I am designing a program for a cross country ski conditioning class this fall. I have many ideas but was wondering if you could give me some suggestions for class format and/or specific strength exercises that would focus primarily on skating but also involve classic skiing. I will assume that the entire class will be master skiers of varying ability levels.
Cross country skiing is one of the most challenging sports out there with a huge aerobic demand. Successful athletes require a high anaerobic threshold and loads of muscular endurance. There are two ways to increase skiing speed: 1) athletes can increase their stride rate or 2) increase the distance covered on each stride, which is a function of balance (glide) and force produced per stride. With these goals in mind, now we can focus on specific fitness characteristics such as upper body, lower body and core strength/muscular endurance, cardiovascular fitness and balance.
For group sessions, I find it is often most efficient to run a circuit format as this requires less equipment. You will have to adjust the workout based on the number of participants, but here are my suggestions. If you have 10 athletes in your group, divide the participants into two groups of five. Five athletes will perform a general cardiovascular activity while the other five athletes are working individually at five different strength training sessions.
Organize it like this:
Athletes will move from a muscular endurance station to the cardiovascular conditioning station (agility ladders, jump rope, bench blast, hill sprint) and then back to the next muscular endurance station. Depending on the experience and needs of your athletes, you will vary the duration of the stations. Typically, I will work skiers from 30 to 90 seconds per station. The athletes will continue alternating from muscular endurance (ME) to cardiovascular conditioning (CC) station until they have completed ME stations and visited the CC station five times. Upon the completion of one full circuit, provide the athletes with three to five minutes of rest. This will vary depending on the work intervals and the experience of your athletes.
The exercises provided above are a few suggestions that will hopefully stimulate some great ideas of your own. I tried to minimize the amount of specialized equipment, but incorporating a BOSU or other balance device would be a great addition. Descriptions of the exercises are outlined below.
Slastix Double Pole (two feet or single leg balance)
- Make sure athletes are driving hands right past hips.
Slasitx One Skate and Pole
- This exercise incorporates both the poling action and the weight shift to balance required from either the V1 or V2 skating technique.
Lateral Resistor Skate Hop (with poling action)
- Athletes should feel this exercise primarily in the glutes.
- Be sure to incorporate the poling action with the hands in either a V1 or V2 pattern.
- Watch for the establishment of balanced transition in the gliding position.
Kettlebell or Dumbbell Swing
- Start with a light weight until the athletes develop proper form.
- It is essential that participants maintain a neutral back position on the downswing and initiate the upward movement from the hips.
Stability Ball Crunch and Pass (hands to feet)
- Only lower legs as far as possible without arching the low back. Begin at a slow tempo so athletes can accurately find this position.
- Watch for neutral alignment at the knees upon jumping and landing.
- Once the technique has been learned, athletes should work on exploding up and over the step with as much height as possible and with a quick tempo.