General Strength

FasterSkierOctober 5, 2009

Karl Nygren is a member of  CXC Team Vertical Limit.  His equipment sponsors are: Salomon skis/boots/bindings, Toko Wax, Polar Heart Rate Monitor, Swix Poles, Rudy Project Eyewear/Helmet, Marwe Rollerskis, Finn Sisu Stonegrinding  You can find out more about CXC Team Vertical Limit and CXC at  You can follow CXC Team Vertical Limit on their blog at

Skiing demands an interesting balance of cardiovascular fitness and strength.  Extremely lean runners, although fast on the track, often cannot keep pace on skies and weight lifter, although strong as a bull, get punished in the double pole.  Light yet strong muscles are therefore the answers and skiers tend to cut but not large.  It is debatable but often skiing alone is not sufficient to develop the strength required to race to one’s potential.  As a result, general strength is a weekly aspect of CXC Team Vertical Limit’s training.

In general our team training is structured progressively.  This means general strength training builds on itself throughout the year and is race orientated.  The year is divided into strength blocks each with a slightly different focus so come race season strength is not a limiting factor.

Yearly Progression Overview

Technique Preparation– High rep, low weight with emphasis on proper technique

Base Max Power– Increased weight and fewer reps.

Power Velocity– Lower weight increased velocity of motions

Max Power- A little more weight but keeping movement quick.

Ski Specific Power Velocity (strength block just before races start)

Maintenance Strength (during heavy racing/ important races)

Max Power then Power Velocity (prior to final important races)

Maintenance Strength (during heavy racing/ important races)

Training is also periodic on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis so that hard efforts are followed by recovery.  General strength is taxing and in order to keep hard days hard and easy days easy we include strength on hard days.  With this being said general strength is never given priority.   Typically Tuesday and Thursday are intervals in the morning followed by general strength in the afternoon.   Intervals come first, optimizing their quality. Strength is important but fitness is far more crucial.  Strength therefore plays a supplemental role in our training.


Strength and Coordination training are one and the same.  The ability to properly use muscles contributes drastically to your strength.  The first improvements from a strength regiment are the result of better coordination and concerted application of force.  Agility ladder and hurdles play a fundamental part of our team strength training. Steve Myrland, a highly experienced strength coach and inventor of the agility ladder helped us extensively at our September training camp.  Ladder drills provide are a great warm-up because they teach quickness, balance, and coordination. Fundamental jumping, hopping, and bounding mechanics are the basis for complicated movements and therefore very important.  The arms for example needed to be helping the legs and movements need to be one concerted motion.  A great warm-up, therefore, might include a series of ladder drills, two legged hurdle jumps, one legged hurdle hops, broad jumps, and lateral skate bounds.  This engages far more muscles then a simple jog and develops coordination and agility.  Task oriented drills are also great.   Letting athletes discover how to use their body is often a better way to learn then simply being told.

Hypertrophy or the enlarging of muscles is generally something skiers try to avoid.  Light strong muscles are ideal because muscles require oxygen.  When effort is maximal lactic acid begins to accumulate as the oxygen supplied to muscles becomes insufficient. When completely tanked muscles super compensate and become larger to better handle future stress.  This usually occurs with high weight, medium rep when muscles are maximally fatigued.  To avoid hypertrophy do not continually lift to failure. Simply choose appropriate weight.

Gus Kaeding ripping out some pushups
Gus Kaeding ripping out some pushups

It is often hard to lift smart.  The pressure always exists to put on more weight or try stupid lifts.  During an over distance roller ski a while back someone joked that real men can bench their body weight.  Of course this lead to a pointless competition where we all gave it a try.  Situations like this, although refreshing and entertaining, should be kept to a minimum and not become routine.  The goal is to develop strength that helps you ski faster.  For guys, this usually means avoiding what your buddy is doing to work on his beach body.  As much as general strength training can help your skiing it can also hurt it.  It is important that once a foundation is developed velocity and power also come into play as referred to in the yearly progression.  Both velocity and power are functions of time and therefore grunting and groaning to slowly lift too much weight is counterproductive.  Race results are not determined by how much you lift but the proper strength that is developed. This often means swallowing your pride and using less weight then other people in the weight room.  Lifting too much weight especially during race season will doubtlessly slow you down.

General Strength Pointers

-General strength twice a week

-Develop two general strength routines for each strength block and spread them out in the week.

-Begin with a good plyometric, ladder, hurdle based warm up.

-Be mindful to incorporate ski appropriate lifts with the appropriate weight.

-Keep sessions to around an hour while still allowing for sufficient rest between sets and exercises.

-Technique and speed, when appropriate, have priority over weight.

-Progression throughout the years is important.

-Doing the same lifts with the same weight the entire year accomplishes little.

-Incorporate a good core body routine

-Visit to watch strength progressions

Karl Nygren
Karl Nygren


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