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Winter Fitness: 7 Exercises To Prepare You For Ski Season

Ready or some thigh burners?

By: Jen Weir + Save to a List

With ski season already underway in many parts of the country, if you haven’t already, it’s time to get that body slope-ready. Some outdoor enthusiasts have no problem transitioning from one season to the next – after all, if you’re already in backpacking shape, you should be able to snap into a pair of skis without a problem. But if the snow is late coming or you’ve just been couch surfing for the last month or two, consider taking some time to prep those neglected muscles for ski season. It’ll make your experience that much more rad and cut down on that day-after muscle soreness that we’ve all experienced a time or two.

Ski and Snowboard Whitefish Mountain Resort | Photo: Noah Couser

If you enjoy the gym atmosphere, by all means, head on over and crank out this routine there. If you’re not into sweating and breathing on and around other people, you’re in luck! You can get in skiing shape from the comfort of your own home, park, mountain, or any other place you like to hang out. Shoot for three to five sets of 10 to 20 repetitions of each of the below exercise and try your best to do the workout at least three times per week with a day of rest between sweat sessions. Don’t forget to practice those 12-ounce curls every few days to be sure you’re ready for any Après-ski situation you may find yourself in.

1. Squat Jumps

If you only do one exercise on this list, please do these. Squat jumps will improve lower-body power, strength, and endurance. Not to mention, they get the old ticker pumping. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lower into a squat position. From here, explode upward as quickly and powerfully as you can (if you’re on the taller side, make sure ahead of time you’ve got ample head room or be ready to explain to your landlord why there’s a dent in the ceiling). Land back into the squat position and immediately repeat the jump. Continue the process until you’ve completed the desired number of reps or until your legs give out, whichever comes first.

2. Wall Sits

Wall sits are pretty uneventful, but they do a great job mimicking the position you spend most of your time in while skiing. They’re effective for increasing your strength but even better for pushing your muscular endurance over the top. Place your back against a wall and your feet far enough away that you can lower down into a squat. Hold each wall sit for as long as you can, completing a total of 5-10 sits. If you really want to the feel the burn, try these right after squat jumps. Each time you do a wall sit, adjust your hips to a different height level to ensure that you’re hitting every part of your quads and glutes.

3. Nordic Hamstring Extensions

Now that your quads are sufficiently smoked, it’s time to move on to the hammies. Strong hamstrings are imperative for keeping those knees injury free. Kneel on the floor with your hips extended and torso upright, so that you’re basically just standing on your knees. Have a buddy anchor your feet to the floor or, if you’re like me and don’t have any friends around and your four-year-old isn’t strong enough to help you out, hook the bottom of your feet under a heavy chair or couch. From here, slowly lower your body to the floor, maintaining a straight line from knees to head and relying on the strength of your hamstrings to prevent your face from bouncing off the floor. The slower you lower, the harder your hamstrings work. Once you reach the floor, use your arms to push yourself back up to the starting position.

Ski Little Cottonwood Canyon | Photo: Sam Watson

4. Iron Mikes

Iron Mikes work in a similar fashion to squat jumps, except rather than doing repeated squats, you’re doing repeated lunges. You should notice an increase in strength, power, endurance, agility and balance after a few sessions of these – and possibly sore glutes. Begin in the lunge position. From here, propel yourself upward as quickly as possible. In mid-air, switch legs before landing back into the lunge position. Immediately explode upward again, switching legs with each rep.

5. Lateral Jumps

Iron Mikes and squat jumps target the front-to-back movement patterns, but we all know skiing is not all front-to-back – there’s a lot of side-to-side movement involved as well, particularly if you’re one of those crazy people who enjoy moguls. Transfer your weight to your right leg and, moving with as much explosive power as possible, jump to the side as far as you can. Immediately upon landing on your left leg, jump back to the right. Continue to jump from side-to-side as powerfully as you can. Once you’ve completed single-leg jumps, repeat the exercise with both legs at the same time.

Ski at Blanket Glacier Chalet | Photo: Matt Ford

6. Plank With Leg Lift

Planks may not be the most exciting exercise, but they’re something you should really be doing every day. You can never have enough core strength - or glute strength for that matter, which is why we’re adding the leg lift. Begin in plank position with your upper body supported by your elbows and the balls of your feet supporting the rest of your weight. Stabilize your hip and abdominal muscles to form a straight line from head to heels. Maintain this position and lift one foot a few inches off the floor. Keep it lifted for 10 to 20 seconds, then lift the other leg. Continue to alternate legs until you’ve held the plank for one to two minutes. For an added challenge, place your elbows on the top of a stability ball.

7. Burpees or a Rowing Machine

If you’ve got a rowing machine, use it. If not, burpees will get the job done. Both of these activities will help build a solid cardio base while developing full-body strength – both of which are important when picking yourself up after a yard sale and making your way back up the mountain to collect your beloved belongings. The rowing machine is pretty self-explanatory – strap in and get to work. For burpees, move quickly from a standing position to a squatting position. Place your hands on the floor, perform the first half of a squat thrust, do a push-up, complete the second half of the squat thrust and return to the standing position, jumping at the end of the movement. That’s one burpee. Whichever activity you choose, do it for at least 20 minutes three times per week. If you’d rather pull your fingernails out then do burpees, jog a few times per week and add push-ups to your routine.

If you start working these exercises into your weekly routine now, you’ll be ready to shred by Christmas.

Cover photo: Sam Watson

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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