Ski Fitness

If you’ve skied before, then I don’t need to describe to you the feeling in your legs on the second or third morning of your trip. Just heading downstairs for breakfast is agony. Something strange has happened in the night – your thigh muscles have seized up good & proper. Rather than blame your boots, or that funny looking green schnapps you had after dinner, it’s basically that you’re not fit enough!

The good news is you can avoid all the aches & pains with a little pre-ski fitness training. Have skied both with a reasonable level of fitness & a woeful one, I can tell you the former is a much more pleasant experience than the latter.

Main concerns about skiing fitness

The muscle group that does the most work during a weeks skiing is your quadriceps; a group of four muscles on the front of your thigh that runs from your hips to your knees, commonly known as “quads”.

Secondary to your quads are the back of the thighs (hamstrings), your inner & outer thigh muscles (adductor & abductor) and your backside (gluteus maximus or “glutes”).  Stomach muscles & triceps (the back of your arm, used for pushing) also work quite hard. Your main aim is to increase the endurance level of these muscles; that is, their ability to keep going for longer

Cardiovascular fitness is also important, don’t forget that there is less oxygen at altitude, so your heart & lungs have to work harder to supply the same amount of oxygen to those screaming leg muscles. A more efficient cardiovascular system means you will not get out of breath as fast.

6 week gym workout programme for skiing

Assumptions:

  • That you are starting with a basic level of fitness
  • That you have access to a reasonably well equipped gym
  • That you have no injuries or illnesses
  • That you have consulted your doctor if you have any concerns over your health or fitness level.
  • That you know how to use all of the machines properly. If you are not sure of any of the exercises or need help, be sure to consult a fitness professional.


This programme is designed to last 6 weeks; if you are starting your pre-ski fitness regime earlier than that just keep increasing the amount of time and/or repetitions, on both the leg exercises & the CV machines. The emphasis is on building endurance rather than strength, so there is no need to increase the weights excessively.

On the leg press try to imagine one rep is one turn; think how many turns you do without stopping in a day! Start at 50% of your body weight on this machine & gradually increase to 100%.

Ski Fitness Programme

Download Fitness Guide

If you would like to print this article off, we have a nice 3-page pdf with ski fitness tips ready for you.

Week one

Session 1 2 3
Cardiovascular exercise 20 minutes CV training. 20 minutes CV training. 20 minutes CV training.
Resistance exercise 2 x 30 seconds on leg press at 50% of your body weight. Aim for one rep per second or more.

Do not lock your knees

3 x 20 reps swiss ball wall squats. Rest the swiss ball against the wall & lean back so the ball rolls up & down your back during the movement 2 x 30 seconds on leg press at 50% of your body weight. Aim for one rep per second or more.

Do not lock your knees

Notes: Aim for mostly weight bearing CV exercise, ie supporting your own body weight – such as treadmill or cross trainer. The bike & rower are OK, but as you are seated you’re not supporting your own weight like you are when you ski.

Week two

Session 1 2 3
Cardiovascular exercise 25 minutes CV training. 25 minutes CV training. 25 minutes CV training.
Resistance exercise 3 x 45 seconds on leg press as above.

Increase the weight slightly from last week

3 x 15 abdominal crunches.

2 x 30 seconds on leg extension 2 x 30 seconds on leg curl

Use a weight that is lighter than you normally lift.

3 x 45 seconds on leg press as above.

Increase the weight slightly from last week

3 x 15 abdominal crunches.

Notes: Try to increase your CV time by 5 minutes each week. Running is preferable when using the treadmill, but if you need to walk use the incline to increase the intensity.

Increase the weight slightly on the leg press too.

Week three

Session 1 2 3
Cardiovascular exercise 30 minutes CV training. 30 minutes CV training. 30 minutes CV training.
Resistance exercise 3 x 1 minute on leg press as above

3 x 20 abdominal crunches.

3 x 30 seconds on leg extension 3 x 30 seconds on leg curl

3 x 20 reps swiss ball squats

3 x 1 minute on leg press as above

3 x 20 abdominal crunches.

Notes: Keep increasing the weight on the leg press gradually. On the treadmill, If you find it difficult to run for the whole prescribed time, try a combination of walking & running, ie run 1/walk 1, then gradually increase running & decrease the walking

Week four

Session 1 2 3
Cardiovascular exercise 35 minutes CV training. 35 minutes CV training. 35 minutes CV training.
Resistance exercise 3 x 1:30 minute on leg press. By now you should be up to about 80-90% of your body weight.

3 x 20 abdominal crunches

3 x 30 reps swiss ball squats.

3 x 15 reps tricep press

3 x 1:30 minute on leg press. By now you should be up to about 80-90% of your body weight.

3 x 20 abdominal crunches

Keep increasing the CV exercise time. Use a combination of machines to keep yourself interested. Remember, weight bearing is better, but anything is better than nothing!

Week five

Session 1 2 3
Cardiovascular exercise 45 minutes CV training. 45 minutes CV training. 45 minutes CV training.
Resistance exercise 3 x 2 minutes on leg press. Aim to lift your body weight.

3 x 20 abdominal crunches

2 x 1 minute leg extension

2 x 1 minute leg extension

2 x 1 minute leg curl

3 x 15 reps tricep press

3 x 20 abdominal crunches

3 x 2 minutes on leg press. Aim to lift your body weight.

3 x 20 abdominal crunches

2 x 1 minute leg extension

Notes: 10 minute increase this week. Cardiovasular-wise you should now be fit enough. Really work hard on increasing your muscular endurance from now.

Week six

Session 1 2 3
Cardiovascular exercise 45 minutes CV training. 45 minutes CV training. 45 minutes CV training.
Resistance exercise 3 x 2 minutes on leg press

3 x 20 abdominal crunches

2 x 1 minute leg extension

2 x 1 minute leg extension

2 x 1 minute leg curl

3 x 15 reps tricep press

3 x 20 abdominal crunches

3 x 20 swiss ball squats

3 x 2 minutes on leg press

3 x 20 abdominal crunches

2 x 1 minute leg extension

Notes: This is it, your last chance to really improve your fitness & get your muscles prepped for a great week on the snow

Credits

This article was created by Paul Axford from The Planet Health Club, in Cork. They provide a whole range of fitness products (gym membership, swimming lessons, fitness classes), and is considered by a few to be the best gym in Cork.

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