Strength Training for the Birkebeiner

The annual Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival is on February 9-11, 2018 which is less than 12 weeks away. With decent snow fall this year, most trails in Edmonton are already open, much to the delight of skiers, both alpine and nordic.

This year, I will be preparing to ski the 31 km again but hopefully, with a lot more preparation compared to last year (something about starting a new clinic that greatly hindered training!).  Twelve weeks is a great build up especially for the longer distance events. In addition to trail and hill running and skiing, I have created a strength program for myself that will help me prepare for the incredible upper and lower body demands of nordic skiing.  As always, if you are uncertain as to whether this type of exercise is appropriate for you or if you are struggling with an injury, please  consult with a health care professional before embarking on an exercise program.

Enjoy and see you at the Birkie!


Assisted Pull Ups: For those who are new to doing pull ups, an assisted pull up machine is a great way to start. As you become more accustomed to the exercise, slowly reduce the weight (as less weight means more body weight to pull up) until you can pull your entire body weight, unassisted.








Tricep and Lat Pulldowns: Poling requires repeated and coordinated trunk and shoulder flexion and extension. These 2 exercises, one with weights and the other with elastics, will mimic the action of both double and single poling. With the elastics, perform intervals of 30 seconds work with 30 seconds rest for 8 repetitions to start and then gradually increase your work time and repetitions while keeping the rest time the same. This is a great high intensity exercise and to mimic the push off phase when skiing, be sure to perform the exercise on a single leg with hip and leg extension.


Skull Crushers: More triceps strength is never a bad thing when classic skiing.






Medicine Ball Slam with a Jump: Choose a ball that is difficult but do-able. Perform a double leg jump initially and then single leg after 2-3 weeks of the exercise.








Battle Ropes: I cannot think of a better exercise to mimic the double and single poling action of skiing than with Battle Ropes. Start with 15 seconds of hard “roping” with 30 seconds rest, 5 repetitions and gradually increase both the work time and repetitions. Perform with two legs as well as single leg to challenge your balance.





TRX lunge jumps: Plyometrics build power and strength. These lunge jumps are sure to produce some delayed onset muscle soreness in your gluts for the first week or so of the exercise.  I will usually perform until fatigue.








Abdominals: In addition to the classic sit ups, I love to use a wheel since it adds the additional challenge of strengthening the lats and triceps as well.





Squats: If you have access to a squat rack and if you are familiar with the exercise, squats will help build strength for those countless Birkie hill climbs.








Leg Press: If you are not familiar with the barbell squats or if you have problems with your spine or shoulder, the leg press machine is a good alternative.






Hamstring curls: To build strength, muscles need a gradual load progression and so weighted machines are indispensable.






Hamstring curls on Ball: However, in addition to load, our lower body muscles need to be loaded through variable speeds and this can be accomplished much better with either a ball, TRX or resistance bands.





Push ups: Tired of the same push ups on flat ground? By elevating your feet or placing them on an unstable surface like a TRX or exercise ball, the exercise now becomes more challenging.

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