Elliptical Skiing Workouts

Rear view of a woman on an elliptical machine in front of a window

The elliptical is a stationary exercise machine similar to a treadmill that simulates the movement of walking, running, stair-stepping or skiing. The primary advantage of the elliptical over these exercises is that it provides a smooth, non-jarring workout that won't put a lot of pressure on your knees and other joints. Choose from a variety of elliptical skiing workouts, from cross-country skiing, to skiing up inclines, to working out the arms.

Elliptical Benefits

Elliptical machines have a smooth, repetitive motion free of the obstacles, trees and uneven ground that can interrupt a normal skiing session. Because of this, ellipticals can be less stressful on your knees, hips and back. Additionally, many elliptical machines have adjustable handles, or poles that are similar to ski poles, which allow you to get a workout for both your arms and legs. Most elliptical machines can be pedaled in reverse, allowing you to exercise different muscle groups, particularly your calf and hamstring muscles. Skiing in reverse on a normal slope is generally ill-advised. Finally, due to how easy they are to use, elliptical trainers help you burn more calories while feeling less exertion than many other forms of exercise.

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is a cardiovascular endurance sport that works out your heart and lungs in addition to your lower body. The elliptical is designed to simulate these movements of cross-country skiing over a flat surface, and the frequency and intensity of your workouts will determine how much cardiovascular exercise you can achieve. If you are training for a specific cross-country ski trip, you can calculate the distance you will be travelling and use the elliptical's built-in distance tracker to monitor your progress. If you are training for a race or other competitive cross-country event, you can add the elliptical's clock function to mark your time and push yourself to improve. Cross-country elliptical workouts should be performed with no variation in the pace and on a zero incline for a more effective cardiovascular workout.


Part of the challenge of cross-country skiing is going up and down hills. Most elliptical machines feature an adjustable incline option to simulate skiing up a hill, and this can increase the intensity of your workout by a huge factor. Skiing up an incline works out your glutes, hamstrings and calves while also increasing your heart and respiratory rates. Before using the elliptical incline feature, begin with a short warm-up at a flat or low incline angle, gradually increasing the incline until you reach your desired level of uphill resistance. Stay at this level for as long as you feel comfortable, then gradually lower the incline until you are back to your starting position. Cool off with a few minutes at zero incline before stopping the session.

Arm Strength

Elliptical ski machines feature arm handles or poles that simulate the back-and-forth motion of ski poles. These handles allow you to get a good upper-body workout for your arms, shoulders and upper back. Most elliptical machines allow you to adjust the resistance on these handles. Begin with a low resistance, and as you perform your cross-country or incline exercises, increase the resistance on the handles as well. This can be an excellent way to develop arm strength.


As with any form of exercise, always warm up before and cool down after the workout. Regular exercise is essential if you want to see any benefits; use your elliptical machine at least three to five times per week. Always maintain good posture on the elliptical, with your shoulders pulled back, your head and spine straight and your abdominals braced.