Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rowdy - 2

Rowdy has a persistent “glitch” in his skiing and although it can disappear during certain exercises it always stubbornly returns and takes over his skiing. It’s not a minor glitch because it generates insecurity, falls in all conditions, an unnatural  stance and lack of overall progress. The problem is that this has been going on forever and shows no signs of changing.

The apparent reason for this “glitch” comes from two things. The “classic” training that Rowdy had a long time ago still leaves a lunging pole plant at the end of each turn, which confuses his timing. All of the rest of Rowdy’s development has been on parabolic carving skis. Rowdy is looking for a “check” in speed from the end of each turn (with his pole plant) when it isn’t what happens with flowing turns on carving skis. The overall situation is that Rowdy ends up with a stance that is confused in the fore/aft axis and which lacks “angulation” and “anticipation”. Apart from when told to stomp on his uphill leg to start the turn he always makes an uncomfortable transition to the inside edge of his new outside ski. The problem here is that “stomping” only works for him in longer radius turns and he can’t maintain the commitment to dynamics in shorter turns – the speed “check” always creeping back in to haunt him instead of accepting the initial accelerations and realising that the the overall turn will do the slowing down. Many years of trying to tackle this situation directly have led nowhere – so it’s time to take a different approach.

Faults: Upper body rotation is being used here to begin the turn with an accompanying twist outwards of the left foot. The left knee is pointing outwards showing the lack of use of the adductor muscles on the left leg and the foot is probably on its outside edge due to the twisting action. The left hip remains towards the outside of the turn – so there is no hip angulation developing in the turn. The left elbow is held in closely to the body indicating both a hollow lower back and a general failure to stand solidly on the left leg. The initial body rotation came from using the right ski as a support. The timing is the wrong way round with the body coming up through the start of the turn. The upper-body is too upright at the hips so it will tend to get left behind making fore/aft coordination difficult and impeding accurate use of the centre of gravity for driving the system.


The turn progresses but there is still absolutely no development of any hip or knee angulation. The entire body is slightly inclined but that is all.






The turn is completed with a lower ski stem – which leads to a snatched “downsink” pole plant with the arm reaching ahead. The body is one again rotated to face across the hill and no hip angulation is present. This is the preparation for a repeat of the other two images above






Rowdy had already been practising pivoting for the past couple of weeks and my hunch was that this would contribute towards resolving the problem. There was a definite improvement in his coordination with the ability to pivot on any ski – and on two skis simultaneously when they were acting as a single platform. The only obvious problem when pivoting was that Rowdy was rolling his uphill foot onto it’s uphill edge inside his ski boot, instead on onto it’s inside (downhill) edge. His knee was pointing outwards and his adductors were not being engaged. This misinterpretation of the coordination is not just an accident, it ties in with the whole of the “glitch”. Symptomatic of the “glitch” is that Rowdy reverts to coming up to start the turn, with his bottom sticking out of the turn for the first half – unable to get control and pressure from the outside ski until after the fall-line.

Rather than just deal with the adductors, which I’d mentioned before, it felt more like something more fundamental needed to be addressed. It was clear that Rowdy had a lot of tension in the hip area which would lead to all of the issues so far observed – the lack of angulation, anticipation, adductors, subtaler joint, timing – can all be linked to blockage at the hips. This blockage however is a two way process – partly coming from how the skis are being used. This is where Rowdy’s reliance on “inside edge” skiing has been the problem (exacerbated by wrong classical teaching and strong parabolic carving skis). In simple terms, Rowdy has never had the benefit of the confidence given by learning to turn on the uphill edges only – or the unique coordination that this brings. That’s why I now always teach beginners to make their first turns on a gradient in this way.

The first key to unlock the “Rowdy glitch” was to use the ChiSkiing principle of pulling the support hip backwards. As soon as you stand on a leg you can start to pull the hip backwards. If the shoulders are left in place this creates a slight stretching of the abdomen and twist of the spine. The important thing is to always pull back the hip more than the shoulder. People have a tendency to do the exact opposite, to only move the shoulder. This reverses the twist in the spine putting the lower back at risk. When people walk when wearing shoes with heels there is a tendency to reach forwards with the foot and to land on the heel. Along with the foot the hip also tends to swing forwards. All of this is very poor for both efficiency and for postural mechanics. The stride should be lengthened behind the body not in front – so the hip should never swing ahead of the body. When turning on skis this problem is much worse because the leg is being brought around by the ski. If the upper-body is prevented from turning then the hip will be pulled around in front of it. The antidote to all of this is to pull the hip actively backwards. Even if the foot is in front of the body. The main goal here is to establish a good alignment of the support leg which will lead to more selective muscle control and more relaxation. 

Preparation for a pivot. The hips and shoulders should be much further around in an “anticipated” position – practically facing downhill. The left arm should not be uphill but should be downhill. It’s certainly easier to develop angulation while standing on the uphill leg only, as the body faces inwards from the supporting hip – so this is a great place to be in to work on angulation.





The stemming here indicates a twisting of the left leg in the direction of the turn – simply because the right leg has to be innocent as it is in the air.






Finishing a pivoted turn here the body is totally rotated across the hill with no hip angulation or anticiation. The knee of the right leg is pointing outwards so the adductors are not being used.






Preparation for a compression turn shows the same problems – lack of angulation, anticipation, right arm uphill.






The upper body had to rotate a lot to get to this position and the mechanism used to achieve this is what stems the skis.






As the turn develops there is no hip or knee angulation.







Same other side…







Taken to the extreme – no angulation, lots of rotation and a stem.







Unlocking The Hip

Basically the solution for Rowdy’s “glitch” lies in unlocking the hip joints. I did the “pole stopper” test to see if he was pulling inwards with the adductor muscles but when the tail of the ski failed to move in the it was clear that he was not selectively using the adductor muscles.

Prior to pulling the hip back the posture has to be organised. The pelvis is tilted up at the front but crucially at the same time the hip joints are flexed to release muscle tension. Pulling the hip back generates better alignment for then pulling inwards with the adductors and also for rolling the foot onto its inside edge with the subtaler joint. While the weight is on the uphill ski with the turn ready to commence, the foot rolls over onto its downhill edge using the subtaler joint. The ski remains on the uphill edge due to the lateral rigidity of the ski boot. The overall coordination would be – Pelvic tilt, flex hips, pull back hip, pull inwards with adductors, roll foot inwards and then move the centre of mass. It’s best to work outwards from the centre of mass. All motion and actions should begin from the centre of mass. 

Angulation is achieved by either bending at the knee and hip or tilting the entire upper body forwards on the hip joint – and then rotating the upper body while perched on that single ball socket joint. For this to work the hip joint must be maintained relaxed and soft. If inappropriate coordination is used, such as twisting the leg outwards, or pushing/ bracing outwards then the hip joint will lock up. This is why the coordination of the “snowplough” and stem turn is so damaging to skiers. The legs should be pulled inwards not outwards.

The pivot is useful in achieving the goal of increased angulation and anticipation because it requires clear coordination and at the same time keeps the speed under control and the need for dynamics to a minimum.


I asked Rowdy to widen his stance much more than usual and to carve with the hip in the Chi position. He immediately found the skis “railing” like he had never experienced before. That’s saying something considering all the years spent on World Cup carving skis! This indicates that there is a consistent blockage at the hips which is preventing Rowdy from progressing.


I believe that years ago I asked Rowdy to bend at the hips and knees in such a way as to release the muscles around the hips. The difference this time was probably just general bodily awareness. It may be the addition of the “Chi” alignment. It may also be because I asked for the pelvis to be tilted upwards. I’d always avoided that despite Rowdy’s tendency to hollow his lower back – because most often the tilted pelvis actually locks up the hip joints. The key here is to simply stipulate that when the pelvis is tilted upwards the hips must then be flexed independently until they are released – which turns out to be a surprisingly simple movement. It may also be because of working on the hip with the ski NOT being on its inside edge and generating a lot of force to “resist” or brace against. The final aspect is that pivoting only works well when “pulling inwards” with the adductors, which keeps the single hip placed accurately below the skier as a fundamental support. Rowdy had an unconscious need to be on two skis and two hips – hence all the stemming. This can only be changed by feeling totally secure on one hip. Even with the feet jammed together in a tight two ski platform – the skier is locked onto that outside hip like a laser.

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