Find out how to do the ski jump exercise, what it does, and whether your time is better spent on other movements.
Ski jumps are a type of exercise where you lower your upper body by folding your legs and then jump sideways.
If you really focus on jumping high, ski jumps can be a plyometric exercise that improves muscle power in areas like your quadriceps (front thighs).
On the flip side, you can also do small ski jumps at a fast pace to work your cardiovascular system relatively hard.
This will help with things like getting out of breath less quickly.
That being said, while ski jumps do offer benefits, there are also more effective exercises for these fitness goals.
For example, regular jump squats tend to be a better plyometric exercise and running tends to be a more effective cardiovascular workout.
At the same time, it is worth noting that ski jumps can still be a good choice if you really like doing them.
How to do a ski jump
Take the following steps to do the ski jump exercise:
- Stand upright with your arms hanging beside your body.
- Slowly fold your knees to the point that aligns best with your training goals and capacities. You will likely have to tilt your upper body forward for balance but try to keep your spine straight. Fold your arms at the elbows and point your upper arms slightly backward.
- Straighten your legs explosively so you jump up and sideways aka lateral. How high again depends on your goals. During this movement, you want to move your arms forward/upward too.
- Land with your feet slightly apart and knees slightly bent.
- Repeat the same jump movement but in the other direction so you are back in starting position.
- Jump back in the opposite direction into the starting position.
Beginners generally want to do ski jumps with small jumps and by only going through their knees a small amount.
Another detail to keep in mind is that it might be necessary to keep your arms’ range of motion small due to shoulder mobility limits.
It is worth noting the landing with slightly bent knees again too. This will make a big difference in terms of comfort.
Landing with the front part of your feet can help with this too.
Ski jump modifications
As you may understand from the walkthrough, you can make small ski jump exercise modifications to focus on different fitness components.
First of all, you can do ski jumps at a faster speed while keeping your jumps small.
This modification will make the exercise really focus on your cardiovascular system which includes your heart and lungs.
Secondly, you can do ski jumps in a way where you really go through your knees a lot and jump as high as possible.
This modification would make ski jumps more of a plyometric leg exercise for improving muscle power and potentially building some muscle mass.
You can also combine both of these versions of the exercise with a weighted vest and/or light dumbbells.
These will make ski jumps engage your cardiovascular system more and potentially help you strengthen and grow your muscles more.
You could also do single-leg ski jumps to achieve a similar effect.
However, these do require more time and balance.
What muscles do ski jumps work?
Ski jumps mainly work muscles like your quadriceps (front thighs), calves, hip flexors, and deltoids (shoulders).
Some of the secondary muscles ski jumps work include your glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), hip abductors (outer thighs), and hip adductors (inner thighs).
If you do ski jumps intensely enough, you will likely see growth and power improvements in your quadriceps or calves.
To achieve these goals in the other muscles mentioned, you want to turn to other exercises instead.
Benefits of ski jumps
Ski jumps are not perfect for everyone but they do offer some valuable benefits. Some of these are:
- Can help you lose weight: Even if you do plyometric ski jumps, the exercise will help you use up more energy. In combination with other good habits, this can help you lose weight.
- Stronger muscles: The plyometric version of ski jumps will be able to help many people grow leg muscles like their quadriceps. Even if this does not apply, you should still be able to get better muscle endurance.
- Balance & coordination: The sideway jumps involved in ski jumps can offer small improvements in balance and coordination.
- No equipment or location required: While some equipment could be useful, ski jumps are technically a bodyweight-only exercise you can do anywhere.
- Can improve sleep: Doing the ski jump exercise more will often improve sleep. At least if you don’t do them right before bedtime.
These benefits are not completely unique to ski jumps but are definitely welcome anyway.
You want to keep in mind that there are certain risks to doing ski jumps due to the shock of landing.
People with sensitive knees or ankles who are new to working out likely want to start with lighter movements first.
Additionally, you might want to limit the arm movements in ski jumps if your shoulder mobility is not great (yet).
Ski jump alternatives
If you don’t like certain aspects of this exercise or just want to switch things up, you can consider these ski jump alternatives too:
- High knees
- Jumping jacks
- Jump squats
- Power skip exercise
What ski jump alternatives you want to choose depends on your training goals, personal preferences, equipment, and what your body is capable of.
Are ski jumps a good exercise?
Ski jumps can be a reasonably good exercise for either improving cardiovascular health or muscle power depending on how you do them.
At the same time, the coordination and balance involved in the lateral (sideways) jumps make them slightly less optimal than certain alternatives.
Additionally, the landing shocks during ski jumps can be too much if you are not used to exercise and/or have weak ankles and/or knees.
You may also need to keep the arm movements in ski jumps small depending on your shoulder mobility.
That being said, it is still fair to say that ski jumps can offer many benefits.
If you like doing ski jumps, it could be worth adding them to your workout routine.
The personal preference benefit would make it easier to stick to your exercise habit.