As the leaves change, air cools, and frosty mornings greet us, memories of evenings under the lights at Chester Bowl--lungs screaming for oxygen and legs and arms turning to spaghetti--remind us it’s hillbounding time with DXC.
Other than feeling proud about pounding yourself into the ground and feeling like it’s a killer workout, what good is hillbounding? Whether you race regularly, or you recreational ski and maybe jump into a Loppet race once or twice a year, hillbounding has multiple benefits to everyone who skis, whether it’s moving up a wave in the Birkie or simply getting up and over Korkki’s Isomäki with a little less embarrassment this winter.
· Specific Muscular Power: Hillbounding’s best and most obvious benefit is muscular. Look at it like a weight workout that maximizes power gains for specific skiing motion. In order for it to be a good specific strength workout though, technique (see below) is important. Bounding is important to master as opposed to running uphill, to maximize strength gains. The bounding pause and explosion is where the greatest strength gains are made, as opposed to just running uphill. Hillbounding as a way more fun, ski-specific way of getting strong than going to the gym.
· Cardiac Capacity: The second most important benefit to hillbounding is that the intensity required, boosts maximal cardiac output—it strengthens your heart. Very few exercises combine upper limb and lower limb, high intensity exercise. To fuel the muscles in those limbs to do the work, the heart must work very hard in the work interval of the bounding. While heart rate monitors have made heart rate readily understandable as a measure of exercise intensity, studies have shown that the interval nature of hard exercise, like hillbounding, followed by pronounced and immediate rest, likely increase the heart’s stroke volume as well. While Max VO2 is a commonly-understood factor of high-performance talent in endurance sport, we can do little to increase it besides becoming very physically fit. But many physiologists and coaches believe the heart’s stroke volume is as big or a bigger factor than Max VO2 to high performance, and it’s trainable. Hillbounding intervals is as good a way to train it as any, but the recoveries are as critical as the workloads.
Look at the hard interval nature of hillbounding as a “capacity builder” for enjoying the physical challenges of cross country skiing, regardless of your level. Shorter, more intense bouts of bounding will build more cardiac capacity (and require more recovery between bouts), while longer, slightly less intense bounding sessions are good for developing the ability to sustain the duration you can perform in an anaerobic state—something that can help those who race more.
· Ski Technique: The third important benefit to hillbounding is dialing in the motions required for good kick in both classic and skating. With a good watchful eye of a coach, mastering the timing of ankle and knee compression with timing of the heal coming off the ground can be massively helpful as a dryland technique that will break the feel of the kicking motion down, so it can be better felt when you get on skis. Just like for the power benefit, you have to master the bounding motion and not simply run up the hill.
DXC’s coaches for hillbounding sessions can help you improve technically, while simultaneously increasing your specific strength and cardiac capacity. If you want bang for your buck, hillbounding is as good as it gets!