Primary Muscles Used for Cross-Country Skiing

Primary Muscles Used for Cross-Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing is the most dynamic winter sport. Unlike alpine skiing and snowboarding, which rely primarily on the core and lower body, cross-country skiing also makes active use of the muscles of the upper body. As such, a one hour session can burn a considerable number of calories. Additionally, since cross-country or Nordic skiing does not use chair lifts, the muscles that are used to climb up hills are actively engaged.

Core Muscles

In cross-country skiing, the abdominal core muscles are used in order to maintain dynamic balance. Additionally, the oblique muscles, which run diagonally across the torso, may be used in conjunction with the upper body.


The hamstrings are located in the backs of the legs. In cross-country skiing, they are involved in flexion of the leg.


The quadriceps are located in the front of the legs. These muscles actively extend or straighten the leg during cross-country skiing.


The gluteal muscles, otherwise known as the muscles in your buttocks, are used to climb up hills. Additionally, taking long strides in cross-country skiing involves active use of the gluteal muscles.

Leg Abductors and Adductors

The adductors are the inner thighs, and the abductors are the outer thighs. These muscle groups have two functions in cross-country skiing. They stabilize the knee, and they move the leg toward and away from the body.

Pectoral Muscles and Triceps

When using cross-country ski poles, the pectoral muscles, which are the muscles of your chest, and the triceps, which are the backs of your arms, are used to push the poles away from the body.

Rhomboids, Rear Deltoids and Biceps

The rhomboids are the muscles of the upper back. They are involved in pulling the shoulder blades together. The rear deltoids are located in the back of your shoulders, and the biceps are in the front of your arms. These pulling muscles work together to bring the poles toward and behind the body.


The gastronemius is the muscle of the calf. In cross-country skiing, it is used to support the actions of the lower leg.

Article Written By Lisa Mercer

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.

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