Written by Teemu Virtanen
Additional resource material by Lifemark, Fasterskier.com, langrenn.com
Cross-country skiing, and long distance in particular, is one of the truest forms of endurance sports. Racing for hours with high speed is certainly no easy walk in the park. Double poling has changed the face of the sport and Nordic skiing is evolving every year. Endurance and high VO2max levels are not enough in today’s skiing as strength and capacity have become more important than ever before.
In yesterday’s article by Leandro Lutz, you were able to read about training periodization. Let’s continue with more training related topics as we are approaching the dryland season, and proper training methods are of interest to us all.
For many skiers, there is still a chance to ski until May, and professional skiers should use this opportunity and get as many miles as possible on ski tracks before starting their actual summer training. But for others, the springtime is perfect for putting more focus on strength and resistance training (weight training).
Many sport enthusiasts may ponder what efficient strength training for cross-Country skiers is all about. And naturally, the question is not about getting stronger, but what is effective relative to skiing faster and how to become more powerful in double poling.
It does not help to have big and strong muscles and lose your oxygen uptake (VO2max). Then your muscles get filled with lactic acid, and you will not be able to go fast. But today’s skiing requires much more strength than in the glory days of diagonal striding, and a fine balance needs to be found when training strength and endurance side by side.
Many ski coaches claim that strength should be done at a minimum twice a week with weights during the dryland season. There are many different strength or resistance training programs for cross-country skiers, and we will take a closer look at some of our pro skiers’ weight training methods over the summer.
For now, let’s bring up some exercise examples so that you can get started with your strength training right away. The first example exercises are easy to do at home and you do not really need any weights, but dumbbells are helpful.
Single Leg Squat
You need a chair with or without dumbbells. Stand with hands on hips and reach back with one leg to place your toes about half a meter behind you. Squat with the other leg, ensuring your knee does not move in front of your toes. Stand back up again. Complete a set of 10-12 repetitions, rest 1 minute and repeat. Complete 3 sets. For more of a challenge, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
You need dumbbells. Stand with your feet together, holding dumbbells in your hands. Step directly sideways with one leg dropping down into a squat with your thigh parallel to the floor and your knee no more forward than your toes. Push explosively off the squatting leg and back up into the standing position. Do the same motion on the opposite side. Repeat the side to side motion 10 times, rest 1 min and repeat. Complete 3 sets.
Triceps Pull Downs
You need a pulley system or resistance band. Stand facing a pulley or attach a resistance band to a hook at head height or above. Grasp a rope attachment of the pulley or each end of the resistance band with hands at chin level. Extend your hands downwards towards your hips and straighten your elbows. Slowly come back up to the starting position. Complete a set of 10-15 repetitions, rest 1 minute and repeat. Complete 3 sets.
You don’t need any weights or additional gear for this. Support yourself horizontally, propped up on your elbows and toes. Hold this position for 30 seconds, relax for 30 seconds and repeat. Complete a set of 8-10 repetitions.
The plank exercise is very common among cross-country skiers, and I personally do planks on a regular basis at home. I have extended the 30 position to 90 seconds with a 30 second recovery and I repeat the 2 min set for 5-15 times (10-30 minutes).
Other good easy exercises to do at home are push-ups and pull-ups. For the latter, you need an iron bar attached in your doorway. Depending on your strength and capacity, you can do 15-30 push-ups and 5-20 pull-ups and have a short rest before repeating. Push-ups and pull-ups are also easy to do during your run or Nordic walking exercise outside. One very good workout is to run for an hour and do 20-50 push-ups every 10 minutes. Try it out and you shall see that it is very effective!
Remember that a good warm-up is always needed before starting any strength training. You can use easy weights or stationary bike or ski ergo. To improve in strength, you need to stress yourself and lift hard. There is no use in going half-heartedly. The two last repetitions on each set should be hard to complete, especially on the last set.
Here is another example of a strength training exercises and combinations taken from the langrenn.com & fasterskier.com sites:
- Bench press (put legs on the bench, not on the floor) & Pull-down
- Rowing /arm-pull while sitting & Arm-press with dumbbells using incline bench
- Back and stomach*
- Legs: Squats & hamstring curl (can do 10 – 12 reps with both of these)
- Finish off the session with triceps-dips to fatigue
*Back: Use incline bench with feet or legs fastened. Lay on stomach with upper body hinged outside bench. Raise your back with straight back and use dumbbells or weight plates as load.
*Stomach: “Pump”(as you’ve see boxers do) or crunch stomach until fatigue. Stomach is the only exercise with many reps. Can also use weight plates as extra load.
This session should be completed at least twice a week. You shouldn’t go “all out” on this session, but the two last reps in each set should still be hard. Eight exercises are usually enough per session. It also makes sense to write down your weights sot that you can notice your improvements.
These are just some examples of strength training exercises. You can come up with your and try different things. You don’t always need to go to a weight lifting gym to do strength training as many exercises can be done very easily at home as illustrated above. In our future articles, you will learn more about strength and resistance training and so-called “natural” strength workouts done by roller-skiing or skiing.