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Sports Conditioning for Skiers

Skiing is a thrilling sport, providing majestic views of the mountains and a vigorous workout. If you haven’t seen the famous Disney cartoon starring Goofy, you must! Go to video.disney.com and type “the art of skiing” into the search box. After you have had a good laugh at Goofy’s antics on the slopes, come back here and find out how to create a strong foundation for attracting and training downhill skiers.

What Can You Offer as a Fitness Professional?

Combining knowledge with practical applications will give you the self-assurance to create successful programs for skiers. “Your ability to lead is based on the amount of con´¼üdence you bring to the mission,” says Jeremy Manning, owner of La Jolla’s Finest Training in La Jolla, California. “If you want people to follow your guidance, you must have a strong understanding of the objective.”

Aside from having fun and nurturing a passion for the outdoors, skiers have two main goals: improving performance and preventing injury. Increasing a skier’s threshold for fatigue can meet both of these goals simultaneously. “Fatigue plays a major role [not only in limiting] performance, but in causing injury,” notes the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “Achieving higher levels of fitness, therefore, is an obvious way to enhance your skiing performance” (USSA 2008).

Targeting the speci´¼üc muscles used most during skiing is a vital ´¼ürst step in designing ski ´¼ütness programs. The American Council on Exercise (ACE 2010) emphasizes that correct anatomical knowledge of muscle attachments is crucial to designing safe, effective exercise programs. Building a strong foundation in muscular anatomy will also set you apart from other ´¼ütness professionals. Educate yourself and clients about the attachment sites of muscles used in skiing, and know how to strengthen those muscles. This awareness will contribute signi´¼ücantly to performance gains and injury prevention.

6 Components of a Program for Downhill Skiers

An exercise program targeting muscles used by skiers should include a warm-up; balance training; core exercises; isolated exercises; sport-specific training; and cross-training. Addressing each of these components will ensure a well-rounded portfolio of exercises. You can ´¼ünd the sample exercises from each section in the photos and also in the chart, where repetitions and sets are suggested. Start with these and brainstorm some of your own ideas to design a balanced workout.

1. Warm-Up

Moving the joints and muscles before skiing will prepare the body for activity and alert the client to any concerns within the joints. Active-stretching exercises speci´¼üc to the mechanics of skiing are the most appropriate for warming up the muscles. Type “downhill skiing USSA” into YouTube’s search box and watch the mechanics of skiing athletes to familiarize yourself with the movements at each joint.


  • Windshield wipers with tibia (ankle): Align knees with ankles.
  • Torso rotations while holding squat (core and legs): Relax shoulders.

2. Balance Training

Ski turns constantly shift weight from one leg to the other. At any moment a majority of the body weight is on one leg, increasing the threat of falls and injuries. Falls account for 75%-85% of skiing injuries, and the knee’s medial collateral ligament, or MCL, is the most likely injury site (ACSM 2014).

For lots more exercises (with photographs!) and a sidebar on ski-relevant anatomy, please see “Downhill Skiing: Increase Performance, Prevent Injury and Attract New Clients”in the online IDEA Library or in the November-December 2014 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.


Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Beverly Hosford, MA

I love anatomy! I have a skeleton named Andy who comes to all of my presentations and workshops with me. He has his own facebook page and you tube channel. "Ask Andy" I work with clients on injury prevention one to one and also small groups. I also do business coaching for fitness professionals to help them find better balance in their business and greater success.

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