Main Staples of Fall Training

Q: I tend to do the same training all year round. I do way too much long slow distance – or short slow/medium distance. How should I change my training in the fall vs the summer?



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.


  • 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. Example: 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. Example: 10×200 meters single pole, 10×200 meters double pole. Distance double pole session over all terrain.


During the pre-competition 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. Example: (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 met until the second interval). Each interval should take you the same distance.


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. Example: 10-20×20 seconds incorporated into an endurance session.

by Andy at SkiPost, Cross Country Ski Source

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.

Length of Recovery Time Between Sets in General Strength

In regards to strength training, all sets are not alike. The length of recovery time between sets depends on the intensity (amount of weight) and the number of reps in each set. If you are lifting a light weight with many reps, the recovery time between sets should be lower. As a general rule of thumb, we like to give ourselves 1:30-2:00 min for the longer endurance sets of 10+ reps. For sets targeting heavier weights at lower reps, say 5-9 reps we would give ourselves 2-3 min of recovery time. As a general rule, plyometrics and body weight based exercises should only need around 2 min of recovery.

The difference in reps per set is due to a difference in objective. For sets of 10 or more reps, we are targeting muscular endurance. For the shorter sets, we are targeting muscular strength.  For our training purposes, you should find a weight that induces fatigue for the assigned number of reps.


Here is and example of how your general strength workout should proceed:

Jump Rope       (30 sec,  (equal recovery for the warmup) 30 sec rest) x 3
then, after completion of 3 sets of jump rope:
Step-Taps          (30 sec,  (equal recovery for the warmup) 30 sec rest) x 3

One-Ins 4 sets (run through the ladder with the one-in technique, rest then repeat consecutively) x 4 then move on to Forward Slalom Jumps

The exercises are to be completed in the order they are listed. Finish the entire 4 sets of One-ins, for example, before moving on to the forward slalom jumps.

As far as the warm-up goes, the Jump Rope and Step-Taps should be ample. That being said, everyone is different and you may not feel “warmed up” yet.  It doesn’t hurt to add to the warm up, just remember that the purpose is to prepare your body for strength, not to add volume.

Strength Room Weight Range for Women

For a moderately strong women, I would suggest anything from 45 lbs and under. If you find this to be easy still for the amount of reps prescribed, there are a few ways you can make the exercise more difficult:

1. Adding in instability through a bosu ball or foam pad

2. Slowing down the movement to a 3 count on the way down and 3 count on the way up.

3. Holding weight away from body so that you are forced to use core to keep back straight and upright.

Remember that technique is the most important thing in doing any weight lifting exercise. Full range of motion in the correct movement should come before any increase in weight.


Selecting Weight To Intensify Strength Exercise

With strength training you want to find a weight or progression of each exercise that allows you to complete it with some strain but still with good technique. If an exercise gets too easy where you feel like you’re not getting much out of the exercise, adding weight or some sort of difficulty to the exercise is a good option. What I mean by difficulty is by adding instability or taking away any assistance you may be getting.

For example, the bench dips, you can either add weight, move to bar dips, or perhaps replace bench under feet with an exercise ball. Each one of these options should make things more difficult for you and get you back down to prescribed sets and reps.


The general rule of thumb I use for weight lifting, is choosing a weight you can complete the exercises with using correct technique and full range of motion. It is important to pick a weight that challenges you, but not too much where you are struggling through each motion and compromising your technique.

Another way to figure out how to increase weights, is by the figuring out the percentage of your 1 Rep Maximum weight. Find the absolute max weight you can lift in a certain lift and then do a percentage of that weight. Remember to have good form when determining that one max rep.

For lifts of 8-12 reps. between 60-70% of 1 Rep max is appropriate
5-8 reps: 70 – 80%
3-5 reps: 80-90%
1-3 reps: 90%+

Hope this helps and good luck with training going forward.

Coach, CXC Academy

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How Fast to Progress on Adding Weight

Q: I am somewhat new to the use of goblets and medicine balls and am wondering how fast to progress on adding weight. I am feeling very comfortable at the eight to ten pound weights currently.

A: Here is the answer straight from our strength coach, Andy Keller:

“Now that we have lowered the number of reps we are doing we would like to increase the amount of weight or adding difficulty to each exercise. I would suggest adding an amount of weight that makes the exercise difficult enough where the last couple reps are harder.

Be aware that adding too much weight will cause your technique to decline and that is not something we want. We are still looking for completing exercises with full range of motion and they are under control.. If adding weight isn’t an option for exercises, try adding some difficulty through unstable surfaces or adding in some other perturbations. Also make sure you are taking enough time in between sets (1.5 – 2 minutes). Our last rep of the last set should be just as quality as our first rep of the first set.”


Agility On and Off Skis

by Karl Nygren

Agility is a delicate mixture of balance, coordination, speed and strength. All four components must be equally developed or the weakest component dictates the extent of one’s agility. Agility is fundamental in skiing because it controls efficiency. Skiers move quickly from balancing on one foot to the other while coordinating their strength to propel themselves down the trail. Any wobbles, unsure moments or lack of power and speed take their toll. Skiing is a sport of economy and every bit of energy needs to be directed towards skiing faster.

Agility on skis is what is desired but agility must first be built from the ground up off skis. This starts with your feet and how they meet the ground. Landing back on your heals provides a terrible platform for almost any athletic movement. A nice forefoot strike is ideal. I spent a lot of time this past summer changing my running stride so I land on my forefoot. The result is a much more economical, lighter feeling stride because you start from a more dynamically explosive position. Additionally, I feel jumping rope is a great way to work on getting light on your feet. I have incorporated jumping rope as a way to warm-up for strength. Admittedly, I was terrible at first but with practice the improvements were dramatic. You learn be fast and explosive while drastically curtailing your overall movements and jumping only high enough to slip the rope under your feet. This same mindset can be applied to skiing. You should feel light and quick on your skis with minimal extra movements and effort.

Strength is very important but only if it helps you ski faster. Getting so big and strong that you feel cumbersome and slow is extremely counterproductive. This year I made a huge transition in my approach to strength. I focused on explosive fast movements instead of slowly lifting heavy weights. Mainly this was accomplished through plyometric strength exercises. Plyos are jumps but jumps are only plyometric if you land and then jump. The landing phase recruits more muscle and improves the exercise. The repetitions should be kept low around 6 or so to ensure every jump has the highest quality possible. A good example for skiing is one footed jumps off and then back onto a small box. Not only is this great for strength but coordination and balance are also greatly improved.

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In general any one-footed exercises are great for balance. Keep this in mind in all aspects of your training. Squats might make you strong but one-legged squats develop strength and balance. Things as simple as brushing your teeth or throwing a med ball to a partner while balancing on one foot go a long way. Be creative.

Coordination requires practice. There is no way around it. The more time you spend on your skis the more natural and coordinated it will become. The development of coordination is much faster, however, if skiing is done mindfully. A patient, relaxed, focus is ideal. Trying too hard can cause robotic movements so try to relax while focusing on coordinating all movement to help you ski faster and more efficiently.

As coordination, balance, strength and speed are improve agility on skis will increase dramatically. You will feel lighter and quicker on your skis so the majority of your energy can be directed towards skiing faster.