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Best exercises for skiing: get fit for the slopes

Last updated 3rd January 2017

Exercises for skiing: get in shape for more fun on the runs

There’s still time to get fit for the ski-slopes this winter, if you start your exercises for skiing now. Skiing isn’t like any other sport and most beginners give up because they’re unused to the strange physical demands rather than useless on the slopes. First of all, get your head around the idea of spending more time than you ever thought possible with your knees bent. Then add in a ridiculous reliance on thighs, back and stomach. And finally, remember it’s cold and repetitive and you need stamina, balance and flexibility.

On the plus side, you can start prepping right now and without any equipment and just a little bit of determination be reasonably ready to face the best of the snow this winter.


Start a cardiovascular routine

Treadmill or out pounding pavements? Seasoned runner or more of a fast walker? The level you work at is up to you, you just want a cardiovascular routine you’ll enjoy and stick with. If you’re a beginner, try 40 minutes, four times a week and divide up the time into:

  • five-minute warm-up
  • 10 minutes brisk walking (you should feel your heart rate go up but still be able to breathe easily)
  • 20 minutes running continuously (if you don’t run regularly, mix jogging and walking or up the pace of the walk and forget running altogether)
  • 5 minute cool down

Spinning classes are perfect interval training because they mimic the stop and start action of skiing. Alternatively, download the NHS Couch to 5K app. It’s designed to get unfit mini-marathon wannabes ready in nine weeks but works for would be skiers too.

Know your ski muscles and work them

Pronounced quads (front thigh muscles) are the mark of a professional skier. You might not be aiming for that level of definition, but strong thighs are essential to hold you in position and control your knees.

Deep ski squat

  • Stand with your feet together and arms by your side.
  • Bend your legs into a ski stance with your knees together over your toes, swing arms gently up to chest level, keep your weight on your heels, bottom tucked in and back straight.
  • Bend low enough to feel the movement in your upper thigh, hold for the count of 10 and slowly straighten to standing – don’t lock your knees.
  • Work up to 30 slow reps and remember not to sit into the squat, your thighs should be doing the work.


Simple step down

  • Stand one step up, facing forward with feet apart, knees aligned and hips straight.
  • Step down smoothly with the left foot, place it flat on the floor and step smoothly back up again. Repeat with the right leg.
  • The aim is to have a continuous, smooth stepping motion with your hips in a static position and thighs in control.
  • Work up to 30 reps. You can add ankle weights or increase the height of the step down if it starts to feel too easy.

And you need a bit of core power too. Avoid sit-ups and crunches: unless you’re used to these, straining your back is getting off lightly compared to the damage you can do. Try the simple (or as tough as you want) leg lift instead.

Easy leg lift

  • woman-excercising-at-home-on-matLie on your back, arms by your side, legs flat on the floor, ankles and knees together and aligned.
  • Raise your legs until your feet are above your hips, hold for a beat and then slowly lower back towards the start.
  • Don’t put your feet on the ground, pause with heels about 5cm off the floor and repeat the lift.
  • Your stomach muscles are doing the work so keep shoulders, chest, arms and back soft. Remember to breathe evenly and rest your legs if you feel strained.
  • Work up to 30 reps and if you want the lift more intense: pause and hold for the count of 10 when your feet are about halfway between your head and the floor.

Hips put in a lot of effort skiing and you want them strong, but flexible. That’s the job of your gluteus medius – the outside hip muscle above your buttock. The most effective exercise is a tried and tested favourite you probably already know.

Classic clam

  • Lie on your left side, thighs together, knees together, ankles together, arm stretched above your head for balance.
  • Bend your legs into a ski stance (thighs, knees and ankles still together).
  • Slowly lift your right knee from your left until you feel the movement in the gluteus medius. Hold for the count of 10 and then lower.
  • The action’s like the smooth opening and shutting of a shell. Work up to 30 reps each side.
  • You can try this one standing to simulate a skiing motion.

little-boy-skiing-with-poles-portraitGet your knees into line

If you want to progress beyond the nursery slopes, you need to get your knees on board. The perfect ski-knee should bend so the kneecap sits parallel above the middle of your foot – just over the second and third toe. Have a look, it’s more likely your normal kneecap hovers around the big toe.

  • Stand with your hips facing forward, feet flat on the floor and knees bent over your toes.
  • Use your thigh muscle to lift your kneecaps and move them out so they sit above the middle of your toes.
  • Repeat 30 times each day until ski-knee is your default position – easy enough to do while you’re brushing your teeth

Find some support from Chamonix ski experts

If you want full, dedicated ski workout, download the BeFit SkiFit app. It gives you a choice of routines developed by La Clinique du Sport in Chamonix designed for first timers through to experts.

You can test your fitness level before you start, there’s no special equipment needed and you move at your own pace. Includes playlist suggestions and packs in a healthy number of insider hints and tips to help you over those demotivated moments.

Another great way to get ski-ready is to practise before you go. Find a UK indoor ski centre near you and book a session today!