Does Skiing Build Muscle? Total Body Workout

by Alaina Johnson | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Skiing Articles

If you've never skied before you might be surprised to find out that downhill skiing is a full-body workout. Battling gravity force in pulling you downhill is a powerful use of your body's muscles.

All forms of Skiing are a great leg & upper body workout. Nordic skiing, in particular, is a great core exercise and can strengthen your abdominal muscles. Downhill skiing requires you to control your speed which is surprisingly tiring.

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What Muscles Are Used Most In Skiing?

Photo by Mark Lehmkuhler licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

It should come as no surprise that skiing is a great lower-body workout. Compared to workout routines that involve lifting weights and doing pushups, skiing isn't going to give you a burning arm workout, but you still get your arms and shoulders moving by using the poles and body core to turn.

Your quadriceps and hamstrings (the front and back of your legs) get a focused workout while you're skiing, as they're responsible for moving your body and keeping you upright. Your glutes are also staying active as you move through the ski motions.

The balancing and squatting required to ski downhill work to develop your core muscles. Before you hit the slopes, devoting some time to strengthening your core can help you keep the correct posture and avoid any unnecessary back pain on your expensive ski vacation.

On the slopes, you may spot a few fellow skiers with weak core muscles. You can usually spot them as they fall frequently and flail their arms wildly to find balance. They might just be new to the sport as well and trying to find their balance.

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A less frequently thought-of muscle group that gets a workout during a ski session is your foot and ankle area. Your body needs them for proper rotations, and when they're not properly warmed up, you can easily sprain or twist something.

How Do Skiers Build Muscles?

Professional skiers don't have a lot of downtime when preparing for an upcoming winter season. Conditioning is key to a successful season and shouldn't be left until the last minute for optimal results.

Even if you ski purely recreationally, conditioning can help you improve your ski skills and overall style going down the slopes. After all, you'll want to show off your complete control and tight turning ability to those in your group.

Man on treadmill
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Skiers use a variety of aerobic and anaerobic exercises to build strength and muscle mass, such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts for the lower body. Working biceps and triceps with dumbbells can help you push off your poles with more power and force.

Combining strength and cardio workouts is the key to getting your body primed and ready and there are many ways in which you can incorporate unique and targeted exercises to meet your personal goals. If you found that your shoulders got sore after a few hours, throw in some shoulder presses for additional strength.

Be aware, that to actively put muscle mass on you need to be eating sufficient calories.

Will Skiing Give You Abs?

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Since skiing works your core, does this mean you'll end up with a six-pack by the end of the season? Not necessary but you're likely to have a tighter core, which lends itself to developing abs if you focus on them during your gym sessions.

In fact, it's recommended that you pay extra attention to your core before the ski season ramps up. This can help to prevent injury and optimize your overall performance on the slopes this winter.

There are many benefits to a strong core that go far beyond your posture while skiing. You'll have a far healthier back and improved balance and stability for day-to-day as well as sporting activities. A stabilized core can also enhance your flexibility, which helps your skiing form and allows you to avoid injury from a sudden movement.

If you're looking to get visible abdominal muscles, you may need to throw in some crunches and planks to fully get there. However, skiing can provide a solid foundational basis on which you can build during the off-season.

Do You Need To Be Strong to Ski?

Training Camp Alpine Skiing
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Newcomers to the sport of skiing may feel discouraged when they see the shape professional skiers and snowboarders are in. There's no reason to worry, as there are skiers of all shapes and sizes on the slopes at the popular resorts.

While you may find that you're weak in certain areas, skiing can help you pinpoint where your strengths and weaknesses lie. This can provide you with the framework to develop these areas during the year and come back stronger during the following season.

If you're a newbie, you'll be more focused on getting the basics down and you don't need to be concerned with the dynamics of flying down the slopes at breakneck speed. Working on your stops and turns will likely keep you busy for your first several sessions.

For those who are overly concerned about their lack of muscle or "ski shape," there are many workout routines found online that can give you the basic framework for which muscles are going to be targeted. Even completing a few weeks of these routines can give you the confidence boost needed to enjoy your ski vacation.

You don't need to be a bodybuilder to successfully ski by any means and in fact, excess strength at the cost of mobility and endurance can actually be considered a negative trait. Well-rounded skiers who possess strength, stamina, and flexibility are often the ones who enjoy the slopes the most and who avoid injury.

Photo by Heikki Rauhala licensed under CC BY 2.0

Skiing is a Workout

If you're looking to get fit this winter season, don't stay home and become a passive couch potato. Getting out on the slopes can be a fun and exciting way to keep your body active and build muscle for your summertime beach vacation plans.

Skiing can be considered a full-body workout, as it works on your legs, core, and arms. You'll naturally build muscle over the course of your ski sessions and you can further this development by hitting the gym and working on further toning and strengthening specific muscle groups.