There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing ski squats, what will the effects be?
Ski squats are a variation of regular bodyweight squats where you put your feet close together and raise your arms forward and upward during the movement.
Generally, narrow-stance squats are thought to focus on quadriceps slightly more although studies do not always agree on this (1, 2, 3). Additionally, the arm movements work your shoulder muscles and cardiovascular system a tiny amount more.
That being said, ski squats are about as hard as a regular bodyweight squat.
One potential downside of ski squats is that it is hard to make the bodyweight version more challenging while keeping up the arm movements.
Especially if you are more experienced with leg resistance training, bodyweight ski squats may be too easy to cause a lot of progress. Instead of trying to do ski squats with weights, other weighted squat variations will likely be more convenient and effective.
Whether you should add ski squats or alternatives to your routine ultimately depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.
How to do a ski squat
To do a ski squat take the following steps:
- Stand up straight with your feet right next to each other and arms hanging by your sides.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you ideally want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement. At the same time move your arms forward and upward until they are horizontal.
- Push yourself up again into starting position by stretching your legs. Lower your arms back into starting position too.
The main attention point when doing ski squats is keeping your back more or less straight. Especially if you do this exercise with weights.
If the full ski squat is currently too hard for you, you can start by lowering your body only a small amount.
Some things you can do to make the ski squat harder are wearing a heavy weighted vest, using resistance bands, or jumping in the air at the top of the movement. Other weighted squat variations are likely more preferable.
Another option is doing bodyweight ski squats faster but this is to make it more of a cardio workout. If that is your goal something like running, the stairmaster, or cycling may be better choices.
Muscles worked with ski squats
Some of the primary muscles worked with ski squats include:
Some of the secondary muscles worked with ski squats include:
- Erector spinae
Narrow-stance squats are considered to be slightly more focused on the quadricep muscles compared to a regular-stance. However, not all studies reach similar conclusions (1, 2, 3). This small difference will not be that important in most situations.
Additionally, ski squats engage your shoulder muscles slightly more due to the extra arm movements.
The way you build muscle in places like your legs is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.
If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.
By adding extra resistance to exercises like ski squats you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time. If you don’t overdo it, give your body enough nutrients, and give your muscles enough rest this can in turn lead to faster and more leg muscle gain.
One downside of ski squats is that it is hard to make the bodyweight version more challenging if you want to stick to the ” ski” arm movements. This means that for individuals more advanced with leg resistance training, ski squats may be too easy to get a lot of results.
Benefits of ski squats
Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding ski squats to your routine can offer you some valuable benefits.
While ski squats have a tiny different muscle focus, most of their benefits are similar to regular squats. Some of the most important ones include:
- Stronger muscles: Ski squats are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your leg muscles.
- Can help with losing weight: Doing ski squats likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss.
- Improves mood: Exercise like ski squats promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
- Slows down aging: Ski squats won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.
- Flexibility and mobility: Ski squats can push your boundaries when it comes to range of motion of certain body parts, mainly your shoulders. By doing this you can gain some flexibility and mobility.
- Improves sleep: Exercise like ski squats can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
- No equipment or location required: Since ski squats are a bodyweight exercise you don’t have to invest in equipment or be in a specific location.
While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than ski squats, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
The main thing to keep in mind is that ski squats can be hard on body parts like your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and back, even if you implement the right technique.
If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any knee, shoulder, or back pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before implementing ski squats in your workout routine.
If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that ski squats are not (yet) for you.
Ski squat alternatives
While ski squats can be a good addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your leg muscles. Some of these ski squat alternatives include:
- Squat presses
- Other squat variations
- Front raises
Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.
Many people will benefit a lot from adding ski squats with the right technique to their routine. That being said, most people will stop seeing a lot of results relatively soon because bodyweight ski squats will become too easy.
You likely want to switch to bodyweight leg exercises focused on one leg at a time, other weighted squat variations, or other weighted leg exercises as soon as possible for more progress in a shorter amount of time.
Another thing you need to remember is that doing ski squats can be hard on body parts like your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and back, even if you implement the right technique.
If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any knee, shoulder, or back pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more ski squats.
Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing ski squats is a workout you love, great. If not other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.
If you do decide to implement more ski squats make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.