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.

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

Max VO2 Intervals (General vs. Specific)

General Max VO2 intervals are race pace intervals and work the cardiovascular system using a non ski specific mode (i.e. running, biking, swimming, etc).

Progressively work into the intervals until you hit your desired pace at the 30 sec mark. Make sure you are not starting them all out.


Specific Max VO2 intervals are race pace intervals and work the cardiovascular system using skiing or activities that simulate skiing very closely (i.e. classic/skate rollerskiing, bounding with poles, classic/skate on snow skiing).

Determinants of Performance

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Vo2 Max. Maximum oxygen uptake (Engine Size – how big is the engine?) This is the ability of the circulatory system to transport oxygen and of the muscular system to extract and use oxygen. Vo2 max is an excellent indicator of aerobic fitness, but a poor predictor of performance within a homogenous group of athletes.

Lactate Threshold. (RPM’s – how high can you race the engine?) Lactate threshold (LT) is the ability to continue using the aerobic system to replenish ATP at high speeds. It is expressed as power output at LT, velocity of LT or percentage of Vo2 max. LT is one of the best predictors of endurance performance.

Economy. (MPG – how many miles per gallon does your engine get?) Economy can be defined as the amount of oxygen that it takes for an individual athlete to go a given speed. More economical athletes will have a lower oxygen cost at a given pace relative to a less economical athlete. This can explain why an athlete with a lower VO2 max can still outperform an athlete with a higher VO2 max. Economy is one of the best predictors of endurance performance.

Strength. Strength is defined as the maximum force that can be produced in one all out effort. Muscular endurance is related to being able to maintain a submaximal force repeatedly.

Source: SkiPost

Related Posts:


Fall-Winter Season Intervals?

Q: Throughout the summer I’ve focused on Lactate Threshold interval training. What is the best way to continue the interval training as we transition into the fall/winter season? Should the focus go towards VO2 Max intervals? Should the overall “on” time decrease or maintain steady?

A: This is a very complex question to answer due to the confusion around the definition of lactate threshold, its purported benefits and costs of this method of training when contrasted to the potential benefits of other forms of training. In my opinion many of the often stated benefits of this type of training are not amply proven in science.

In my experience and in the majority of current research what we once thought of as the benefits of this type of training are in question. I believe there is some value in this sort of training in early periods of the training year, and for long distance races where the primary benefit of this type of training is on efficiency or economy. While there is no doubt that virtually all training can have some positive effects for endurance sports we should consider a cost benefit analysis. In other words minimizing the cost and maximizing the benefits. In the case of threshold training due to the required duration of training and with less than optimal benefits the cost is quite high.


Jim Galanes of Galanes Sports Systems

So the time to start with VO2Max Intervals is now. I recommend that you start conservatively, one session per week to ten days depending on fitness level and not more than 5-10 minutes of hard work time. Then over time you can first increase the volume of intervals in each session, followed by increasing the number of sessions. We have also found that for those not used  to doing these type of intervals it can be a bit easier to learn how to do them effectively by starting short, 30 seconds on/30 seconds off and gradually building the duration over several weeks. It is important that for these intervals to be optimally effective that they have to be done very hard, 90-95% of maximum heart rate. You heart rate will not get to that level as it takes the heart rate and oxygen deliver systems some time to ramp up to meet the energy demands. A good pacing strategy for these it is think of doing these at a pace you could sustain for 4-6 minutes and after a couple of minutes of intervals you will be right in the desired range.

Jim Galanes   


Skier Self Analysis

Place a check in the box on the right that best agrees with the statement on the left.

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Checks moving from upper left to lower right indicate strength in Endurance and a weakness in speed. Checks moving from upper right to lower left indicate strength in speed and a weakness in endurance. Checks pushed right in the middle of the graph indicate a high-end fitness weakness, such as low VO2, lactate threshold and/or poor economy. Only testing at a qualified lab can determine where your physiological weakness in this zone lies.

You can gain some beneficial information from analyzing your performances in your five best and five worst races. See if you can find trends that might help indicate your strengths, weaknesses (area’s of greatest opportunity) with regard to fitness, strategy, diet and your race and pre-race habits. Things to consider are the race distance, technique, individual or mass start, snow and weather conditions (cold/warm, soft/hard tracks), course type (hilly, flat, steep, gradual), strategy (start hard/easy, attack the hills or ski an even tempo), nutrition (general, morning of, day before), other (travel, sleep, emotional state, race size.)

– SkiPost.com


Will Max Heart Rate Go Up When Doing Level 4 Week After Week?

The answer to this is generally yes but not always. Ultimately, the most important aspect is that your pace is improving at the same heart rate. Also, you should find that you can maintain that intensity longer as time goes by. One’s max HR changes with time and fitness, so the lactate / VO2 testing and approximation to race paces for intensity approximation is more valuable than simply HR.

None the less, yes, you should find yourself maintaining high HRs for longer periods of time. The goal is to increase your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. This means that you can sustain higher percentages of your max heart rate – whatever number your personal max HR is.

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