Cross Country Skiing and Strength Training

By: Laura Wenger, PT, DPT, OCS

Some of our snow dances must have worked in this past month with a decent start to 2019 including some plentiful snow storms! When the snow started coming down on January 1st, I’m fairly certain that I could feel the warmth of Durango’s large, collective smile as we all were anxious to see some of the white stuff fall after experiencing the negative effects of a dry year in 2018. One of the best parts about seeing all of the snowfall was the added potential for outdoor opportunities like downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.

Living in Durango, you’re bound to either have some experience cross-country skiing or know someone who has experiences cross-country skiing. I’ve only tried skate skiing a handful of times, but I could tell from my short experience with it that it’s a great workout and way to enjoy the beautiful outdoors! For those of you who enjoy cross-country skiing, I wanted to share some info on how to maximize your ability to utilize your upper body strength for exercise and competitiveness based on a research article that came out of Norway last year.(1)

https://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a14416161/how-to-cross-country-skiing/

The researchers set out to find how 8 weeks of added strength training helped cross-country skiers’ strength adaptations and double poling performance.(1) Double poling requires greater upper body demands and allows you to assist your legs in the workload of cross-country skiing, which is helpful whether you are a novice or competitive racer. The strength training used in the study included three days per week of three exercises- a standing “double poling”, seated pull-down, and triceps press- with progressive increase in weights and decrease in reps throughout the 8 weeks.(1) When comparing the groups that added strength training to their regimen to the group that did not, the strength training group had improved double poling performance as well as longer “time to exhaustion”.(1) This was a smaller study with some limitations, so you have to take the information with a grain of salt, but the results found reinforced the importance of added upper body strength training for improving athletic performance, especially with endurance activities.(1) So, whether or not you are a competitive cross country skier or just like to do it as a fun way to exercise outdoors in our beautiful backyard, you might consider performing specific upper body strengthening exercises a few days per week to improve the time you spend out on the snow. If you have specific questions about exercises you should or shouldn’t do based on your specific needs and current or past injuries, make sure to contact us to work with one of our specialized PTs to ensure an individualized program that works for you!

1. Øfsteng S, Sandbakk Ø, et al. Strength training improves double-poling performance after prolonged submaximal exercise in cross-country skiers. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2018;28:893-904.