Strength Training for Cross Country Skiing

I love winter. I believe that Edmonton is one of the most fortunate cities to live in when it comes to winter. Yes it can last for many months, but the season brings countless sunny days and access to a totally different set of sports and activities. My intent this season is to learn how to, and take a deep dive into cross country skiing; many of our parks and running trails turn into cross country ski tracks in the winter so it’s a great way to keep exploring!

Cross country skiing is one of the most full body workouts allowing for sustained higher levels of cardiovascular activity. Every style incorporates core and legs and utilizing polls adds the upper body to the entire mix. Since most movements are gliding, the sport is very low impact, as a matter of fact one of the lowest of all sports so it’s great for all ages and all fitness levels. If you’re looking for a sport that has biggest bang for your metabolic buck this is it.

Whether you are an avid cross country skier, just getting into the sport, or using it as cross training for something like running off season strength training is a great way to prepare for the impending snow. I had a talk with Ulf Kleppe, the head coach, from the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club about the recent rise in the importance of dry-land training for my CBC Radio Column; although it only comprises about an average of 10% of an athletes training, it can alter their performance from multiple fronts:

  • Improved power and stamina.
  • Improved muscle memory.
  • Reduction of the chances of injury.
  • Increased stability.
  • Activation of under-active muscles.

Although the exercises can range from isolation (e.g. chest press) to complex (olymic lifting) it is clear that they make a difference in overall performance. Ulf and I collaborated on a few exercises that you can do to get you ready for the cross country ski season.  You can perform these exercises in multiple ranges of repetitions and sets so play around with them.

Squat:Body Weight Squat Blitz Condioning Inc Edmonton.jpg

  • Begin with feet shoulder width apart but you can vary the foot positioning as you progress to stimulate different parts of your legs.
  • Squat by bringing your butt back and keeping your weight on the arches of your feet, ensure that knees track with toes.
  • Depth of squat can vary every workout to stimulate different parts of the legs (e.g. below the knees, parallel, or half squat)
  • Return to standing by pushing through heels.
  • Can be done with body weight, barbell, or dumbbell.

Lunge Blitz Conditioning Edmonton.jpgOne Legged Lunge:

  • Body weight should primarily be placed on leading foot, trailing foot can be either on the ground or elevated on a bench for increased challenge to stability.
  • Lunge by bending the front knee.
  • Body weight should be placed on the arch of your front foot.
  • Back knee should be bent.
  • Return to original position by pushing through the arch of your front foot focusing on your glutes.
  • Switch after all repetitions are complete.
  • Can be done with body weight, barbell, or dumbbell.


Skater Strides Blitz Conditioning Edmonton.jpgSkater Strides:

  • Standing on one leg in a lunge position.
  • Press through the inner portion of your foot and travel laterally across the floor.
  • Land on the opposite foot and compress in a lunge position.
  • Keep torso 45 degrees from the ground or higher.
  • Keep core tight.
  • Repeat by pressing through planted foot.

TRX Rows Blitz Conditioning Edmonton.jpgTRX Rows:

  • Vary the difficulty by leaning at a closer angle to the floor.
  • Rest on your heels.
  • Keep your core tight through the entire motion.
  • Pull through your lats.
  • Keep the chest high and crown of your head upright.
  • Flex your back muscles.
  • Slowly lower yourself back to original position.
  • Chin ups or Lat Pulldowns can also serve as a similar exercise.

Chest Press.jpgChest Press

  • Ensure your low back is flat against the bench.
  • Keep your core tight.
  • In bottom position, bring shoulder blades together.
  • Press weights through your palms while activating your chest.
  • At the top of the motion, rotate your shoulder blades out.
  • Activate your chest.
  • Lower the weight slowly.
  • Push ups or bench press can serve as a substitute.

Back Extensions Blitz Conditioning Edmonton.jpgBack Extensions:

  • Lie face down on.
  • Pull your shoulder blades together, flex your low back, glutes and hamstrings.
  • Ensure lap and sternum are off the ground.
  • Slowly lower to original position.

Plank to Knee Touch Blitz Conditioning Edmonton.jpgPlank to Alternating Knee Touch:

  • In a high plank position.
  • Ensure chest is over the palms.
  • Can be on your knees if modification is necessary.
  • Bring knee and opposing hand towards each other.
  • Meet your knee and hands at the navel.
  • Slowly return hand and foot to original position.
  • Switch legs.

Abdominal Roll Out Blitz Conitioning Edmonton.jpgAbdominal Roll Out:

  • Chest should be positioned over the palms.
  • Palms should be either on rollers, gliders, or towels.
  • Bring your hands forward while leaning towards your palms.
  • Keep your core tight and use it to slow the movement.
  • Pause when you cannot hold your abs tight.
  • Return to original position by pulling through the core as if you are doing a crunch.

These exercises and many more can be added to endurance based training like skate skiing, ski ergometers, running, and cycling in order to prepare for the season. I’m excited to be continuing this series by talking about places to rent and purchase skis in Edmonton, joining Ulf and the gang at the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club for lessons, and most importantly heading out in the winter to explore the trails.

Want an event or a particular outdoor activity featured on CBC Radio and our Blogs? Drop me a line: and I’ll get back to you!

About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.


  1. My absolute favourite sport! Thanks for posting about it, Chris! More people need to embrace winter and take it up. I know some 80+ year olds who still compete as it’s such a low-impact activity.

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