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It’s a long time from spring to the next season on the slopes. It’s a good idea to keep fit. But what exercises are best to ensure you have the best advantage when the snow comes around again?
Whether you are a skier or snowboarder preparing for the ski season takes time. However, it is a good investment as you will enjoy your sport more and be less likely to injure yourself. Ligament injuries can take months to heal, so if you fall foul of one early in the season that could be it for the year.
It’s best to choose exercises, which relate to your style of skiing. Exercises for downhill skiing are different from those associated with ski touring. It’s best to start training well before the season starts, you will build up much more endurance and be less likely to injure yourself during excessive training in an effort to catch up.
We have all heard stories of skiers who injure themselves on their first day of skiing. When you ask them what sort of exercises, they used to prepare for skiing they look at you blankly.
Skiing is a strenuous sport, which will test your muscle endurance, ligaments, and joints, so it’s a good investment to put in some training. That doesn’t mean you have to be in the gym five days a week, just start training early with a regular plan and this will enable you to enjoy your skiing days much more, stay out longer and reduce the risk of injuries.
It’s a good idea to have an exercise plan all year round for general fitness. It doesn’t have to be complicated, as just a simple routine will give you all sorts of health benefits. Additionally, when it comes to preparing for the ski season you will find it much easier to ramp up your existing exercise plan, rather than having to start from scratch.
Little and often is a good motto to work by, working up to your ski vacation rather than hammering yourself with training a couple of weeks before you go.
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Ski Exercise and Ski Training, What’s the difference?
Ski exercise is when you go out for a day’s recreational skiing with buddies. You will be skiing different runs, maybe some backcountry, but there will be no structure to the physical activity. So, ski exercise will certainly improve your basic fitness, but the activity is essentially random and not targeted to any part of the body.
Ski training is a much more structured activity with planned exercises and a defined goal at the end. The training is systematic in that the exercises will be aimed at specific muscle groups and joints, which are frequently used in skiing, as well as some other muscle groups that are used passively.
Training is also progressive in that as your muscle groups and joints become fitter, they can withstand more strain, so the training involves gradually increasing resistance. This improves strength and endurance at the same time. The kind of training program you choose will be governed to a degree by several factors:
- Your initial fitness level
- Your motivation
- How much time you can devote to training
- Your final goal
Choose appropriate training
It’s always best to aim any training you undertake to work the muscles that are specifically associated with the type of skiing you will be undertaking. For example, for downhill skiing, a general level of fitness is required, with particular emphasis on the legs.
However, for ski touring, extra endurance for the legs and arms is required for uphill sections.
So, the training must be targeted and proportionate to the type of skiing you are going to be undertaking.
Be consistent in any training
When someone decides to get fit, they usually spend time with a trainer at their gym and devise a program using different weight machines to strengthen different muscle groups. However, it is difficult to maintain a regular exercise program week in week out. Motivation may drop or other more pressing activities may take precedent.
Everybody lives busy lives these days and keeping to a regular training program may be easy in the first few weeks but often becomes chaotic with time. This can lead to trying to make up for missed training sessions with one shattering session, which is neither great in terms of fitness nor in possibly injuring yourself.
If you think you may struggle to commit to an ongoing program it’s best to shorten your program slightly, so you are more likely to achieve it.
It’s not going to happen overnight
The idea of little and often is more in tune with the way our bodies operate. Attempting a hard workout when your body is not yet attuned to regular exercise will increase your chance of muscle or ligament injury and put extra strain on your heart at the same time.
Muscles, ligaments, and joints are all dynamic elements of the body. They can be strengthened, gradually over time with a regular, increasing workload.
However, they are also sensitive to sudden force or unusual twisting, which can lead to a pulled muscle or worse, a damaged ligament, which can take months to mend. After a training session, the body needs time to recuperate.
Building muscle strength involves slightly tearing apart the muscle fibers during exercise, which then rebuild into stronger muscle during recovery. So, the process of recovery after exercise is just as important as the exercise itself.
The best training exercises for skiing
- Build and strengthen the muscles that do most of the work. Including your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and hips.
- Develop your balance. Strengthen your core muscles and those around your hips to improve stability.
- Build up endurance. Repeated cardiovascular exercise will enable your body to cope with sustained workloads longer.
- Improve the condition of your heart and lungs, so oxygen and nutrients circulate around your body more efficiently. Running or cycling are ideal exercises, as they train the large thigh muscles, which are also used predominantly in skiing.
How to approach training
Before you start any new training program it’s always best to check with your trainer at the gym or your doctor to see if there are any exercises you should steer clear of. Also, when you begin a new exercise program always remember to warm up and stretch before you start exercising and at the end of your workout.
This will help your body to adapt to the exercises and considerably reduce the possibility of injury.
By increasing your overall level of fitness, you will also improve your flexibility, which enables you to transfer your weight more effectively during turns and to recover more quickly when you lose your balance.
The overall improvement in fitness will give you longer endurance and less chance of falls. It is often during falls where injuries occur, skiers are particularly at risk from knee injuries, while snowboarders often experience ankle and shoulder strains.