Friday, August 24, 2001 - Physiology
Strength Training Aids

- By: Mike Cavaliere

When most people think of strength bulky muscles usually come to mind - the type of muscles that lack the suppleness needed to be a graceful cross-country skier. We visualize how a big strong guy like Arnie would climb some of the grinds we are exposed to, and then quickly dismiss this type of training as having any value to our sport. Strength training comes in many forms, so defining the term is important. I like to think of strength training as an opportunity to make a functional body, a unit that can react to any situation. At the centre of our attention are the core muscle group, balance, and agility. We are always thinking of ways to be more efficient (read http://home.hia.no/~stephens/effiperf.htm). An athlete who is graceful and balanced can cope with any of winter's surprises. After all being, technically efficient improves economy of motion, which has been shown to have a nearly unlimited potential for improvement.


A training centre athlete demonstrates double poling with the "Russian Pulleys". Notice the proper initiation of the poling motion, the are hands level with the eyes.

In our strength sessions we always add pulleys; after all why squander a chance to improve technically? I assume that the Russians invented them hence the name "Russian Pulleys".

Typically we use the pulleys 2 times a week. Here is a general summary of how we plan and periodize its uses:

Early in the training year an athlete would stand with one leg on a dynafit pancake and diagonal stride (arm motion) - thus putting themselves in an unstable position and then executing the movement while the coach observes them offering technique pointers, and of course, words of encouragement. This is an incredible workout for balance and the stabilizer muscles, primarily the core muscle group.

Mid-summer, we use the pulleys to develop power, or pulleys could be added as part of circuit session, first fatiguing the muscles and then forcing them to perform the proper movement. When the muscle is stressed we get to see where technical breakdowns occur.

During the fall and early winter it becomes a tool for strength endurance or power endurance. Let's not forget the poor weather we can at times be blessed with; the pulleys make the transition from fall to winter much easier. The RP could then compliment a running session, enabling us to bridge the gap until the snow arrives.




Notice at the end of the double poling action the arms and hands extend fully backwards, maximizing the power and muscle groups available in the arms, while also offering a very brief moment when the arms can relax during the return, rather than fighting the movement.


An athlete demonstrates the use of the pulleys for diagonal stride type arm action. Both diagonal stride poling and double poling are often done with the athlete standing on one leg, and on a dynafit pancake to destabalize the movement and force the core muscles to activate.

Remember, we use this as an extra opportunity to work on technique, it does not take the place of outdoor training.


Up close and personal - The Russian Pulley

If you are interested in purchasing a Russian Pulley machine, please email us at .

(Mike Cavaliere is the coach of the Canadian National Senior Development Team in Canmore, AB. Mike is an integral part of the success that Canada's young men's team has had over the last few years. He is leading our next generation of Olympic contenders into the battle field again this year.)


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