Isolating the most-used muscles can make it much easier to tailor your strength program to skiing. 

  • Flexibility. The movements you do whilst skiing, and the positions you need to get into, are unlike most of the ones we do naturally on a regular basis.

Because of this, there are certain body parts that might not be naturally flexible enough to take on the motions of skiing. Stretching and improving your muscles’ flexibility in the lead-up to your skiing holiday could make a huge difference to your performance. Plus, an increased flexibility means a decrease in injury risk. 

  • Balance. Staying upright as you glide through the powdery snow looks a lot easier than it is. Working on your body’s balance can help you to effectively pull off many snow-based movements much more easily than if you simply jumped right in! 

If you do any of these things while preparing for your snowy escape, it is very likely that you will have a much more fulfilling experience than if you were to hit the slopes unprepared. It may sound like a lot of work, but we can guarantee you that it will be worth the effort! Do these things, and be ready to perform on and off-piste like you never have before! 

About the author

Jesse Blaine

Jesse is the owner of, contributes to a lot of the material, and directs day-to-day operations. He lives in Colorado with his wife and kids and loves the outdoors. He’s an avid skier, hiker, kiteboarder, and adventure sports explorer. Jesse has also traveled the world and lived in five different countries. He speaks several languages and loves communicating with people

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