SkiErg Intervals with Sadie Bjornsen

by FasterSkier

If you have a lower-body injury, be it acute or chronic, training for cross-country skiing can be frustrating: there are so many activities which must be cut back if you are trying to protect a knee, ankle, or foot.

Luckily, there are good training options available, especially if you have access to a double-pole machine like an Ercolina or a Concept2 SkiErg.

 

Sadie Bjornsen, of APU and the U.S. Ski Team, during a SkiErg interval workout at her home in Anchorage, Alaska. (Courtesy photo)

 

“I use the SkiErg a lot because I fight with feet injuries, and it is a safe escape from ski boots or shoes,” U.S. Ski Team and APU skier Sadie Bjornsen wrote in an email.

Last season, Bjornsen won World Championships bronze in the team sprint with Jessie Diggins. This season, she is back to battling heel spurs. That’s why she has been putting in time on the SkiErg she has at her house, but she sees other benefits to these types of workouts as well.

“The SkiErg can also be really helpful on rainy days, super cold days in the winter, or just days that you want to rock out to some tunes indoors and avoid traffic on the roads,” Bjornsen explained. “It is an easy workout to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ if you have a short amount of time, which I also really like. There is no wasted time tucking on downhills, or coasting across the flats. Instead, you are on power mode from the start to the finish.”

And as numerous research studies have recently shown, double-poling ability and upper-body strength are more and more becoming great predictors of overall ski performance, even in freestyle races.

“I like to do a little intensity in my SkiErg workouts because it helps keep it fun and fresh, and I also think it really helps to build my upper body strength,” Bjornsen wrote. “Our sport has become really upper-body driven, so I feel like I can never get too much upper-body workouts!”

With that in mind, she shared a recent interval workout she did on the SkiErg — it’s bread and butter for Bjornsen. “I like to try to do this workout at least once a week all through the summer, and sometimes more if I am going through a period of struggle with my heel spurs,” she wrote.

It aims for an hour of total workout time.

 


THE START: “I start my workout with a fifteen-minute warm up. During this time, I often shut my eyes, and visualize skiing. This helps bring in true ski form, and feel my movements, rather than just fall into a ‘SkiErg-specific technique.’”

 

GETTING SPEEDY: “During this time, I will do some little ten-second increases in power to warm up my back and arms, and get ready to go hard.”

 

THE WORKOUT: “After fifteen minutes, I begin the workout known as 30-30’s. This means 30 seconds of intervals followed by 30 seconds of recovery, then repeat for 30 minutes. What may feel easy at first, quickly catches up after 10 minutes, so I always start this workout more conservative than feels appropriate.”

 

KEEPING IT GOING: “After about five minutes of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, I start to see a common number of watts I am exerting during the 30 seconds. This is where I set a goal. Maybe it’s 190 watts I am hitting, I want to continue to reach that level or more for the next 25 minutes of this workout. This becomes increasingly hard around 20 minutes, and requires a certain amount of mental power. The 30 seconds of rest begins to pass too quickly, and I find myself becoming really focused in my own little world… forgetting where I am (maybe a garage, maybe a gym).”

 

FINISHING UP: “By the end of 30 minutes of 30-30’s, I am pretty worked, and feel like I have just done a race out on the snow. This is when I bring myself back to my surroundings, and finish with a fifteen minute easy warm down to help flush my arms out.”

 

FINAL THOUGHTS: “Not only does this one hour pass really fast, but it is a really focused workout that feels like it truly helps build specific power. I always make sure I finish this workout with a little five minute walk. This helps flush all my muscles, but also helps make sure my back goes back to moving naturally after a pretty intense workout.”

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?

 

PRE-COMPETITION (FALL)

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.

ENDUARNCE

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.

STRENGTH

  • 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.


INTENSITY

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.

TECHNIQUE & 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. 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. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0127509

SkiErg Ski Technique Form

Q: I’m a big fan of the SkiErg. When I workout I do a full crunch, bend at the waist and keep my legs straight, is this wrong? I notice from the videos that the demonstrators bend their knees and only half-crunch, so more arm involvement.

 

 

A: When using the SkiErg, following the description you outlined from the demonstration videos is the correct way to go. You want to have a slight bent in the knees – never locked legs. The legs and ankles should be soft and supple and the feet placed at hip-distance width. You want to initiate the crunch from the upper abdominals, so eliminate the bend at the waist.

It is important to use the core and arms in unison. Most of the power is going to come from the initial “pole” down when your hands are high, then follow through using the core (including the back muscles), lats and triceps. This is a more efficient way to double pole and will save you from back injury that can occur when you bend at the waist/hips. As you transition to this new technique, you may feel more involvlement from the arm, but over time you will become stronger and more efficient in the upper body.

Dry-land Exercises to Prevent Muscle Cramping

Q: I had some difficulty with the arms cramping after longish sections of double polling last year. Assuming that one does not have a double poll machine – are there any simple dry-land exercises that can help with this muscle set? Pull-ups seem pretty good – but not exactly right.

 

A: Simple Double Pole Exercises

Regular body weight exercises are great to start with for strengthening the upper body for double poling. These include the basics: pull ups, dips and push-ups. In the fall, if your training plan transitions to more power-based exercises, the clean and press is a good whole body exercise that incorporates explosiveness in the upper body. You can skip the lower-body and just do overhead presses also.

Another simple method for double-pole specific strength is to get any type of resistance tubing (Nordic Shock Cords, for example) and affix it to high structure, such as the top of a door-frame, or a tree branch outside. Grab either end of the bungie and practice exercises such as single-stick (diagonal stride arms) and double-poling. This acts as a cheap, portable double-pole machine that is effective for upper body strength and endurance.

Dry-land Drill Examples – Video

Components of Endurance Training for Skiers

Endurance training can be divided into four areas: Basic, Speed, Anaerobic and Endurance-Strength.

Basic endurance training is for improving aerobic capacity and impact tolerance. Such sessions occur at 60-75% maximal heart rate (or, Level 1), depending on the skier’s experience and level. At least one long basic endurance session should be included in your weekly schedule. Basic endurance training should increase gradually throughout the basic endurance period.

Speed sessions are slightly faster than basic endurance training (Level 3/4), and are accomplished in interval format. Heart-rate levels during speed training should be around 75-85% maximum heart rate. Interval sessions can total 21-60 minutes. Each interval can be between 7-12 minutes. During speed training, breathing is accelerated, but only during anaerobic endurance training does breathing rhythm peak. Developing speed is important when training for a marathon, since part of the marathon is actually skiing at speed training pace. Include 1 or 2 speed sessions in your weekly schedule, depending on the time of year.

Interval training is a good choice when you first start working on speed, since it’s easier to keep up a good pace during short repeats and exertion levels are not too high. As you progress, you can add even-paced sessions to your schedule. Cut back on speed training during transition and tapering, when you replace some of the hard sessions with actual racing.

Anaerobic endurance training is generally very hard interval work, aimed at maximizing racing performance and oxygen uptake capacity. To make sure lactic acid levels remain at a manageable level, ski at just below full speed, in other words at 90-95% maximum heart rate, or, Level 4. Each of these intervals typically last 4-6 minutes. Anaerobic endurance training increases as the calendar approaches ski-race season.

For a goal-oriented active skier, including anaerobic endurance training 2-3 times a month is advisable. When tapering, training includes anaerobic endurance and speed work, as well as basic endurance and recovery.

For an active skier, sprint training is fast-paced interval training at 90-100% maximum heart rate. Repeats last 30-90 seconds. Recover for around 5 minutes. Do sprint work during transition and tapering periods. Training frequency is at about 4 times/month.

Endurance-strength is considered another category of endurance training. This type of training is typically done on roller skis during a “specific-strength” workout. These workouts incorporate repetitions between 150-250 meters each along a gradual uphill. There are three main specific strength exercises; double-pole, core-only and single-stick. Double pole is regular double poling, core-only is when the body is propelled by the initial crunch of the arms and torso without a follow-through of the arms and the single-stick is when a skier executes diagonal-stride arms while keeping the legs stationary so that all of the work comes from the upper body. For each exercise there are between 5-12 repetitions, depending on the time of year.

Specific Strength Workout Pick-Ups

Specific Strength – Building strength and power using ski specific activities (i.e. double pole, single pole, Concept2 Ski Erg, etc). Specific strength is almost exclusively done on skis/rollerskis, and the movements are always ski related. The workout is often done on an uphill to add resistance.

To understand specific strength, think of it as a strength workout on skis. You will perform a certain number of sets and repetitions and progress to harder resistances (inclines) as you become stronger.

Specific Strength Workout Pick-Ups – Pick-ups done during specific strength workout. These exercises are not meant to be top end speed drills, they are meant to increase your ski specific strength.

Intensity and Recovery Period – Proper technique is the most important component in specific strength, not intensity. If you feel good, go a little harder. If you feel tired, go a little slower.

For the specific strength workout we want you to complete exercises with equal, active recovery. What that means is that you should continue to ski easy during your rest using double polling as well as striding for several minutes in-between sets.

Be sure to do this workout on rolling terrain, a gradual climb can be very beneficial. Try to find a location that you will be able to return to, so that you can track your progress over the following weeks.