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Wave One Project - Strength

Posted by Tony Mommsen on Jun 30th 2015

At a presentation over 20 years ago, Steve Gaskill (local and national coach) said the best thing a skier can do is improve upper body strength. I should have listened. But, I guess, we do what we like and what we’re good at. Flexible people like yoga and strong people lift weights. I’ve had skinny, ineffective, arms forever - case-in-point, the rope climb at Meadow Lake Elementary School. Other boys grabbed the fat rope hanging from the ceiling and pulled themselves up, hand-over-hand, touched the ceiling and slid back down. Not me, nor that one heavy kid, we would grab the rope and just grunt - “Alright, that’s enough Mommsen”.


Genetics and strength?
Craig RingsvenI did a bit of research and learned that genetics has an influence over strength and muscle size. But, it was reassuring to learn that a person with limited genetic potential could still become a pretty darn good athlete. 
*Notes below on strength on the Mommsen side of my family.

Now it's 2015 and I'm not any stronger. 
I was always hoping cross country skiing was mainly about legs. Or height. Or, that by skiing my upper body would get stronger with all that double poling. Since the 1970s, I’d heard cross country skiing is the best sport for overall fitness, that it uses every muscle in the body. I took this to mean I didn’t need to do anything else. Apparently I was wrong. To add salt to the wound, I heard a report that said pull ups are the best predictor of a cross-country skiers potential. Dang. Now I need to do something about my chicken arms.

I needed a strength program
Friday morning (two weeks ago, I met with Physical Therapist and Cross Country Ski Specialist, Craig Ringsven** at LAFitness. Craig walked me through a regimen designed to improve overall fitness and strength specific for cross country skiing. He taught me the proper technique for core, back and arm workouts, along with a couple leg machines for good measure. For each machine, he had me do 15 reps then do them all again, making a one-hour strength program, which I am to do 3x a week. Even though a regular pull-up is not included in the regime, Craig said this program will help me get to my (secondary) goal of doing a few pull-ups.

Photo: Tony doing lumbar extensions with Craig Ringsven coaching. 

A few days ago I ran into Zach Handler down by Cedar Lake. I mentioned my Wave One Project, he already knew - he said everyone knows - it’s on the web. About strength, Zach said, for himself, he noticed the first month of a program he got weaker, the second month he got back to where he was, and the third month started getting stronger. Okay - I can live with that. Zach also said, “Do you know who’s gotten really fit - Jon Sanborn. He’s working out diligently and he’s eating right.” I will have to meet up with Jon soon - for some inspiration.


Craig’s strength program for me. 3x/week.
One Hour Workout Regime
Do each of these 2x
Seated Row Machine
Keep arms straight - squeeze shoulder blades together 15x
This will help with my posture
Assisted Dips - 90lbs of assist
Glute Machine
Assisted wide pull-ups  (90lbs of assist)
Hip Abduction
Seated leg press
Tricep cable pushdown (machine mirror)
Lumbar extensions
Deltoid fly - squeeze shoulder blades
Plank - front and each side
Partial crunch - lift shoulder blades off the mat

* A footnote
About strength on the Mommsen side of my family tree.


I don’t know if, by looking at my parents and their parents, I can determine my strength genetics. I’ll have a go at it. My father, Curt, had a build very similar to mine - more legs, less arms. That said, Curt could carry a canoe (and a pack) split and stack wood, shovel sand, haul shingles, all day long. My dad's dad, Adolph, was lean as well - he attended the University of Wisconsin, River Falls the first year men were admitted, around 1910, (before that it was an all women’s normal school). That first year there were so few men that all men had to play on the football team. Grampa Adolph was a wiry 135lbs, but strong as a mule. Or Ox. He laid the foundation of their New Richmond home with cement blocks that were poured solid - no holes to make them lighter. Grampa taught Physics and other sciences. During the first day of class Adolph would (catch) one boy (always much bigger than my grandpa) misbehaving, bring him outside (in front of the classroom windows) and beat the daylights out of the deviant - setting the tone for the school year. I know nothing about my Grandma Mommsen’s personal strength or about her mom and dad. Strength on my mom's side will be included in a future entry. [note: this entry was written over a week ago - I have been pretty diligent on doing three days of my strength program each week.] 

**Craig Ringven offers run and ski evaluations at Gear West Tuesday evenings.
Craig is the lead physical therapist for the Running and Nordic Ski Programs at Twin Cities Orthopedics.  He works with all joints in the body, both surgical and non-surgical, with a special interest in runners and nordic skiers. He focuses on manual therapy as well as therapeutic exercises to help reduce pain and restore function. Craig has a high school coaching background and a history of division one collegiate racing in running and cross-country skiing.

-Posted by Tony Mommsen on Jun 30th 2015

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