Dryland Drills

Jul 15, 2014

Training exercises and drills will help improve endurance, strength and technique.

Whether you are a strictly recreational skier, or on the road for a race most weekends, better technique and endurance will make things a lot more fun.



The quest for better fitness and better technique never ends. For the dedicated – some might say the hard core – summer is the time to build the endurance base, strengthen the core, and work on basic technique.

Experts will tell you that successful skiers are formed in the off-season, so here are some drills to keep you focused through the low-snow months. Most of these drills require just the basics – you and your shoes. And no poles, unless specified.

While many of these drills are commonly used by coaches across the country, this compilation is derived from a comprehensive collection of drills distributed at local clinics by coaches Rob Bradlee and Jim Stock.

Classic Technique Dryland Drills

Basic Athletic Position (BAP)

Many of these drills start with the basic athletic position (BAP), a relaxed athletic stance. Your pelvis is in a neutral position (as in the start of a crunch), ankles and knees are bent, and your shoulders are relaxed and rounded.


Arm Swing Drill

Swing your arms easily, with your hands and fingers loose and relaxed. As you swing to the front, your hands should come as high as your face. Make sure to relax the shoulders and let your arm hang loose in the socket. Do not rotate your shoulders around the spine. Try swinging your arms faster and faster, but stay relaxed.


Arm and Leg Swing Drill

This drill is great for balance. Assume the BAP stance. Swing one leg about 15 times, then switch to the other leg. Once you get the hang of that, stop with the leg swinging and start the arm swing drill. Once you are comfortable and have a rhythm going, swing one leg forward at the same time that the opposite hand comes forward. Swing your arm and leg together a few times, then switch to the other arm and leg.


Arm and Leg Swing with Hop Drill

Once you have done the Arm Swing, then the Arm and Leg Swing, here’s one more twist to add to the exercise. Swing both arms and one leg in the classic rhythm. As the swinging leg comes backward, take a hop on the standing leg. This one will definitely improve your balance.


Fire Your Guns Drill

Assume a relaxed stance.  Put your hands on imaginary six-guns at each side, then  “draw you varmint!” That is, act as if you are drawing both guns at the same time. When you do so, you naturally pull your pelvis under the upper part of upper torso. The first few times you do this, stop with your guns drawn and remember how it feels. This is the ideal neutral pelvis position for the classic technique. The U.S. Ski Team uses the image of the pelvic saddle being a bowl of water that should not spill out the front but be held level by the athlete. If you are a coach, you can imagine the fun junior skiers can have with this drill.


Falling Forward Drill

Here’s one to use with a partner; one that you trust because one person needs to catch the other. One of you assumes the BAP and falls forward from the ankles. Keep your heels flat on ground as you start your fall. You should feel your calf muscles stretch and a pinch at the ankles. All forward position comes from the ankle bend. The catcher stops the fall and pushes the partner back to a standing position. Switch and revenge . . . er, repeat. 


Shuffle Drill

Start in a relaxed position and fall forward from the ankles (no waist bend). Keep one hand on your butt, which will help you fall in the right way. Catch yourself by shuffling your foot forward. Keep shuffling your feet using just the shuffle to propel you forward.


Classic Hop Up Drill

This is an advanced drill. Assume a classic gliding position with all of your weight on one foot and hold the opposite hand up high. Extend the other leg back. Push back slightly on the extended leg (“cock the gun”) and then jump explosively forward and land in the same position on the other leg. Once mastered on the flat, you can do this exercise and jump up onto a bench, log, or rock. In this case, you have incentive to do the exercise right, because insufficient weight transfer onto the forward leg will make you fall backwards. If you move your whole body forward, you will spring up onto the bench and land in a good position.


Linked Diagonal Drill

Do the Classic Hop Up drill on the flat. After you make the step forward, pause before repeating the drill on the other leg. Continue striding in this way with a pause each time.


Kick Impulse (Knee-pop) Drill

Stand in basic classic striding position. Give a quick impulse to the knee to kick the foot downward.


Linked Diagonal with Kick Impulse

Combine the Linked Diagonal drill with the Kick Impulse.


Ski Walking

Ski walking is the natural extension of the linked diagonal drill, with a focus on generating and preserving forward momentum. Ski walking is useful in building and refining classic ski technique. Resistance can be added with steeper terrain. To ski walk, follow the instructions for the linked diagonal with kick impulse. Remember that your focus is on generating forward momentum. Your positioning and stride should mimic classic skiing, with extension of the legs and arms (but be careful not to overextend).   



Spenst training focuses on developing explosive power and strength. You can use this exercise to hop side-to-side in one place, or by using the ski-specific classic motion on flat ground or, to add resistance, on a hill. Try to get maximum distance on each hop (whether side-to-side or forward). Each set should last 20-30 seconds and make sure to take a full recovery (2-3 minutes) between sets.


Hill bounding

Bounding consists of intervals of three minutes to eight minutes doing ski imitation with a good pop in the kick. Using poles (shorter than your classic poles) to involve your arms adds to this excellent training regimen.



Skating Technique Dryland Drills

Skate drills, like their classic counterparts, should be done with no poles (unless specified).

Rock ‘n Roll

Assume the BAP, making sure your shin and back are parallel. Your pelvis should be tilted back with ankles and knees bent. Keep your shoulders relaxed and rounded. For this drill, turn your toes, knees and hips outward. Now, add a forward lean, from the ankles, with your feet apart in skate position (toes pointing slightly outward, as they would be when you skate). Now, rock in place. Don’t lift your feet or take a step, just rock, maintaining a connection through the upper body, core and legs.

Step Side to Side

Once you have the feel of Rock ‘n Roll, you can begin stepping from side to side. Keep your pelvis steady (see Fire Your Guns above) – it should not tip forward and back, nor should your pelvis swing side-to-side. In your starting position, thrust your hip forward, maintaining a pelvic tilt that feels like a constant stomach crunch. Face forward and keep your hips at a constant height – no moving up and down. Push off to the side, leaving your leg fully extended. Keep a deep ankle bend on the weighted leg.

Jump Side to Side

Follow the directions of the Step Side to Side exercise, but instead of stepping, take a good jump. But, keep your kicking leg extended – don’t let it come behind the weighted leg, nor should you pull it under your body when transferring your weight. Good skate skiers must master the transfer of weight from side to side with a good jump, and without skis or poles.

Add the Arms

Once you have mastered the lower body movement for both of the side to side exercises, you can add in arm motion. The arms should be held high in the “ready” position. Do a short, quick, downward pole motion as you step or kick off to jump to the other foot.

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