Ben prepares for the cross country ski season with a roller ski strength training workout in South Burlington, Vermont. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Ben prepares for the cross country ski season with a roller ski strength training workout in South Burlington, Vermont. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.

It is common for most high school Nordic skiers to run cross country in the fall. This is amazing for cross training and building leg speed, fitness, and cardiovascular base for the winter cross country ski racing season. However, cross country running usually leads to neglected ski muscles that can make a huge difference in the winter. For nordic skiers looking for an easier transition from running to skiing in early winter, working on strength throughout the fall will pay off greatly in December. I recommend doing a specific strength workout at least once per week. It doesn’t demand much at all on the legs, so runners - have no fear of wrecking your legs during this workout!

Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.

This specific strength workout workout is done on roller skis and you will want to find a flat or gradual uphill depending on your strength/skill level. You can do this workout many different ways, but the simple method is just to activate the proper muscles and keep your technique solid the whole time.

1. Single Stick - Triceps / Lats

To perform this exercise you want to just propel yourself along the flat or gradual uphill using just your arms in a striding motion. Keep your legs and feet still and you can flex at the knees and ankles just a bit, kind of in a bobbing motion, along with your upper body movement. Make sure to keep your core tight and stable, don’t twist as you push yourself along. You should feel a nice burn in your triceps, lats, and shoulder muscles. If you want more of a burn, use a more gradual or intermediate uphill.

2. Lock and Load - Core / Abs / Shoulders

This exercise is meant to mimic and strengthen the initiation and first phase of your double pole motion. You want to perform this starting with your arms and hands at the top of the double pole motion. Keep your arms rock solid, and crunch with your abs only. The poles will not push nearly as much as a normal double pole, just make sure you use your abs and core only. This is best done on a gradual to intermediate uphill.

3. Double Tricep Extensions - Triceps / Lats

This exercise is supposed to work the triceps specifically in the last part of the double pole phase. To perform this exercise keep your upper body tall and core tight, hold your elbows next to your sides and propel yourself along by poling by just extending your triceps from 90 degrees to 180 degrees. This is great for not only the triceps which should burn nicely, but also the lats and upper back.


All of these exercises should be done on on a gradual uphill for about 20-50 meters. Try to perform each exercises 3 times then move onto the next exercises, then complete the set 2-4 times. You can make it more challenging to add power or speeds to the exercise, but this can be detrimental if your core breaks or technique fades, so only add power if you feel comfortable with the technique.

This specific strength workout will build important and probably neglected muscles necessary for a successful and enjoyable ski season. Definitely be sure to add it to your weekly workouts or when you need to rest your legs. Adding push ups and pull ups after this workout will also increase your muscle adaptation.

- Ben Lustgarten,
Skirack Cross Country Ski Ambassador

If you have never tried roller skiing before or are new to it, read A Beginner's Guide to Roller Skiing

Check out Ben's additional roller skiing blog posts:
Roller Ski Training for the Cross Country Ski Season
Roller Skiing: Tips to Increase Your Speed