Strength and Conditioning for Telemark

Written by Joe Beer, Chris Stewart, Jaz Taylor and Dave Murrie.

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Joe Beer, BASI Telemark Director and Trainer

Recently we at BASI asked for your ideas for a wish-list. One of the easiest to answer was a request for ideas on Strength and Conditioning for preparation and or while Telemarking. So I had a thought that rather than answer it myself I would ask a few people I know who are far more qualified than me to share their knowledge with you. Any terminology can be googled.

First to answer and contacted was Basi L3 Telemark, once BASI role model and aspirant Telemark trainer, Chris Stewart;

I competed for Great Britain in Telemark skiing, highest ever finish in a world cup race by a British male Telemark skier (15th). 3 time British champion.  A degree in BSC Sports coaching from Leeds Met, attaining MSc in strength and conditioning from St Mary’s university, Twickenham. UKSCA – Accredited S and C coach (ASCC).

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Chris Stewart, BASI Telemark Level 3

Outside of skiing I have a great passion for many sports and fitness activities. I have been resistance training (training with weights) since I was 14 and I became fascinated how training you can progressively make the body adapt depending on the stress you put it through. Over the years my hobby became my true passion and I began to pursue a professional route in strength and conditioning, from personal training and chairman of Leeds Met (now Leeds Beckett) weightlifting club, to being the S&C coach at Championship Rugby league side Featherstone Rovers. Work experience at the English Institute of sport working with GB athletes from various sports, winding up here at my very own Strength and Conditioning facility

What are the major muscle groups to develop for Telemark?

Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings and Calves. The exercises needed to develop these muscles will develop the “core” and trunk too. You want to aim to build the size of the muscle and the strength to truly aid performance and injury prevention.

Strength or Cardiovascular?

Make sure you are in the best condition before you leave to go away skiing. From my experience in all skiing disciplines, technique and skill is the overriding factor, so make sure you are doing the sport. That being said, the most stand out feature for most recreational and competitive skiers I see time and time again is a lack of basic strength. Strength is the one physical quality that all others stem from – power, speed, strength endurance, starting strength, muscular endurance and many others.

All you have to do is look at any sport and observe the ‘best’ athletes within it, they are normally extremely ‘strong’. And strong being compared to their peers and for their sport not a world champion power lifter. Being stronger makes daily tasks easier, improves economy and efficiency of movement. This being said cardio vascular training, aerobic and anaerobic should not be dismissed. Fastest way to increase aerobic capacity is interval training. Training for strength is very different to how most people train, therefore it takes time to become accustomed to the different elements such as: being used to handling heavy external loads, time under tension, the longer rest periods needed to truly train for strength. It is common for people to ‘feel ready’ but its far more complicated than that, you might feel ready for the next set, but the chemical reactions that take place with the body and muscles may need longer rest to restore.

Note; just being strong is not in itself enough – adding strength onto a high level of skill, finesse and adaptability will be better than just relying on strength (JB). Maybe another article!

What are the 3 or 4 most useful exercises?

Master the most basic and fundamental movements, to help build the physically robust body you need to perform your best this season on the slopes or back country:

The 4 fundamental movements to master in the gym are squat, hinge, press and pull.

Squat – start with Goblet squats, progressing into Front squats and Back squats.

Hinge – movements such as Hip thrusts / Glute bridges, Romanian deadlifts, Good mornings, Kettlebell swings and deadlifts.

Press – horizontal bench press with barbell and dumbbells – multiple variations and vertical (overhead with dumbbell or barbell)

In addition to these, unilateral movements should be done too like split squats, forward and reverse lunges, and walking lunges.

Pull – Inverted row, pull ups, chin ups, bent over rows, single arm rows.

I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to really focus on the technique of each of these movements, all movements should have straight lines and nice angles, no rounded shapes or diverting limbs. Posture is paramount.

Develop an understanding of how your body moves, controlling all of these movements mastering the skills needed to complete them.

Where are the Planks and other ‘core’ exercises? I hear you cry, that can wait for another day.

Best advice for warm up?

A nice brew and a warm shower!! I have always liked to warm up initially off the skis. Use the acronym RAMP:

  • R aise – the bodies core and external tissue temperature.
  • A ctivate – the muscles to be used.
  • M obilise – the major working limbs
  • P otentiate – this just means get the muscles and nervous system firing ready to exert and deal with the high forces when skiing.

(What about powder days? We all know we plunge straight in on a pow morning!) – If you don’t have time, warm up with a gentle run practicing all aspects of what you’re going to be doing at full tilt – increasing rate and range of all movements; Lead change, rotary, edging and pressure related. Beware of getting too warm and then sitting on a chairlift for 5 minutes in the cold (JB).

The ideal number of training sessions?

Optimal amount to train leading into the winter 3 gym based sessions and 2 ski based sessions and 1 aerobic/anaerobic sessions. If that’s too many, try 2 gym, 1 Ski, 1 aerobic/anaerobic.

Flexibility and mobility?

If proper attention is paid to the basic lifts and you work hard at them with good form, then flexibility and mobility will improve. Importantly though, we want stable joints, so don’t go over kill and try to turn yourself into a teenage gymnast.

  • Foam roll
  • Static stretch tight muscle groups before and after exercise
  • Dynamic movements before exercise


Like your grandma said, eat a broad and balanced diet.

Limit carbohydrates (carbs) intake on days with low activity levels.

You can increase carb intake on days when training or being active.

Good lean sources of protein.

Loads of veg from a range of sources.

Fats – get them in you, nuts are a great easy way to get good fats ingested.

Go for low GI carbs, sweet potatoes, cuscus to name a few. High GI carbs post exercise, rice, white potatoes.

What no beer?? (JB) “Everything in moderation” I hear Chris’ Grandma!

Second was BASI qualified Jaz Taylor;

“Jasmin Taylor is 2014 British Champion, 2013 French Cup Champion and the first ever Briton to podium in the senior World Cup, finishing 2nd. Based on her World Cup ranking she is currently #1 for Great Britain and #7 in the world.

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Jasmin Taylor

Jaz joined the British Ski Academy as an athlete aged 12, competing as an alpine skier. After becoming the youngest British Ski Cross Champion ever, aged just 15, she made the England Freestyle Ski Team in 2009. It was during this time Jaz started Telemark skiing, a discipline for which she showed potential on a far larger scale, competing in her first World Junior Telemark Championship in 2011. Jaz was invited to the World Junior Championships after the British Telemark Ski Team spotted her results in the French Cup Series following her frequent podium appearances. Jaz has been on the British Team ever since.

Based in Chamonix, France, Jaz is currently training for the World Cup season and the 2015 World Championships in Steamboat Springs, USA. Persistent and hardworking, Jaz’s exceptional talent for Telemark is matched only by her fierce determination and ambition to one day be World Champion.”

Jaz came back with this answer;

I would agree with Chris’s answers completely and add in some balance and proprioception work to make the “strength” more functional, that way it’s more likely to transfer to Telemark and people should become more ‘connected’ to their postures and placement under foot.
I would also recommend doing:

  • play catch on a wobble board/swiss ball – try closing one eye and change hands to catch/throw
  • swiss ball balances: start sitting, then kneeling, then squatting – challenge the position as long as possible
  • walking backwards lunges with one eye closed, control every inch of your position – with the idea of becoming in tune with your bodies’ placement
  • wobble board single leg squats, once this is easy – close both eyes

Lastly but not least Dave Murrie, a man with more letters after his name and someone many of you may have met when attending the Common theory course in the highlands of Scotland. Dave has coached internationally across a wide range of sports, been head of a number of sports science departments and specialises in Biomechanics. For more information see

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Dave Murrie

And Dave’s who also agreed but had a few provisos;

For injury prevention (and underpinning improved performance + longevity) – the `foundation` training I would propose is effective strength and stabilisation of the key joints of the knee and lumbar spine and effective mobility – mobilising as opposed to just stretching – of the pelvis and whole foot, not just ankle. There is a need for prehab before strength…

Note – the idea of aerobic training as a base is not a very good one.

If you have previous injury – are you still doing your rehab exercises? – because you should be!

For the strength work I fully support the hinge movements and would add step ups and lunges for independent leg action too.

I would add a caution, that while squats are fantastic – the majority of people are asymmetrical and many do not have the ankle range of motion (and `equally`) plus hip/pelvis biomechanical symmetry to do the most effective range of movement / resistance without potentially creating back issues – in simple terms they cannot stack themselves well even with good coaching since their biomechanics are twisted.

Emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings is important to protect the knee (hamstring strength not less than 70% of quad strength for example.

I agree re the `core` comments – but I have found as many athletes who weight train as those who do lots of core (plank etc) whose lumbar area has muscular imbalance – and in particular have too little isometric endurance in the stabilisers of the posterior chain – which leads to non specific low back ache and pain. This is another area for remedial work first.

Have the strength and neuro-muscle balance to support good posture throughout and the strength through the required range of movement to perform effectively.

There are many screening tests that people  could take to identify a specific weakness or get n `MOT` type a check up with a good sports physio for example.

On nutrition – on my website you will find a 2012 version of the nutrition for Snowsports lecture given at the Common theory by sports dietician and IOC accredited nutritionist Rebecca Dent that you could help.

Hope that helps in the interim meanwhile my mantras are aerobic conditioning, unless you’re skinning, generic flexibility (as opposed to targeted) and the ubiquitous core training are `oversold` in the `exercise and fitness` industry.

Many thanks to Chris, Jaz and Dave for giving this article some of their valuable time and I’m sure they’d be happy to share more if needed. If you have any further questions you can send them to me or or on the BASI Telemark facebook page.

Chris is busy at his Gym in the north of England, Jaz busy Telemark racing all over Europe and Dave busy repairing his car that broke down recently in France so never got round for a cuppa at my house, Jose, your friendly Telemark director and trainer.