Cross-country skiing is a physically demanding sport, requiring a lot of upper body strength and stamina. A recent Norwegian study suggests that working on upper body training can help cross-country skiers improve their performance and may also reduce the risk of injury.
Ann Magdalen Hegge, a doctoral fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology´s Centre for Elite Sports Research, has been studying differences in upper body strength and endurance between male and female skiers. Hegge´s PhD project followed a study led by her supervisor, Øyvind Sandbakk, in which he investigated stamina differences between male and female cross-country skiers.
The research shows that gender differences increase both in terms of performance and maximum oxygen uptake the more the upper body is involved.
In experiments involving elite level cross-country skiers, the men produced about twice as much power as the women in all the exercises and the difference was notable in the arm and stomach regions.
Upper body strength and stamina are important in cross country skiing, because a lot of the forward momentum comes from poling and requires big bursts of power in a short time, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology explained. Core strength is important to stabilise the body, while well-trained arm muscles also give an advantage.
“I think many women have the potential to become better skiers if they increase their upper body training,” Hegge commented. “It´s already happened with several female athletes here.”
It´s not just top athletes that would benefit from more upper body strength, Sandbakk said, arguing that recreational athletes also do too little upper body training.
“Legs do the biggest job and are what carry us around when we walk, bike and jog, and we tend to forget the upper body. We also think there is a lot to be gained here related to sick leave and back and neck ailments,” Sandbakk added.