It should be noted that I refer to my “weights” as all the general strength that I do at the gym, which extends past just lifting dumbbells. Exercises for core strength, plyometrics, and muscle stability are also very important parts of a good weight program. Skiing, now more than ever, involves very dynamic and explosive movements, especially in sprints. I personally found that my best preparation to get more power into my pole strokes and more spring into my legs has been by doing weights. On top of all this, weights have helped me prevent injuries and even improve my ski technique. With these motivations in mind, twice a week I have been going to the “A Step Up” gym in Chelsea Quebec to do my weight training.
Cross Country skiing is a “full body” sport but unfortunately, it will not strengthen all of your muscles, just the ski-specific ones. As skiers, if only our ski-specific muscles get strong then we risk injury since we become too unbalanced. Weights have helped me stay balanced by doing exercises that target muscle groups that I don’t strengthen skiing. For example, my hamstrings, chest, and thoracic muscles around my spine (between the shoulder blades) were quite weak at the beginning of the summer. The hamstrings balance out the quadriceps which is one of the major muscle groups that we use not only skiing but in just about everything else. We work our quads all the time but you really need a hamstring specific exercise to work your hamstrings. The muscles between your shoulder blades and along your spine also need quite specific exercises to make them stronger. The above are really important for good posture and simply to avoid back injuries. Weights have been my easiest and cheapest solution to avoid muscle strains and overuse injuries.
Believe it or not weights have helped my ski technique. An example that comes to mind is if you are not strong enough in your triceps and “lats” then there is a tendency to collapse at the elbow upon planting the pole. This is not only less efficient, but also not as powerful. Strengthening these ski specific muscles certainly helped me ski better and faster. Another example would be that my lower back used to really hurt during classic races; strengthening it in the gym has almost completely removed the pain. This helps keep me from being slouched over when I am skiing and allows my hips to come more forward which makes me faster.
This is probably where I have noticed the greatest improvement in my skiing. I found that doing some explosive strength and heavier lifting has added some extra power to my skiing. I particularly enjoy sprint racing on skis so having a bit more power certainly helps my performance. Even in distance races, skiing is requiring more and more explosive strength if you want to come out on top. Situations like break-aways and sprint finishes are some obvious examples of when a bit of power could help. (Northug anyone???)
These are a few exercises that I find help me get more power into my skiing.
1. Back Squats
Focus: Proper controlled movement, avoid straining the knees by keeping weight on the heel.
2. Bench Press
Focus: Try to lift without arking your back to isolate chest and triceps more.
3. Weighted Pull-ups
Focus: Explosive pull but without swinging your legs to help you up.
4. Weighted Dips
Focus: Careful not to add weight too soon, there is quite a bit of pressure on the elbows.
Form is of major importance when doing weights. Lifting less in the right way is far more beneficial than lifting a lot in the wrong way. Lifting properly will also help prevent any weight-lifting injuries. Those mirrors at the Gym aren’t just there so you can admire your muscles, but rather to see that you are doing the right movement.
Hope you can hit the gym before the snow flies!!!