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Pål Haugnes, Per-Øyvind Torvik, Gertjan Ettema, Jan Kocbach and Øyvind Sandbakk

Sprint cross-country (XC) skiing involves a 1.0- to 1.8-km qualifying time-trial race followed by 3 subsequent knockout heats where 6 competitors in each heat compete for the first ranks that qualify for the next round and/or for winning the final. Although maximal oxygen uptake (VO 2 max

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Pål Haugnes, Jan Kocbach, Harri Luchsinger, Gertjan Ettema and Øyvind Sandbakk

Cross-country (XC) skiing is regarded as one of the most demanding endurance sports and involves whole-body exercise of varying techniques through racing times ranging from a few minutes to several hours. The competition terrain fluctuates between uphill, flat, and downhill sections, in which the

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Harri Luchsinger, Jan Kocbach, Gertjan Ettema and Øyvind Sandbakk

Biathlon is an Olympic winter sport that combines rifle shooting and cross-country skiing in various race formats. In the individual distance (15 km for women and 20 km for men), athletes compete over 5 laps of skiing with shooting between each 2 laps (ie, 4 shootings). The aim of the current study was to compare total race time differences, as well as the contribution from cross-country skiing and shooting variables to this difference, between biathletes of different performance levels and sexes in individual races in the Biathlon World Cup. Based on the publicly available race reports, the authors compared these factors between top-10 results (G1–10) and results within rank 21–30 (G21–30), as well as the corresponding sex differences. G21–30 among men/women were on average 4%/6% behind G1–10 in total race time, in which course time accounted for 42%/54% of the overall performance difference, followed by 53%/44% explained by penalty time caused by shooting performance (ie, the number of hits). The remaining 2–3% was explained by differences in shooting time and range time. Women G1–10 were on average 15% slower in skiing speed than men G1–10, which accounted for 92% of the overall performance difference between sexes. In total, among G1–10, men shot on average 15 s faster than women, and total penalty time was 18 s shorter. In conclusion, course time and penalty time contributed approximately equally to the performance-level differences, whereas course time explained above 90% of the sex differences in individual World Cup biathlon races.

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Øyvind Sandbakk and Hans-Christer Holmberg

Cross-country (XC) skiing has been an Olympic event since the first Winter Games in Chamonix, France, in 1924. Due to more effective training and tremendous improvements in equipment and track preparation, the speed of Olympic XC-ski races has increased more than that of any other Olympic endurance sport. Moreover, pursuit, mass-start, and sprint races have been introduced. Indeed, 10 of the 12 current Olympic competitions in XC skiing involve mass starts, in which tactics play a major role and the outcome is often decided in the final sprint. Accordingly, reappraisal of the success factors for performance in this context is required. The very high aerobic capacity (VO2max) of many of today’s world-class skiers is similar that of their predecessors. At the same time, the new events provide more opportunities to profit from anaerobic capacity, upper-body power, high-speed techniques, and “tactical flexibility.” The wide range of speeds and slopes involved in XC skiing requires skiers to continuously alternate between and adapt different subtechniques during a race. This technical complexity places a premium on efficiency. The relative amounts of endurance training performed at different levels of intensity have remained essentially constant during the past 4 decades. However, in preparation for the Sochi Olympics in 2014, XC skiers are performing more endurance training on roller skis on competition-specific terrain, placing greater focus on upper-body power and more systematically performing strength training and skiing at high speeds than previously.

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Øyvind Sandbakk and Hans-Christer Holmberg

Cross-country (XC) skiing is one of the most demanding of endurance sports, involving protracted competitions on varying terrain employing a variety of skiing techniques that require upper- and/or lower-body work to different extents. Through more effective training and extensive improvements in equipment and track preparation, the speed of cross-country ski races has increased more than that of any other winter Olympic sport, and, in addition, new types of racing events have been introduced. To a certain extent this has altered the optimal physiological capacity required to win, and the training routines of successful skiers have evolved accordingly. The long-standing tradition of researchers working closely with XC-ski coaches and athletes to monitor progress, improve training, and refine skiing techniques has provided unique physiological insights revealing how these athletes are approaching the upper limits of human endurance. This review summarizes current scientific knowledge concerning the demands involved in elite XC skiing, as well as the physiological capacity and training routines of the best athletes.

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Øyvind Sandbakk

Competitive cross-country (XC) skiing has traditions extending back to the mid-19th century and was included as a men’s event in the first Winter Games in 1924. Since then, tremendous improvements in equipment, track preparation, and knowledge about training have prompted greater increases in XC-skiing speeds than in any other Olympic sport. In response, this commentary focuses on how the training of successful XC skiers has evolved, with interviews and training data from surviving Norwegian world and Olympic XC champions as primary sources. Before 1970, most male champion XC skiers were lumberjacks who ran or skied long distances to and from felling areas while working long days in the woods. In addition, they trained as much as possible, with increased intensity during the autumn, while less work but more ski-specific training and competitions were done during the winter. Until the 1970s, few XC skiers were women, whom coaches believed tolerated less training than men did. Today’s XC skiers are less physically active, but the influence of both science and the systematic approaches of former athletes and coaches have gradually taught XC skiers to adopt smarter, more goal-oriented training practices. Although the very high VO2max of world-class XC skiers has remained the same since the 1960s, new events in modern XC skiing have additionally required superior upper-body power, high-speed techniques, and tactical flexibility. These elements also emerge in the training of today’s best skiers; women’s physiological capacities and training routines especially seem to have improved dramatically.

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Øyvind Sandbakk, Vegard Rasdal, Steinar Bråten, Frode Moen and Gertjan Ettema


To compare sport-specific laboratory capacities and the annual training of world-class Nordic combined (NC) athletes with specialized ski jumpers (SJ) and cross-country (XC) skiers.


Five world-class athletes from each sports discipline were compared. Ski jump imitations were performed on a 3-dimensional force plate in NC athletes and SJ, whereas XC skiing characteristics were obtained from submaximal and maximal roller ski skating on a treadmill in NC athletes and XC skiers. In addition, anthropometrics and annual training characteristics were determined.


NC athletes demonstrated 9% higher body mass and showed 17% lower vertical speed in the ski jump imitation than SJ (all P < .05). NC athletes had 12% lower body mass and showed 10% lower peak treadmill speed and 12% lower body-mass-normalized peak oxygen uptake than XC skiers (all P < .05). NC athletes performed half the number of ski-jumping-specific sessions and outdoor ski jumps compared with SJ. NC athletes performed 31% less endurance training, mainly caused by lower amounts of low- and moderate-intensity training in the classical technique, whereas high-intensity strength and speed training and endurance training in the skating technique did not differ substantially from XC skiers.


To simultaneously optimize endurance, explosive, and technical capacities in 2 different disciplines, world-class NC athletes train approximately two-thirds of the XC skier’s endurance training volume and perform one-half of the ski-jump-specific training compared with SJ. Still, the various laboratory capacities differed only 10–17% compared with SJ and XC skiers.

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Valeria Rosso, Laura Gastaldi, Walter Rapp, Stefan Lindinger, Yves Vanlandewijck, Sami Äyrämö and Vesa Linnamo

Paralympic cross-country (XC) sit-skiing is a Paralympic discipline in which athletes are skiing seated because they have an impairment in function or structure of the lower extremities, pelvis, and/or trunk. XC sit-skiers ski using a sledge mounted on a pair of XC skis, named sit-ski, and a couple

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Bent R. Rønnestad, Tue Rømer and Joar Hansen

Performance in cross-country (XC) skiing is highly related to maximal oxygen consumption (VO 2 max). 1 , 2 The high VO 2 max values in XC skiers could be related to numerous factors such as genetics, training volume, training periodization, and amount of high-intensity aerobic interval training

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Thomas Haugen, Gøran Paulsen, Stephen Seiler and Øyvind Sandbakk

Personal communication with other laboratories testing elite rowers and XC skiers also suggests that 5.0 L·min −1 approximates the upper limit of what contemporary world-class female performers in XC skiing (60–72 kg body mass) and rowing (70–85 kg body mass) have achieved. Returning to the Fick equation