Cross Country Ski Strength Basics

Cross country skiing is a sport that requires you to be strong. That much is simple! While endurance and fitness will always be primary factors in the sport, there have been massive developments in the way Nordic skiers get stronger.

This doesn’t apply simply to World Cup athletes who double pole long races and sprints alike...having a good foundation of strength helps any skier enjoy their time on the snow. With a strong core and upper body, a dynamic lower body, and good coordination you can ski with technique that’s smoother and more efficient.

Recently, there has been a lot of interest in what is frequently called “hip activation” or “hip engagement”. Gone are the days of long striding motions with an extensive reach of the arms and a curved back. Today, a neutral spine is what allows skiers to generate power and poling forces through their whole body.

A good neutral spine starts at the base of the back, and in this case the hips, which also provide a great deal of power and stability to the skier. To get used to the motion of activating and engaging your hips, place your hands on the sides of your hips and tilt your pelvis back and forth: a common analogy is to imagine holding up and drinking the milk out of a nearly-empty cereal bowl.

As you’re going through this movement pattern, you might notice a few muscle groups activating. To get those hips activated, you need to fire your lower abdominal muscles and engage your glutes. These are two muscle groups that are often incredibly strong, yet go underutilized when skiers fail to activate their hips.

The video below, courtesy of US Ski and Snowboard, shows several drills and exercises skiers can use to perfect their connection to their hips and muscle engagement:

When you are able to master control of your hips and their alignment, most all core exercises (even basic crunches and planks) will likely feel much more difficult. This is a good thing! You’re now engaging all of the relevant muscle groups and getting much more out of the exercise.

On snow, stable hips and good alignment help with everything from staying over your kick wax pocket while striding, to balancing in a driven, powerful position while skating. Before you take to the snow, spend a little time working on getting in touch with your hips and a deeper sense of posture and alignment, and you’ll be thankful for the benefits!

About Adam Terko:
Adam Terko is Mansfield Nordic Club's Executive Director and Head Coach for all Junior programs. The 2017 NENSA Coach of the Year, Adam spent three years coaching the St. Lawrence University ski team, and during that time also worked (and continues to work) as coach and wax tech at the local, Regional, and Junior National level.

Adam holds USSA Level 200 coaching certification, and is enthusiastic about the sport no matter the season. Adam skied for CVU and competed for the New England JN team before going on to become a 4-year member and captain of the Nordic team at St. Lawrence.

About Mansfield Nordic Club:
(MNC) was founded in 1983, and is dedicated to supporting skier development in Northwestern Vermont. The club has roughly 200 members, ranging in age from 5 to 78. MNC offers high-quality coaching with skier-development programs and activities during all four seasons. Their training takes place primarily on the world-class trails at the Ethan Allen Biathlon Range in Jericho, where paved roller ski loops, snowmaking, lights, and superb grooming provide optimal skiing conditions.