Strength is something that every competitive racer needs in order to be successful. Whether it is raw power and fast twitch muscles to help with a sprint, or the kind of strength it takes to grind out a hilly 20 kilometer course.
Whether it’s one or the other, one thing is for certain, it all begins in the off season.
There is more than one way to go about strength training. One of the more effective ways of gaining strength for skiing is through using natural ski motions, and the best way to do that off of snow is on roller skis.
Strength in skiing allows us to be able to perform well at all of the things that have been mentioned in previous roller ski articles. Without strength it would be hard to maintain good technique while doing level 3 or 4 workouts or even races. This would also affect how well a skier could ski a long distance race or training session.
On top of this, strength also helps with keeping correct body position, having good power application, and also helps with preventing injuries, according to University of Utah head coach Eli Brown.
Now I’m not talking about all out brute strength and being able to bench 300 pounds, but I am talking about strengthening specific muscles in your body that are going to be used during ski season.
“It’s important not to bulk,” said University of New Hampshire Associate Professor of Exercise Science Daine Laroche. “It’s important to only develop the muscles that are needed.”
There are many ways of going about developing only the muscles needed for skiing through roller skiing.
According to Stratton Mountain Head coach Sverre Caldwell, there are many variations of different workouts that help to strengthen upper body and legs.
Some of these variations consist of workouts such as skating with no poles uphill for intervals, or doing a long skate workout completely without poles. Some others would be pulling another skier up a hill with an elastic band around your waist while double poling or no pole skiing for 10-30 seconds. Another work out that would also work on ski specific strength would be single sticking during a classic workout.
The one workout that seems to come up as the most important for strength with most coaches is a good two hour double pole workout, because it works on much of your upper body, which is where the majority of a skiers power comes from.
According to Caldwell, these workouts are most effective if done in a progression, as the off season moves along.
Caldwell mentioned that during the summer, he likes to have his athletes focus on more endurance strength, with the long double pole workouts or no pole skis. As the year progresses into the fall and gets closer to race time, he like to change over towards max strength or power with workouts such as the elastic pull, or short hard uphill workouts.
The USST has a similar idea, “With the USST athletes, we have specific periods during the preparation season of max strength and power strength training. We use the max strength training to get stronger and then attempt to convert that strength to power (speed + force) through the use of powerful movement training,” said USST sprint coach Chris Grover.
All of these workouts are very important, because, as Grover says, “Building a broad base of general strength allows a skier to build his or her ski-specific strength to greater heights.”
This means that if you’re a distance skier, these workouts will help to keep you strong through the entire race. And if you’re a sprinter, these general strength workouts will help to build upon the strength that you would need to summon at any point of a sprint race.