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PT Exercises to Prepare for Cross-Country Skiing Season

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As peaceful as gliding across snow may seem, cross-country skiing places intense demands on the body. This cardiovascular winter sport works for every muscle group—even while you appreciate the tranquil mountain scenery around you. Without proper strengthening and conditioning, nordic skiing can overexert joints and lead to painful injuries that can cut your season short.

That’s why building strength (sometimes with the help of a physical therapist) before hitting the trails is so important. Physical therapists have an in-depth knowledge of exercise physiology and biomechanics. They can assess your current fitness level and identify any weaknesses that may hinder performance or cause harm. 

A customized training program that progresses appropriately can help build endurance and prevent injury in the muscles, ligaments, and bones that Nordic skiing engages from head to toe.

Whether you’re a seasoned cross-country skier looking to step up your game or a rookie venturing out for the first time, what exercises and stretches should you be doing to prepare your body for Nordic skiing? Our team at Axis Sports Medicine has put together a list of essential pre-skiing exercises to help you get the most out of your time on the trails.

The Best Cross-Country Skiing Exercises for Injury Prevention & Performance

Our physical therapists at Axis Sports Medicine have put together the top 7 exercises to optimally prep your body for cross-country skiing this winter. These moves strengthen the major muscle groups involved in Nordic skiing for improving power, balance, and stability.

Back Squats

Back squats are key for building lower body strength. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Send hips back, bend knees, and lower down until thighs are just past parallel to the floor. Press into heels, keep the chest up, and drive through the legs to return to the start position. Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.

Bulgarian Split Squats

Split squats bolster balance by isolating each leg. Stand in a lunge stance, and place your back foot on the bench. Bend both knees to lower until the front thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep torso upright and drive through front heel to return to start. Repeat for specified reps before switching legs.

Plank Rows

Plank rows hit core strength for balance and injury prevention. Start in a high plank with hands under the shoulders. Engage abs. Row right hand to the rib cage, pause, then lower back down. Repeat the sequence on the other side. Continue alternating for 10-15 reps per side.

Side Planks with Leg Lift

Side planks with leg lifts build oblique and hip strength. Lie on your side, stack your feet, and prop on your forearm. Lift hips and legs off the floor and hold. Keeping hips stacked, lift the top leg high, hold for two counts, and lower down. Repeat for ten lifts per side.


V-ups target abdominal strength for powerful poling. Lie face up with legs straight and arms overhead. Simultaneously lift legs and torso, reaching arms towards feet. Keep your head neutral. Slowly lower back down with control. Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Single-Leg Deadlifts

Single-leg deadlifts build hip stability and strengthen hamstrings. Stand on your right leg, hinge at the hip, and lower down until the torso is parallel to the floor. Extend left leg straight back to counterbalance. Drive through the heel to return upright. Repeat 10-12 reps, then switch sides.

Lateral Lunges

Lateral lunges boost side-to-side strength for pushing off at angles. Stand with feet together. Take a big step sideways with your right leg, push your hips back, and bend your right knee to lower down. Keep left leg straight. Push back to start, then repeat on the other side. Do 10-12 reps per side.

How Axis Helps You Prepare For The Slopes

The physical therapists at Axis Sports Medicine specialize in empowering winter athletes of all abilities. We conduct thorough assessments across factors that impact performance and injury risk:

Muscular Imbalances & Weak Links

Cross-country skiing relies on synchronized movement patterns between opposing muscle groups. An overdeveloped quad without a sufficiently strong hamstring, for example, alters mechanics and overloads tissue. We identify proportional shortcomings like these and tailor exercises to correct them. This prevents painful strains and inflammation.

Mobility & Flexibility Deficits

A limited range of motion in joints like the hips, knees, and ankles impacts power transfer and stride efficiency while increasing strain on connective tissue. We determine mobility restrictions and incorporate stretching into training for optimized function.

Postural & Balance Issues

Cross-country skiing challenges your equilibrium as you glide through varied terrain. Poor posture and balance raise injury risk. We assess standing and movement alignment and improve instability through targeted drills.

Cardiovascular Endurance

Nordic skiing performance and enjoyment depend heavily on your cardiovascular health, enabling oxygen delivery and muscle stamina. Based on your medical history and vitals, we create customized interval and steady-state exercises for improving your aerobic base.

Prepare Your Body for Nordic Ski Excellence with Axis

Cross-country skiing delivers a top-notch workout while surrounded by nature’s winter wonderland. However, your Nordic ski ambitions require building strength, flexibility, balance, and stamina through a tailored training approach. 

The physical therapists at Axis Sports Medicine specialize in taking skiers’ abilities to new heights. We create individualized exercise programs that translate to excelling on the trails. Invest in your body’s preparedness this season and experience the power of customized training.

Contact Axis Sports Medicine to get started with personalized training. Our cutting-edge physical therapy facilities in Eagle, Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne, and Avon are there to help you gear up for your best Nordic ski season yet through innovative assessment, personal training, and advanced treatment. We’ll have you striding smoothly across the mountainsides in no time!

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Avon + Edwards are Joining Forces

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After much thought and evaluation by our team, we have decided to consolidate our Edwards clinic into our Avon clinic location. 

Our staff and resources from our Edwards location will be moved into our Avon clinic on October 31, 2023.

We are excited to be able to offer a wider option of appointment times to accommodate patient needs in one location.

Our Avon location is 142 E Beaver Creek Blvd, Suite 109, next door to Doctors on Call and Kiwi International Delights.