Should skiers train more like bodybuilders?

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  • #9042

    Some of the top cross-country skiers have very muscular bodies especially
    upper bodies. Marit Bjoergen looks like a body builder.

    Many endurance sports don’t benefit from having more muscular bodies due to
    negative effects of gravity. In running and cycling one of the metrics is
    power per weight (W/kg) an athlete can produce and sustain.

    In cross-country skiing, there’s a fair amount of variation in body types,
    height and weight of athlete. If we could measure power per weight would the
    same conventional wisdom (more W per kg) is better still apply?
    I am wondering if there is any benefit to training more like a body builder
    and hypertrophy slow twitch fibers.

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #9051

    Body building is an aesthetic pursuit not an athletic one. You cannot use one data point like Marit Bjoergen and build a training model on it. While XC skiers do have more upper body muscle mass than say runners, they do not look anything like body builders nor do any successful XC skiers training using body building methods. The point of body building is “form over function”. For every athlete regardless of sport, it is function over form.

    XC sking has lots of elevation change in the races. Having to carry excess muscle mass up those hills will be a problem. Instead of looking at the outliers like Bjoergen look at the typical WC skier and you will see something close to the ideal body type for skiing. It would be like looking at Petter Northug’s technique and thinking that was the optimal XC technique! Northug excelled despite his technique not because of it. Copying outliers can be dangerous.


    Robert on #9081

    Clearly competitive cross country skiing has become significantly more upper body and core intensive in the last two decades and there has been a relatively large change in training protocol as a result. But the strength and power building techniques utilized to optimally prepare a cross country skier for competition bear no resemblance to “body builder” approaches. Look at the strength programs of the National Teams and elite team clubs and you will not find any “body builder” techniques being employed.

    I have found that Scott’s max strength workouts outlined in TftNA (along with the general strength work also outlined there) are ideally suited to efficient upper body and core power development in cross country skiing. By efficient I mean that one develops a high power to weight ratio (as you have noted as being important). But also efficient in the sense that this high power is being delivered, via technique, to speedy propulsion of one’s body down the trail- and not focussed on a non-sport specific body movement aligned with building muscle mass. Both my wife (a two time Olympian in the sport) and I have seen substantial improvements in double pole power (and therefore in V2 and V1 power as well) utilizing slightly modified TftNA max strength programs that focus on the specific body movements for cross country skiing. Although there is some hypertrophy it is not “body builder”-like at all. The low rep max strength work is highly neuromuscularly focussed, not hypertrophy focused like body building techniques. Using such a max strength program one will develop high weight specific upper body/core power and, with additional muscular endurance work, significant improvement in high power output throughout a race.

    At age 62 and after three years and nine 5-8 week build progressions with Scott’s max strength program I am at about 170% of body weight for pull-ups and can double pole off the line with many of the US-level competitors and often competitively double pole entire hilly races. My appearance would not indicate anything even approaching a body-builder-type upper body. I am a 5’7″ 127 lb lightweight with a very high power to weight ratio. Having seen Marit (during summer training when she is not all bundled up), she does not look like a body builder, nor do any of the other World Cup level athletes that I have seen. Do they look strong? Yes, but not big.

    I suggest that you might find that a concentrated program that includes numerous max strength build progressions to be of value in your cross country skiing training. But, depending on your age, the time horizon for improvements could be long- as it was for me as an oldster. You will see quicker response if you are under 40 and still have decent natural production of T and HGH.

    Here’s a pic of US Cross County Ski Team member Erik Bjornsen (one of Scotts’ proteges) who is currently on the World Cup circuit scoring in the top 30- definitely not a body builder physique but very strong and powerful (photo credit: Faster Skier):

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