This two-part article will in summary attempt to identify the different strength training methods and the difference between them, as well as clarifying the recent trends in strength training for XC skiers at elite level. We also cover how young skiers and masters can use the new ideas in their training program. The first part of this article was posted on September 5th.
Traditional General Circuit Training
Choose 6-10 exercises that put together cover all main parts of your body, for example roller board, push-ups, triceps-press, step-ups, lunges, balance squat, jump-rope, vertical jumps, variations of sit-ups, back-ups, etc… Use medicine balls and Swiss ball for sit-ups and throwing-exercises that also work on your lower abdominals and obligues. Do each exercise in 30 seconds to 2 minutes work periods, and complete the circuit 2-4 times. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between each exercise and move quickly from one station to the next. Total training time 10 to 60 minutes including rest periods. Perform 1-2 times per week or 4-10 times per month. Core strength as described below can be a part of a circuit workout.
Trend: World Cup skiers are doing lots of double poling during distance; some top skiers are doing occasional distance skate training without poles. World Cup skiers are also doing lots of V2 and V2 alternate in uphills where V1 was normally used only a few years ago. Skiers want to become stronger and they are.
Advice: young skiers and master skiers can copy some of this trend – use more double poling and V2/V2 alternate in uphills, but realize that your lactate and heart rate will be higher and recovery longer. Start conservatively, use short segments and not entire distance sessions. Gradually increase the length of the specific strength segments.
Young skier can at the beginning focus on repeats in short uphills, then graduate to longer repeats, and finally in entire short (and flat) distance sessions.
Regular distance session with normal technique should dominate at a young age – let the kids learn to ski the natural way first.
Skating without poles should first be done as short repeats in gentle terrain. Short segments of distance workouts without poles can be then be added as variety, and 10-30 minutes without poles should be a good starting point for young skiers and master skiers.
The use of more double poling and power-demanding skate techniques put a higher demand on the need for a stronger abdomen (stomach) and back. Many of the skate techniques require enormous abdominal holding/static strength in addition to dynamic strength. Many nations have therefore stepped up the focus on developing good “core” endurance, max and sub maximal strength.
I consider myself strong and well trained for my age doing roughly 1-2+ hours of various types of strength training per week in addition to regular endurance training. I have however ignored core strength and was “schooled” in this department by Beckie Scott a couple weeks ago when I followed her core strength routine – It was a real eye opener!
Trend: Core strength training is used more and more by top skiers.
Advice: Skiers any age can start putting together stomach and back exercise where Swiss ball, medicine balls and body weight is used as resistance. Just remember to gradually ease in to it – don’t make it so hard that you don’t like it or avoid doing it because it’s so hard! The idea is to gradually develop these muscles – don’t jump into what the top skiers are doing after many years of hard training.
Core strength can follow warm-up before a weight room session.
Endurance (with good skiing technique) is still the single most important factor in achieving good results in Cross-Country skiing. Endurance training has normally accounted for roughly 85-90% of a skier’s total training volume, strength 7-15% and speed 1-2%. The recent changes towards more World Cup sprint races, short distance mass start racing, more use of double-poling in classic racing and the faster (but more strength demanding) skate techniques – in the US called V2 and V2 alternate (or open skate) and in Norway called double and single dance – have made the skiers change this distribution slightly.
The pure World Cup sprinters may now be doing as much as 5-10% pure sprint training, more weights and core strength than in the past (now 10-20%), and devoting a higher percent of their endurance training to various new interval training methods than in the past. They know however very well that they won’t win sprint races without great endurance. The current sprint race format includes 4 consecutive races at close to all-out effort – 3-3.5 minutes long including 1-2 uphills if you make it to the final in the Sprint World Cup races – it’s not skiing around the parking lot!
A rough guideline:
Sprinters: 2-5 x weights/circuit/core/explosiveness sessions per week – assuming 11-14 weekly sessions.
Regular elite skiers: 2-3 per week
Junior and masters: 1-3 per week
An important element in designing a training program is to make sure that the skier has balanced strength – is strong in all areas and not only in one or two muscle groups. Being able to do 10 triceps press and 0 chin-ups or doing very well in pull exercises like roller board while showing weakness in push-ups is an example of a skier that need help and guidance.
Variation – More – Higher Quality
Norwegian coach Ole Morten Iversen (Former Women’s and Junior National team coach) gave me some of his notes regarding strength training in 1997. Here are some excerpts:
– Not enough time is spent on strength training – the best Norwegian juniors are spending about 6% (25 to 30 hours per year) of their training doing strength and that is probably not enough.
– Many skiers are not gaining anything from strength training for a variety of reasons including: bad choice of exercises, wrong exercises, poor performance and technique in many exercises and too low of an effort during strength work-outs.
– Many skiers are thinking about logging enough strength in their training log instead of thinking about becoming stronger.
– Many are thinking that they need to work out in a health club with weights to gain strength.
– Strength is undervalued among skiers
– All the girls and most of the boys have lots to develop and gain in strength.
– There is more to gain in upper body strength than in lower body strength.
– The most important way of developing strength is to really use the poles actively when we have brought them to the workouts (ski walking, bounding, roller skiing and skiing)
– Different types of specific strength poling on rollerskis are another important part of specific strength development.
– Indoor circuit training is building the base for: maximum strength, general strength, specific strength with technique and improved endurance.
– It’s not the volume of strength training that matters, but the quality.
– The training load (not the weight) has to be heavy enough – the main rule is that you push to maximum/sub maximal number of reps in each series. When you start to feel tired, do 10-15 more reps.
– The skiers need to be highly motivated
– The speed needs to be high in most exercises.
– Let the strength training be the main workout once per week.
– Main rule: high intensity, be snappy and explosive in specific exercises.
– Variation will improve the results and benefits.
– Put in sprints and frequency (cadence) changes.
– Some weeks with lot of strength other weeks with little.
Editor’s Comment: If you would like to learn more about how to optimize your training or coaching, please check out John Aalberg and Torbjorn Karlsen’s Coaching Services (click on their advertisement banner on www.fasterskier.com or www.torbjornsport.com home pages for detailed information).