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Standardized Fitness Test for Cross Country Skiers

Wed, May  30, 2007 - By Mike Muha

The US Ski Team for years has had a standardize method of testing cross country ski athletes so tests could be compared across the country and at different times of the year. There used to be a link to the tests on the US Ski Team web site, but the link is now gone. A 2001 article on the NENSA web site gives an overview of the tests.

The most recent information I've found on the test comes from the excellent CXC "Wake up! It's Time to Train" DVD ("70 minutes of exclusive interviews with US Ski Team coaches, drills and technique, fitness testing, sports physiology, core strength, training volume, intensity levels, race footage, and much more. Featuring CXC Ski Team and US Ski Team athletes").

The Tests

There are six tests:

  1. The 3,000-meter run. To standardize this test, the 3,000m run should be done on a standard 400 meter running track. (3,000m is 7.5 times around the track). You can do this alone, or in a group.

The next four tests are performed in the same manner: Do as many repetitions as you can in one minute, rest for one minute, then try to do as many repetitions as possible for another minute. Record both sets.

  1. Pushups. Pushups are performed straight-legged and the elbows must bend to 90 degrees, and then go up to a straightened position.
  2. Dips. Using a dip machine, lower the body until elbows are at 90 degrees, then straighten.
  3. Sit-ups. Lay on your back, knees bent, with your partner holding your feet stationary to the floor. The NENSA articles says the sit-up is done with your elbows touching the knees at the top of the cycle and the floor at the bottom, but the CXC video shows athletes with their arms crossed in front of their chest. I prefer the later because it stops you from jerking your elbows forward.
  4. Pull-ups. The arms must be straight the bottom of each repetition, and the chin must clear the bar at the top of the pull up to be counted.

The final test is the number of repetitions you can do in 90 seconds.

  1. Box Jump. You jump up on to and off of a 40cm high x 51cm wide box (that's 15.7 inches high x 20.1 inches wide. 16 inches x 20 inches sounds close enough to me!). NENSA said only alpine team members did this test, but the CXC DVD explicitly shows cross country skiers performing the test.

Using the tests

These test should be performed several times a year to assess training progress.

Here are averages for elite US men and women, according to a fall 2000 article on the NENSA web site:

  Elite US Women Elite US Men
  Time Min / Mile Time Min / Mile
3,000 10:30 5:36 9:31 5:04
  Set 1 Set 2 Set 1 Set 2
Pushups 42 22 62 23
Dips 22 11 37 15
Sit-ups 65 50 71 58
Pull-ups 6 4 15 7
  Total Total
Box jump - -

Compare the above reuslts to some May 2006 test results (bottom of article) from CXC Team members. I've reprinted a couple of the results below; more are can be found at the link:

  Caitlin Compton Bryan Cook
  Time Min / Mile Time Min / Mile
3,000 11:30 - 10:14 -
  Set 1 Set 2 Set 1 Set 2
Pushups 61 38 70 40
Dips 10 5 17 6
Sit-ups 62 62 61 43
Pull-ups 13 5 13 5
  Total Total
Box jump 56 82


A couple thoughts:

First, it's useful to perform these test several times during the summer and fall to evaluate your progress. Wherever you're not making progress, well, maybe you should spend more time working on it.

Second, in 2000, allegedly the box jump test was not used, but in 2006 it is used. Could this be because skating has put more stress on plyometric leg strength?

Finally, most of these test can be done with equipment found on a par course or in a gym. And everyone has a high school nearby with a 400 meter track. No excuse for not having equipment to do the test.

Maybe you'll have to build your own jump box. I know I am...

You can also add your own tests. Worried about upper body strength and endurance? Do an uphill doublepole test. The benefit of doing the standardized tests, however, is that you can directly compare yourself to other skiers.