Build your core for ski conditioning and mountaineering

Working Your Core

The following article was written by Scott Johnston (Uphill Athlete co-founder and coach, co-author of Training for the New Alpinism) for Mountain Trip climbers to understand and execute a proper core strength workout.

Whether you are gearing up for a Denali summit, or trying to perfect your winter ski conditioning, Uphill Athlete has created the perfect core strength workout for you. Remember that all full body movements originate with the core musculature. A strong core provides a solid base from which the big prime mover muscles of the limbs can do their job in athletic movements. If done correctly, these exercises are meant to build a high degree of general core strength that will be a base for more sport-specific movements.

The goal of this training is to build strength, not endurance. The idea is to hold the best, strictest form that you can manage regardless of how few repetitions you can do or how short your hold time is. Make all the movements slowly and with strict control. Quality is far more important than quantity.

You should shoot for four to eight repetitions of any exercise or hold any position for only a few seconds. Do this routine in circuit-style with 30 seconds between exercises. Add resistance whenever you can complete more than six perfect reps. Resistance can be added by using a weight vest, heavier shoes, ankle weights, or a heavier dumbbell. As you gain strength, drop the exercises that become easy and spend more time working on your weaker ones. Be guided by the principle of maintaining maximum core tension for the full exercise, and keep trying until you get them all perfect.

Core Strength Exercises Video:



Notes on the exercises

  1. Strict Sit-Ups: Straight back, all the way up and all the way down. Hands on chest, behind your head, or holding a weight to your chest progresses the exercise from easy to harder.
  2. Bird’s Dog: The hip rotates through its full range of motion.
  3. Windshield Wipers: Keep the legs straight. Hamstring flexibility is a limiter for some.
  4. Three point/two point: Highly relevant for contact strength when poling.
  5. Kayaker: Highly relevant for turning the skis and kick-turn motion.
  6. Super Pushups: Shoulders and spine. Push through, then back. This will be the hardest exercise for many SkiMo racers.
  7. Hanging Leg Raises: Start with knees bent if you can’t do these with straight legs. If straight legs is easy, do these as Hanging Windshield Wipers, as per the video tutorial.
  8. Bridge
  9. Gymnast L-sit:  If you can’t do it, try crossing your legs in front of you for 10 seconds. Try straightening your legs each time, it will come. Difficult for many.
  10. Side Planks: Without weight or dynamically with a dumbbell. 5 reps per side/10 in total.
  11. Bonus: Turkish Get Ups: The grand-daddy of core exercises. Hits every major core stabilization group.


About Uphill Athlete

Uphill Athlete is a platform for openly sharing proven training knowledge for the sports of alpinism, mountaineering, rock and ice climbing, ski mountaineering, skimo racing, and mountain running. We offer free educational resources, sell well-designed training plans, and coach amateurs and experienced athletes to maximize their fitness and succeed in the mountain sports they love. Learn more about Uphill Athlete at



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  1. Thanks on your marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you
    might be a great author.I willl remember to bopkmark your blog and definitely will come back in the future.

    I want too encourage you to continue your great work, have a nice afternoon!

  2. Thanks for this amazing post! The exercise seems very easy and effective. Despite the fact that I love skiing and mountain climbing, I am not able to enjoy them fully due to lack of strength. My stamina is weak and my low back pains badly every time after the adventure. But the video shows impressible exercises. Gonna definitely try it!! Hope my skiing experience next month in Jackson would be tireless and fun with my all-time favorite tour guide from Achieving Adventure.

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