How to Change Your Strength Training Workouts

Q: I’m starting year 2 of CXC Academy. I would like to understand the reasoning behind the strength workouts. Should build on it and not start all over again?

Adaptation is a good thing—it means you’ve been working consistently and your body is stronger and able to handle your workouts. When we are looking at strength workouts in a structured program, it is often very common to do a little restart at the beginning of the season. What this does is it will bring us back to a more neutral starting spot in our training.

Since you are going into your second year we could change this up a little. The main change I would recommend for you is maybe doing the first week or two at a relatively low weight, but then once you are feeling comfortable with the exercises moving up your weight each week.

Generally, if we are looking for the best way to gain or maintain muscular strength we need to be ensuring that there is a consistent load. This can take a few different forms. If you like the number of sets and reps each exercise is at currently, then I would recommend writing down the weight you use for each exercise, and then next time you do that same exercise I would want you to increase your weight by 5 or 10 lbs depending on what the type of movement it is. If you are looking to keep the weight the same then we could increase the number of reps for each set to have a similar effect on the muscular load our body is put under.

Hopefully, this information helps you understand the plan a little better.

– Matt Clarke

Improving Strength and Resiliency on Uphills

Q: I want to improve my strength and resiliency on uphills over the summer and into the fall, what are the types of strength and aerobic workouts I should work on? 

Since all regulated races are subjected to one-third of the course being uphill (1/3 flat and 1/3 downhill) this means minute-for-minute in all the time you spend out on the race course a whopping half of it (50%) is spent going uphill! 

That means this is an area you definitely want to focus on, so this is a great question. 

Let’s talk about what’s going on the body when nordies race uphills. Among other things, two important factors are:

– Body reaches aerobic work rates of at least 90-95% Vo2peak and could be as high as 061% VO2peak (Anderson et. al., 2017; Karlsson et al., 2018)

– Body mechanics change. In an effort to become more economical, we alter our technique to adapt to the demands of the terrain. (Stoeggl et al., 2016)

The short answer to your question is: do uphill training up to 4x a week in your larger volume weeks starting around the end of training period 1.  

This can look like a couple different things:

– cycling uphill

– mountain hikes with poles

– uphill bounding with poles

– plyometics and ski-specific uphill jumping

– uphill roller skiing

– trail running on segments with more natural elevation gain 


A general suggested outline for a training plan that adequately incorporates uphill training would be as follows:

May-June: Engage in base-training by simply doing distance hikes in level 1 and naturally occurring level 2 zones. This means uphill hiking with poles, cycling, trail running and roller skiing. 

July-August: This is where you really increase your aerobic capacity with uphill threshold workouts, both sustain L3 uphill and L3 uphill interval training. By the end of this period you should have increased your aerobic capacity substantially. 

August-November: Here is where you add in the uphill plyometric work to increase strength and power. It’s time to be explosive, each uphill jump counts and quality is of upmost importance here as you hone in on muscle recruitment. 1-2x quality plyometric sessions/week.

You should have 1-3 level 4/5 uphill intervals during your harder weeks & practice some uphill speeds either in targeted speed workouts or at the end of interval sessions. 

November-December: Bring your efforts to the trails with practice application of your training efforts to on-snow time trials, intervals and your first races of the season. 

December-March: Notice you’re better at racing uphills than ever before. Each training day should be spent with acute focus on uphill skiing technique to further your economy in all sub techniques. 



Source: Ski Post

Choosing Between General and Functional Strength

Q: Within the year, when is a good time to switch between functional and general strength training, or visa versa? Would you recommend one over the other?

A: CXC Academy is offering two strength training programs. Each month you’ll have the option to pick which plan to follow based on your time and training goals.

Our “General Strength” training plan is a targeted strength program that is easy to execute. It’s specifically designed for those with busy schedules to hit the ground running and maximize the effectiveness of your training time.

Our “Functional Strength” training plan is a deeper dive into the philosophy of strength training. Using over 30 years of experience Coach Steve Myrland focuses on the importance of human kinetic chains functioning in all three planes of motion. This training plan will require more time, and patience, as we break down and master new techniques. But with more effort comes more reward. At the end of this training routine you’ll have a rock solid foundation, both physically and mentally, to achieve your race goals.

The first thing to consider is that a body functions as chain where each link must be fully connected to the links on either side of it and proper tension is created and maintained. A chain cannot function with out tension. (Try pushing one!)

A simple answer would be that functional strength and general strength should be looked at as being complementary to each other and not necessarily being mutually exclusive.

They can both be used at the same time during the year. It also depends upon what general strength you are doing. If you are doing a light “circuit” style strength workouts, this can be looked at as a foundation for other phases of strength training, like a period of max strength, when you are ready to tolerate it, or as a maintenance strength workout in the winter. A bigger question is how is your body responding to each type of strength training and how is it benefitting you?  

Put another way, 8 weeks at the start of the training year is a good time to practice lighter strength training to lay a foundation for harder strength training in more intense times of training during the dryland season. Then, as an athlete phases into the race season, strength training loads should be dropped down and strength should shift to a focus of maintenance gains made during harder strength training.

Human kinetic chains must be fully functional in three planes of motion. Since bodies live—always—in all three planes simultaneously, it is essential that we be wholly adaptable in all three, instead of wholly adapted in one.

Q: Within the year, when is a good time to switch between functional and general strength training, or vice versa? Would you recommend one over the other? Answered by Andrew Musgrave

Canadian Strength Test for Strength Assessment

Enjoy a great video introduction to the Canadian Strength Test with Colin Rogers.

If you’re training this summer in more or less consistent manner, evaluate your fitness level and plan accordingly from period to period. Repeating strength tests at the beginning of every other period will help highlight areas that need improvement or adjustment.

GOAL: compile baseline data for the year of personal strengths and opportunities. Help direct your attention for the rest of the summer preparation.

Picking Weights

You’ll want to make sure your weights aren’t too heavy or too light. The handle should feel good in your hand, and the weights shouldn’t cause too much muscle fatigue during lifting. Focus on keeping your form intact. You may be able to lift more with bad form because you’re using other muscle groups, but doing so could cause injury and wouldn’t necessarily target the correct muscles. 

If you’re working the glutes and doing squat lifts, a heavier weight might be better. But if you’re working the back of the shoulders, a smaller muscle group, you can go with lighter weights. Generally speaking, large muscle groups or multiple muscle groups working together on compound exercises are usually able to lift more weight than smaller muscle groups.

In sum up: pick a pair of weights that feels comfortably challenging. You should be able to finish all of your reps with good form. If you’re fatiguing halfway through a set, choose a lighter set.


Training with Ian / thoughts on strength training for cross country skiers


Ways To Improve LT, VO2 Max, Economy and Strength


* also called the “anaerobic threshold (AT)”

  • Large volume of training at endurance intensity (adaptation occurs over months and years)
  • Train around the LT: 1 – 3 workouts per week over 4 to 8 weeks (adaptation occurs over days and weeks)



  • Max V02 is built through a large volume of endurance intensity training!
  • High intensity intervals (at 95% of max); 1 – 3 workouts per week over a 4 to 8 week period (adaptation occurs over days and weeks)



  • Improve Technique
  • Strength Training
  • Intervals and Speed
  • Equipment (less friction on the snow for instance)



  • General
    General and maximum strength enables the athlete to build specific strength safely and to maximum effect. General strength covers all major muscle groups, targeting the body’s core and important joints.
  • Specific
    Specific and endurance strength is of primary importance to cross-country skiers. It uses ski specific motions, intensities and duration.

Recommended Training Regimen For Shorter Races

Q: I ‘m 67, and only race 10-12k races. I am unsure as to how this affects recommended training regimens.

Most information I read seems to be for racers that either do only long races, or both short and long. I suspect that over-distance/over-time training should still be done, but I am not sure how often.

I also am only able to assume that they only need to be about 25% longer than the length of time I typically race. I am also unsure how frequently intense aerobic workouts should be done by people who only race short distances. I assume that they should be done more frequently than is recommended for long distance racers.

So, I’m basically operating on a lot of assumptions and would greatly appreciate any guidance you could provide.

A: You’re correct in assuming that over-distance (OD) training should still be a part of your training. Even World Cup sprinters, who specialize in events that are between 2:30 and 4 minutes long, do large amounts of easy distance, and tend to train 800-900 hours per year.

I’m loathe to give hard-and-fast advice without knowing too much about someone’s training history. That said, regardless of what events you’re racing, I think a good rough guide is to try to get in [per week]:

* 1 very long workout. The length of this is dependent on the individual (age, training history, injury limitations) and/or conditions (shorter when it’s very hot or cold, or if the terrain is very hard).

* 2 strength sessions. Again, this depends on what you need to improve – for all I know, you’re a former powerlifter who’s just learned to ski – but working on core strength and improving the muscles you use while poling is rarely a bad idea.

* 1-2 intensity sessions. As you may have expected, again – this depends on a lot of different things. If it’s spring or summer, you’ll probably focus more on longer, easier intervals around your threshold, and if you’re trying to peak, you’ll focus more on very short and hard intervals. In general, though, I think it’s best to try to keep some touch with intensities close to your race pace.

Based on how much time you have to train and your level of fatigue, I’d fill in the rest of week with easy sessions.

Jason Cork
U.S. Ski & Snowboard

Training Periods for Cross-Country Skiers

Recover from the physical, mental and emotional stresses of training and racing. Complete rest is fine, but active rest is better.

Begin building into your modes of training.


Base training is so called because it is the base upon which later phases of training are built.

Aerobic endurance is the number one component of cross-country ski racing, and it is the component of ski racing which takes the most time to develop. It is the primary aim of the base training period.

2hr rollerski or run split between level 1 and 2 or a 3hr bike on hilly terrain split between level 1 and 2.

Please note: about 80% of all training is endurance training. The rest is strength, intervals and races, etc.


  • General: power and strength-endurance are built on max strength. General strength develops overall tendon and muscle strength necessary to support latter forms of training. General strength is the focus through the spring and summer.

After building up to weight training for 5-6 weeks, include some ski specific high weight and low rep work.

  • Specific: specific strength becomes more a focus later in the summer and into the fall once a solid base of general strength has been established.

Endurance session using only double pole over gradual terrain.

Most intensity should be below the lactate threshold early in the summer. Anaerobic training such as speed is good, but hard aerobic and anaerobic intervals should be kept to a minimum early on.

2×10 minutes at 5 bpm below LT with 2 minutes rest between intervals. Start with 1-2 sessions a week.

Technique and Speed:
Speed training during the base period should not be done at a hard intensity (short bouts of speed with full recovery are recommended) and should be oriented toward using correct movements at race speeds – not at moving at an unrealistic pace.

Incorporate 10-20sec bursts of speed into your endurance training.


Training becomes quite specific to the motions and intensity of ski racing. Aerobic endurance is still the primary focus, but the means to develop it have become more specific and more intense.

Training volume levels off or even decreases slightly to allow for the increase in intensity. Most of the training volume is aerobic endurance training – low intensity training of medium to long duration.

Rollerski or run almost exclusively in level 1.


  • General: general strength takes a back seat to specific strength. Max strength is the general strength focus in this period (for only 4 weeks). Strength endurance is the primary concern of a skier, but power and max strength cannot be neglected.

Circuit using body weight exercises and more ski specific motions. Include some fairly ski specific max-strength exercises as well.

  • Specific: rollerski specific strength sessions are the primary forms of strength training and should be predominantly endurance based. Skiers should also incorporate plyometric, explosive jumping exercises into their strength routine during the pre-competition phase.

10 x 200m single pole, 10 x 200m double pole. Distance double pole session over all terrain.

During the Pre-comp phase, duration and intensity of “intensity” training should reach levels similar to competition. High intensity (VO2, above threshold) intervals are used. This type of training must be built up to, to be effective.

(LT) 2min, 3min, 5min with equal recovery, times 3 at LT. At the end of each interval you should feel like you could have kept going. At the end of the workout, you should feel like you could have done more. (VO2) 5x5min with half recovery at 95% of max (target heart-rate will not be meet until the second interval). Each interval should take you the same distance.

Technique and Speed:
All training is technique oriented. Speed training is a great way to train the anaerobic system, but also to learn to ski relaxed and with smooth technique at a challenging pace.

10-20 x 20sec incorporated into an endurance session.


The transition onto snow demands a decrease in training intensity because of the increased load of snow skiing. Training volume usually peaks during this phase of training.

Endurance sessions strictly at level 1. Intensity can be done on foot rather than skis.

Christmas Stars and Thanksgiving Turkeys: skiers who do not monitor their training intensity properly during this phase often unwittingly raise the overall training load too quickly. The result is often a short-lived spike in fitness followed by a long-term decrease in race performance. Racers who peak early are known as Christmas Stars or Thanksgiving Turkeys. Example for the early snow period of the pre-comp phase.


Proper base and pre-competition training leads to a high level of fitness, which leads to consistent races all year long. A properly trained skier should be able to aim at a certain block or a few blocks of races throughout the season and still compete consistently at a high level throughout the season.



Training volume must rise after a block of key races where the volume will have been lowered.

1.5hr session mostly in level 1.

Races and interval sessions must be balanced, but intervals cannot be neglected especially early in the race season. Be careful with intervals between race weekends, especially at altitude, as it can be hard to recover.

(LT) 3×7 min at 5 bpm over LT with 3 minutes rest. At the end of each interval you should feel like you could have kept going. At the end of the workout, you should feel like you could have done more. (VO2) 3min, 4min, 5min times 2 with equal recovery. Each interval should take you the same distance.

If not done systematically, must be incorporated into distance or interval work.

Specific Strength:
For strength to continue to progress, specific strength must be conducted on snow as it was done on rollerskis early in the competition period.

General Strength:
Circuit strength that aims to maintain max strength and power as well as a general muscular balance is important. Rollerboard can be used here and with all circuit strength.

Circuit using a wide variety of body weight exercises as well as more dynamic exercises to maintain power.

Results are secondary to continued technical and fitness improvements.



Training volume drops. Training frequency (number of training outings) can remain unchanged to avoid feeling stale.

(Frequency) lower the duration of endurance training but keep the number of sessions the same; (duration) lower the number of sessions but keep the duration the same.

Sharpening intervals. Fitness has been gained; intervals now are for feeling sharp and fresh, not improving fitness level.

(Peaking intervals) 3×3 min just below LT w/ equal recovery, followed by 3×2 min above LT w/ equal recovery, followed by 4×30 sec all out with full recovery.

Same idea as with intervals.

Minimal maintenance strength if any at all.

Achieving your racing goals is the focus.

Please note: It can be good to bump up to a high(er) volume of training between important races so long as the intensity is kept very low. Sometimes using alternative methods of training, running, cycling, etc is a good way to do this. This helps keep the skier fresh, keep the muscles “clean” and “clear.” You have to know yourself to monitor this.


Source: The Ski Post

How do I train between my key races?

ENDURANCE: Training volume drops. Training frequency (number of training outings) can remain unchanged to avoid feeling stale.


  • Frequency: lower the duration of endurance training but keep the number of sessions the same.
  • Duration: lower the number of sessions but keep the duration the same.

INTENSITY: sharpening intervals; fitness has been gained; intervals now are for feeling sharp and fresh, not improving fitness level.


  • Peaking intervals: 3×3 minutes just below LT w/ equal recovery, followed by 3×2 minute above LT w/ equal recovery, followed by 4x30seconds all out with full recovery.

SPEED: same idea as with intervals.

STRENGTH: minimal maintenance strength if any at all.

RACE: achieving your racing goals is the focus.

PLEASE NOTE: it can be good to bump up to a high(er) volume of training between important races so long as the intensity is kept very low. Sometimes using alternative methods of training, running, cycling, etc is a good way to do this. This helps keep the skier fresh, keep the muscles “clean” and “clear.” You have to know yourself to monitor this.


Differences in Upper Body Power Between Men and Women

Q: I was recently watching… a biathlon world cup race on TV and one of the commentators said that the distribution of power between arms and legs is about

· 60% arms / 40% legs for men and

· 35% arms / 65% legs for women

I was shocked/surprised by the 60% arms / 40% legs for men; I know that strong arms (and core!) are important but I didn’t think arms take up so much more of the work load. I am far from being a pro, but I can hold my own in races and I am pretty fit, yet I feel like I exert nowhere close the 60% arms / 40% legs level, if anything I feel like I would be in the 60% legs / 40% arms area (or maybe 50/50, although I have no way of measuring this). But then again, I may well have a bad technique.

N.B.: BTW, I am referring to skating, not classic.


A: The best response to your question comes from a 2015 study by Hegge et. al. where they took 8 elite male and female skiers to find if upper body power was augmented by increasing exercise intensity, and if there was a difference between genders.

They found that a higher lean mass in the upper body of men meant:

1) A higher power output
2) A higher 1-repetition maximal weight lifting in a strength exercise
3) A higher peak aerobic capacity

They also found that during upper body exercise, men came closer to to their whole-body VO2max than women (76% vs. 67%).

Now, for the exact gender-based distribution between the arms and legs during skating, I am not sure. But the research from the article mentioned indicates that you can certainly obtain a high percentage of overall power from the upper body alone, and that elite men consistently show higher upper body power output than elite women, so it is possible that the commentator was on the right track.

Article Source: Are Gender Differences in Upper-Body Power Generated by Elite Cross-Country Skiers Augmented by Increasing the Intensity of Exercise?

Hegge AM, Myhre K, Welde B, Holmberg HC, Sandbakk Ø (2015) Are Gender Differences in Upper-Body Power Generated by Elite Cross-Country Skiers Augmented by Increasing the Intensity of Exercise?. PLOS ONE 10(5): e0127509.