Neil Mackenzie, PT, DPT, OCS

6+ Ski Exercises For Peak Condition

Carve up your favorite trails all day long on day 1 with these curated exercises from Neil Mackenzie, PT, focused on improving the power and control you need to set an edge and ultimately preventing classic ACL skiing injuries. Video and written descriptions below:


Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat

This exercise emphasizes balance, quad, glute, and core strength, helping to improve your ability to set an edge and recover should you lose your balance. Balance on one leg and place your opposite foot on a step, chair, or other elevated surface. Slowly squat down keeping ~90% of your weight on the front leg and then return to the starting position. Try to keep your knee from falling inward and allow your chest to face “Downhill.” Repeat for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Bench Hamstring Curl

Hamstring strength is incredibly important with skiing power and endurance and plays a critical role at preventing ACL injuries. Laying on your back with your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees, place your feet on a weight bench or chair. Dig your heels into the chair and lift your hips off the ground. Hold for 2-3 seconds at the top and then slowly lower to the starting position. You should feel your hamstrings working! Repeat for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Wall Sits

Simple but effective! This exercise will quickly mimic and decrease the quad burn that you experience the first few weeks of the ski season and will allow you to enjoy your early season turns! Sit with your back against the wall with your knees bent to 45-90 degrees. Sit back and feel the burn, trying to evenly distribute your weight between the two legs. Hold for three reps of 30 seconds. You can start to add in time as you see fit, building up towards 5 minutes.

Lateral Band Walks

Hips are the foundation of the house! Strong, stable hips will decrease stress and the amount of work required for structures down the chain (knees/ankles). With a mini band around your ankles, assume a slight squatting position with your knees bent and your chest angled “Downhill.” Take small, choppy steps to the side, keeping tension on the band the entire time. Go until you feel a burn along the outside of your hips and then repeat in the opposite direction for three sets.

Lateral Squat Jump

The lateral hops incorporate your entire lower body and core, requiring each muscle to help produce power. The emphasis is on the landing however, making us control the forces as we come back down onto the snow. Start in a squatting position and jump laterally over a line, cone, or hurdle. Focus on a soft, quiet, landing, allowing your hips and knees to bend to absorb the shock. Reload and jump over the barrier back to the starting position. This exercise can be completed for time (3 sets of 30s) or reps (3 sets of 8 reps) but make sure that you don’t sacrifice form for speed!

Clam at Wall

This exercise ties it all together, working on core/gluteal strength as well as balance. This will help you stay upright if you catch an edge and start to go down! With a mini-band around your knees, start with one foot approximately 12-18 inches off the wall with your knee slightly bent. The opposite foot should rest lightly on the wall and serves as the “pivot” point for the exercise. Move your knee away from midline while keeping your toes on the wall. Make sure to keep your body upright and not allow yourself to “Teapot.” Repeat for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Bonus! Single Leg Balance Ball Toss

Here’s a challenge that combines balance and strength, all while reacting to an outside stimulus. This exercise focuses on the single leg stability you need for when you catch an edge and have to recover. Try to keep your ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder in line by keeping your core engaged! If you don’t have a partner, you can bounce a tennis ball off of the wall while standing on one foot. For added challenge, you can stand on a pillow, Airex, or BOSU ball! Go until you feel light fatigue and repeat for three sets.


These exercises should be done 2-3x/week in preparation of ski season for maximum effect. During the season, you can add time and resistance to each exercise if they begin to feel easy. Don’t be afraid to add weight! If you find yourself injured, with nagging pain, and/or wanting to increase your performance during the season, our PTs can help you address the source of your issue and get you back on the mountain pain-free and in peak condition.

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