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Drills for getting weight forward - with unusual biomechanics

 Poster: A snowHead
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Had a bit of a eureka moment this morning with Mrs_mg, finding that she can ski much more naturally without poles than with. I'm not a fan of the trend to ski without poles, but humour me here and read on.

She tends to ski with her hands down by her sides, and several instructors have tried to get her to hold them up and in front, to help her get forward. She has a kyphosis (in simple terms, her back isn't straight) which makes her look as though she's sitting back even when she isn't (which can confuse instructors). We had a look this morning at what happens when she holds her arms in what would normally be considered a good position: her shoulders go back, and her weight shifts noticeably backwards. If she drops her hands to her sides, she rocks forward into a good centred stance. Having realised this, she then mentioned that when doing squats with the physio, post knee op, she couldn't do them with her arms out front, but if she put her arms behind her back she could squat without a problem. Weird. Drop the poles, forget about the hands, instantly skiing better.

Anyway, that's a long winded intro to get to the question: what simple drills could she try, to help keep her weight forward when skiing? Standing still her stance is good, but she gets a bit back seat when turning right (her weaker turn). The usual first suggestion of keeping her hands up where she can see them does totally the opposite, as explained above.
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What about experimenting with sliding her feet back and forth until she finds a position that works on a given slope.

I also remember hearing a tip from an American Instructor, where you pull toes up inside your boots - which seemed to give more control (probably by giving ankle flex without lightening the tails too much).

Both these are long shots, which may not work at all.
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@Old Fartbag, thanks. If we're still on the (narrow) nursery slope the feet forwards/backwards thing could be tricky to fit in but I could imagine it working.
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mgrolf wrote:
@Old Fartbag, thanks. If we're still on the (narrow) nursery slope the feet forwards/backwards thing could be tricky to fit in but I could imagine it working.

You can mess about with it while going slowly in a traverse - its just getting used to to the idea of sliding the feet back and forth, while moving. It can then be modified to remain in balance, as terrain changes.

This might help with what I mean:


http://youtube.com/v/XgctOD6OkZk&t=2s
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mrgolf wrote:
The usual first suggestion of keeping her hands up where she can see them does totally the opposite, as explained above.
As it often does, for the reason you explained. You add any weight to the front (ie, the arms) and the body instinctively compensates by adding weight at the back (ie, hips or shoulders drop back). More often than not I think "hands up" is poor advice.

Do you have any video of MrsGolf skiing? Where in the turn is she getting in to the back seat? Is it:

At the beginning of the turn? Making a stronger extension movement to balance on the new outside ski will also brings the hips forward at the start of the turn.

At the end of the turn, passively because she allows her feet to creep in front of her hips? Within the turn moving forwards along the length of the ski will help stay centred.

At the end of the turn by actively sitting back, with too much knee flex? Focus on not over-flexing the outside leg, "stay tall and strong" until the end of the turn.
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@rob@rar, no film yet and I'm not sure she'll let me post any!

She's back at the start of the turn, and inside. At least I think that's what's happening. What is very obvious is that she struggles to initiate the turn, with her inside ski wobbling all over the place and she ends up muscling it round (with a classic z shaped turn). Her right shoulder falls back and in after this. She doesn't over bend her knees. The contrast to her left turn is huge - nice and smooth, rounded, weight balanced on her outside ski.
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mgrolf wrote:
@rob@rar, no film yet and I'm not sure she'll let me post any!

She's back at the start of the turn, and inside. At least I think that's what's happening. What is very obvious is that she struggles to initiate the turn, with her inside ski wobbling all over the place and she ends up muscling it round (with a classic z shaped turn). Her right shoulder falls back and in after this. She doesn't over bend her knees. The contrast to her left turn is huge - nice and smooth, rounded, weight balanced on her outside ski.
Tricky without seeing it, but it sounds more like a lateral balance issue, with the fore/aft problem being a symptom rather than the primary cause. With the caveat, I'd suggest that she focuses on standing more effectively on her left foot in the setup phase of her turns, perhaps some one-footed drills (storks, Up 'n Over drills). If she, consciously or subconsciously, gets a bit stronger on her left foot it might mean that the backseat issue disappears without having to think about it.
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@rob@rar, you are probably right Very Happy
We'll have a go at getting weight & balance on the outside ski at the start of the turn, if she manages another session this week.
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Drill: have her hold both poles horizontally, with her hands shoulder width. Have her ski this way, with her arms out in front of her. Her poles and upper half should always remain perpendicular to the fall line no matter what her lower half is doing. This helps keep her hands where they belong, and also helps one to focus on staying square to the fall line.

Thought: she should always be able to see her hands. I tell my kids “get your hands out of your pockets, and put up your dukes“!
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Base of foot awareness. Do a series of turns with all her weight on the balls of her feet, zero on the heels. Next move it to heels only. Next to 50/50 balls and heels. Now do a series of turns, 3 turns the balls, then 3 on the heels, then 3 50/50, for the length of the run. There's nothing better for introductory fore/aft awareness and management skill development then that.
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balance can be a tricky one as it is slightly different for everyone, as mentioned above base of the foot awareness is a good thing. Another thing i have found helps is when skiing concentrate on making sure you shin makes contact with the front of the boot all the time you ski.

Doing hops is a classic because when you land you body want to be in a balanced and centred stance, which is exactly what you want for skiing.
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Ok, video (posted with mrs_mg's permission). Apologies for the quality, I only had my phone and mrs_mg wasn't hanging around for me to get into position.

http://youtube.com/v/yMYYSdu95gw
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This is one for the professionals.

It is strange seeing someone skiing with their hands by their sides....which in my view will somehow need to be corrected.

What I see, is that she uses more of a stem to turn Left and more rotary skills to turn Right.

Maybe a Video of what happens (ie. how she is thrown out of balance) when she brings her arms up to a more normal position, would also help.
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This is a really interesting video to watch.

Her stance isn't the worst i have seen by a long way, although i suspect it is still a little "back seat".

@Old Fartbag, Is correct in what he said about her turning. From a technical point of view her left turn is better than the right turn. It's not unusual however to have one turn be better than the other and could be worked on with exercises designed to promote turning your feet.

The other thing i notice is how static her stance is, adding in some dynamic movement, bending and flexing in her ankles, knees and hips throughout the turn would help her to transfer weight from one ski to another, turn her skis and get the edges generating some grip.

My suggestion if she wants to improve would be (i know its not cheap) to work with an instructor, book private lessons with an instructor that speaks the language well and always request the same instructor so that they get to know how she skis and doesn't have to waste the first portion of the lesson woking it out/being told what she has tried before.
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mgrolf wrote:
Ok, video (posted with mrs_mg's permission). Apologies for the quality, I only had my phone and mrs_mg wasn't hanging around for me to get into position.

http://youtube.com/v/yMYYSdu95gw


I see what you mean about the back issue. Not to worry, it's more an aesthetic issue than performance. The concern about the hanging hands is that it minimizes their capacity to assist in maintaining balance, and in pole planting/touching. I'd try to get her more comfortable with holding them in a functional skiing position, even when skiing without poles.

Now, to fore/aft balance. Biggest issue I see in this video is minimal ankle flexion/extension. Her ankles appear to be very static, stiff. Ankle flexing/extending is a crucially important control mechanism for fore/aft balance management. Review the base of foot awareness drill I suggested in my prior post, and when you work on it with her, have her focus on using flexing and extending the ankles as the primary tool for moving pressure to the various areas of the feet I described. It will make a world of difference in her skiing.

Note, make sure her boots are not too stiff, that she can actually flex them when she flexes her ankles. If too stiff, you need to address that pronto by going to see a good boot fitter, as it would represent a serious blockade to her being able to improve.
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Just to add a note to the mix here, @mgrolf, I don’t really see such significant kyphosis in that video that it should affect your wife’s biomechanics dramatically. Of course it’s just a small video and she is wearing a bulky jacket so please don’t take this view as anything other than a passing comment. It just seems like it’s hard for all beginners to get forward and I’m not sure that mild kyphosis changes this situation so much.
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I'd agree with many of the technical points above, however here's a different perspective. This looks like a skier who believes, rightly or wrongly, her right turn is weaker. She turns nicely to the left but gives up on the turn at about 8 o'clock (the point at which the deceleration forces are building in the outside leg) so doesn't fully control her speed. Then she heads diagonally down the piste gathering speed and hesitating to start her 'weak' right turn until she's gathered a lot more speed. It may be this is the point where the fear of turning is outweighed by the fear of going too fast... Quite understandably she then needs to get the skis sideways to control the speed and throws the turn with a swing of the body. This results in her killing all the speed and ending up pointing across the slope moving slowly, from where she can then initiate the left turn. Repeat.
You can see the change in speed as the distance concertinas between you, you are much closer at the end of her right turn than at any other point.

Some things I'd try..

Does she always start with a turn to the left? Try starting with a turn to the right. Is the first right turn then different from the subsequent ones...

Try single turns in each direction, turning to a complete stop, feeling the build-up of pressure in the outside leg, understanding this is a good thing - it is what is slowing her down.

Try a counting drill turn-2-3-4-5-turn-2-3-4-5 to focus on symmetrical round S shaped turns with no straight line between (the turn lasts the entire count of 5).

Then build in more movement etc. as others have suggested above.
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@wardy89, thanks, good point about her being static (I would say I'll mention this to her but as she'll read the thread at some point I don't really need to). If she had enough energy, and could rely on feeling well enough to ski, then we'd definitely do lessons as suggested. Unfortunately, this year's two short sessions is the most she's managed in years Sad so it's tricky.

@FastMan, boots should be ok, she can flex them when standing. But if she was able to ski more then a trip to a fitter would def be on the cards.

@diaphon, you're right, it isn't a dramatic kyphosis (most people can't even tell, unless they see her on holiday, on the beach). But it does have quite a big effect on movement - she's not comfortable at all riding a bike, for example, or running. She can get her weight forward but it's trickier than for the average person.


@Tubaski, interesting observation. I'm not sure but I think she prefers to start by turning left. Later on in the morning, she did some turns only using half the width of the piste, and they were perhaps a little more even. It's not the counting drill you suggested, but something similar

Thanks for all the input, folks Very Happy
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@mgrolf, A slightly cheeky question - but maybe relevant - Given all the hurdles your good Lady has to overcome, is her heart really in it?
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@Old Fartbag, yes and no. If she had the energy then it definitely would be. Realistically, if we can find a way for her to ski an hour or two so she can get up the mountain with us, then that's a good result. Being stuck in an apartment or chalet while everyone else goes skiing is no fun for her, but she enjoys being in the mountains.
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mgrolf wrote:
@Old Fartbag, yes and no. If she had the energy then it definitely would be. Realistically, if we can find a way for her to ski an hour or two so she can get up the mountain with us, then that's a good result. Being stuck in an apartment or chalet while everyone else goes skiing is no fun for her, but she enjoys being in the mountains.

I completely understand.....It's the wish to be "included" in the holiday and get full enjoyment from the mountains, which keeps her struggling to make the effort. The big decision, is whether that struggle is going to lead anywhere, other than frustration.

I really hope you manage to find a satisfactory solution.
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