The Secret to Stronger Water-Skiing

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In the spirit of outdoor activity and putting the fun in fitness, here’s some great information and exercises that will improve your water-skiing. Prefer the colder cousin to water skiing, downhill skiing? No problem! This article focuses on strengthening your skiing skills and while we created it with water in mind, the tips are definitely applicable to improving your downhill form. 

As anyone who has tried it knows, water-skiing is more complicated than standing up and holding onto a rope! It’s a sport of skill and strength, and requires many muscle movements to do it right and comfortably. When getting ready to hit the water, focus on developing these key areas while in the gym (we don’t want unauthorized splits with those skis on!): leg stability, inner thighs, back, core and forearms. With a little extra attention, you’ll find you’re able to get out of the water easier, feel more stable cutting in and out of the wake, up your speed by a few MPH and prolong that beautiful ride by minutes, not seconds. And for people who don’t think they’re water skiers, maybe this article will convince you otherwise!

Water Skiing Tips

If you’re not a water skier, know that it’s a great, challenging workout that’s worth a try. Water sports like water-skiing and wakeboarding are a great way to get out in nature on a beautiful day, and some of the best workouts you can do on the lake! Besides, when else do you get to travel right on the surface of the water at a pace of 15 MPH?

When you start out as a water skier, you can either do a dock start or a deep water start. For a dock start, you start at the end of the dock holding the ski rope, and get pulled by the driver from there. For a deep water start, the boat driver will bring the boat to the center of the lake, then help you get set up in the water with the ski rope. For first time skier students, it’s usually best to start from the dock, as it can be difficult to get skis on your feet in deep water! Another recommendation for first time students is to use trainer skis. One of the harder parts about skiing is keeping both skis up and in a straight line against the forces of the water and boat driver. Trainer skis have a small piece of rope or plastic at the tip of the skis that keep them together. This takes pressure off the skier, who already has a lot to think about when they’re focused on getting up! Trainer skis are popular for kids, but there’s no shame in using them to start.

As any ski instructor will tell their students, getting up is the hardest part of water skiing, and there are a lot of important things to remember in the moment. Remember that practice makes perfect, and most people will fall a bit before they get it right! Learning to ski can feel like a vicious cycle of falls, but when you have energy and muscle strength on your side, you’ll pop up in no time! Make sure you dig your heels in, point the skis straight forward (trainer skis help with this), keep your elbows in and and your hands tight on the rope handle. You’ll want to keep your head and eyes looking up, and let your body handle the rest. It’s important to make sure your feet are tight in the bindings – your toes should be cushioned in. And of course, it’s absolutely crucial that you wear a life jacket, no matter how talented of a skier you are.

Here’s some important information: Being a water skier is as much in your head and mind as it is in your muscles. It doesn’t matter how much you work out on solid ground: It’s not easy to be pulled on a handle, behind a boat, in any direction the driver chooses, wearing no gear except a life jacket, at a speed of 15-20 MPH. For most people, kids or adults, it’s not exactly a natural thing! That’s where your mind comes in. Skiing can deplete your energy quickly, but if you’re in the right mindset and enjoying yourself, you can take your ski run from seconds to minutes, and get a great workout in. Just make sure that if you feel major pain outside of muscle exertion at any point, you stop. You don’t want to wake up with stiff joints and an injury the next morning!

Types of Skis

Let’s go over some important information about the different types of skis. In addition to trainer skis, there are combo skis, slalom skis and trick skis. Trick skis are, as the name implies, designed for performing tricks on the water. Their shape is wider and shorter than regular skis, to provide stability. For trick skiers, skiing is as much a fun game as it is a hobby. There are even worldwide water sports competitions for it! Trick skiing is some of the fastest skiing out there, and the best skiers in the world are moving at over 20 MPH. Of course, trick skiing increases your risk of injury, so it’s best not to try it until you’ve mastered being a student of regular and slalom skiing. Slalom water skiing is just like regular skiing, except with only one ski! The single slalom skis have adjustable binding for both your feet. You’ll be pulled at faster MPH, and you’ll need a really strong core to keep your balance. It may sound intimidating, but it’s a great challenge, and if you’ve mastered regular water skiing after a few weeks, you might want to give slalom-style a try!

Having the flexibility to choose between double or slalom skiing is the reason that many people buy combo skis. Combo skis have binding for two feet on one ski, and binding for one foot on the other ski, so their purpose is to be used for regular skiing or slalom.

Water Skiing Strength

The sport of water skiing requires maximum output from the muscles throughout your entire body, so water skiers will want to focus on training their core muscles, lower body and upper body strength. In addition to a strong core and body, you also want to think about grip strength and endurance. Unlike most workouts, like cardio or powerlifting, waterskiing requires you to hold the same slightly-sitting position. Of course, you’ll shift your posture slightly if you encounter waves, or if your driver makes a sudden turn, but your stabilizer muscles and abs will mostly just be holding you in place. That’s why strong legs, strong core muscles and a strong upper body are all so important!  

Here are some basic exercises to help you strengthen all of those areas and get your muscles and joints in shape for the slopesthe water ski slopes of course! We recommend that all water ski students cycle through these exercises in whatever order you like, with 8-12 repetitions of each exercise, 2-3 times per week! 

Inner Thighs

Your legs will bear your weight as you stand upright on the water. Strengthening them will make your ride longer and far more enjoyable!

Lateral Lunges: Make sure to keep one leg straight and focus on sitting back on your hip. Weights are not necessary, but adding small or large weights – whatever size works for you – is a great way to increase intensity and burn extra calories. You can always start with body weight and add weights next time.

Back

Your back and your core work together to keep you stabilized while you ski. 

Single Arm Standing Rows: This exercise is a great way to build strength and stability at the same time. Use whatever size weights you’re comfortable with, and make sure you keep your elbow at a 90-degree angle when you drive the dumbells back!

Core

Simple crunches just won’t put enough pressure on your abs to give you the core strength you need for a sport —that’s a fact. Focus on the kind of movements that require strong force from your core while standing on the ground. These can help burn more calories because you’re engaging your total body, not just your abs.

Anti-Rotation Overhead Press: Start with the band pressed into your chest and push up while keeping your core engaged. Make sure to keep a straight vertical line while pushing up.

Side Planks with a Row: This movement is another great core strength exercise. We also recommend pull-ups, if that’s in your fitness wheelhouse! 

Forearms

While working all of these muscles, it’s easy to forget the simple things that apply to water-skiing, like HOLDING ON! 

Dumbbell Farmer’s Walks: Hold heavy dumbbells or kettlebells by your side, keep your back straight, and WALK! Done deal. We recommend starting with 10lb weights and adding weight accordingly.

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