Strength training on skis

On the 24th of March it’s time for the third edition of Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet in modern take. Cross-country ski coach Erik Wickström – who has skied farthest in the world in 24 hours – offers once a month tips, inspiration and a training program. The fourth part is about how you train your double poling muscles.

Text: Erik Wickström

Your upper body strength is of great importance for how well you will do in long distance races, no matter if you ski with or without grip wax. As for other endurance sports, doing 20-30 minutes of core strength per week can be good for your posture and to keep injuries away.

It can also be a good idea to train the upper body a little bit extra, for example by doing dips, triceps pull-down, dumbbell press or sitting row. There’s even a skiing specific strength machine called “Bråsterk” on which you lie on a sledge with your stomach down and pull yourself up on two rails. It won’t increase your pulse in the same way as a ski ergometer (SkiErg, Thorax Trainer or Ercolina), but it is the more challenging for your muscles.

Integrate strength in endurance

I only do pure strength training about once a month. I believe to get better results from strength exercises by doing them alongside my ski training. The loading of the muscles is more relevant like that.

You can combine strength and endurance training by roller skiing on wheels with a higher rolling resistance, double pole uphill or train on the ski ergometer on the highest resistance.

There are also some good strength exercises you can do on roller skis, the ski ergometer or on regular skis. You can complete the exercises as short and explosive sets of 5-10 repetitions with maximum effort and rest one minute in between. You can also do longer sets for some minutes to really tire the muscles.

The exercises below you can ideally integrate into an otherwise easy training session or to cool down after interval training, preferably at least once a week. I mainly perform the exercises at the ski ergometer, except for the diagonal poling, which I mainly fit into trainings on roller or regular skis to give the upper body some beating.

  • Diagonal poling. Ski as you would when diagonal striding but only use your arms and let the legs only hang along.
  • Triceps poling. Stand fully upright and lock your elbows close to you upper body. Now push and pull with your underarms only while keeping the same upright position with your elbows locked so you mainly use your triceps.
  • Skiing on one leg. Stand on one leg and double pole uphill. Or why not test to do diagonal strides on one leg, using only one pole?
  • Straight-arm poling. Start your stroke high up and keep your arms straight when pulling down. Keep an upright position too.
  • Shoulder poling (mainly at the ski ergometer). Start your stroke high up and keep your arms straight when pulling down far aside your body. Keep an upright position too.

If you want to complete Nordenskiöldsloppet within the medal time of 21 hours and 22 minutes but don’t really have a good idéa of how much to train? No problem! Here you can find Erik Wickström’s training programs and other good tips for Nordenskiöldsloppet.