Monday, January 16, 2017

Converting a flexing release to forward hips, getting over the skis.




          Gaining and regaining Fore/aft Balance



One of the most mis-understood and frankly incorrect and damaging coaching approaches that continues to exist in USSA and in Canada's version of USSA, is how to achieve re-centering. What is constantly being taught and coached is extending and moving the hips forward. Although the idea may portray what you'd like to see, but that is not what is being done, by the best world cup skiers. These two approaches don't portray what is actually happening in world class skiing. 


The release!

                                                                    The Release


Flexing and retracting the ski and boot from the snow constitutes the release.
Lifting the tip of the ski, creates the correct tension and advantages the kinetic chain with the correct muscles and tension all the way up the body for a "backward" hold or movement of the boots.

Balance change by initiating the lifting and flexing of the previous stance or outside ski is accomplished.







                                                                      Edge Change


Continuing the retraction and changing edge angles of the lifted ski constitutes the change to the new edges. The new outside ski is weighted and balance is established on the new turning ski.


                                                                   Inside ski pull back


The inside foot is pulled back creating a lift of the ski tail, or a transition from a back position on the ski to a center weighted ski.

Ski Technique and random thoughts about skiing!

Comparison between Hirscher and  Kristoffersen?


This comparison would have to involve skis and boot brands. In my opinion Atomic skis are stiff and harsh, part of that issue is boot related, however the combination is tough on the racers. Rossingnols don't work well for everyone, but they sure do hit the sweat spot and are much more of a smooth carving boot and ski combination. If you pay attention to the skiers on the different products you begin to see patterns. The patterns influence of different brands of skis and boots influence ski and leg movements and the way they engage lower body angles. You can start to notice similarities between the skiers on the different brands. To do this analysis in a scientific way; I would have to be able to do a biomechanical assessment of each skier's foot and ankle. I would also measure cuff relationships and stationary balancing abilities while standing on an angled platform. It sure would produce some interesting results. We do this type of work every day at our ski shop.



Tip ski lift at the release!



I have never been anti-tip lift, I always saw, or noted that I had it in my skiing, I even wrote about it in 2007.

I started using tip lift for intermediates when I saw too much focus on just lift the back of the ski. Which accomplishes little. I began by telling students the point of lifting was to get a release, but most were not tipping after they lifted the ski. The whole idea of lifting is to get that ski to the LTE. 

So I began to tell our students to keep the ski level rather than just lifting the tail. In doing the exercise of keeping the ski level, from a stationary rehearsal,  I had them compare the difference in the actions of the leg muscles, between just lifting the tail and lifting the tip. 

It became obvious even in a stationary exercise for this comparison, that lifting the tip keeps the ski closer to the ground and it also engaged important hip and torso muscles that helped set up CA and CB, which lifting the tail did not. I began to have the group use just lifting the tip at the  release. Low and behold,  most of their extension went away, and inside ski lead was reduced. Better overall balance and transfer increased. SO I stayed with it.


Biomechanically speaking, the action helps to close the ankle, or Dorsi-flexes the foot, lifts the foot. The tibialis anterior, is the main lifting muscle used to lift the foot, which also helps to invert the foot. In turn, higher in the kinetic chain it engages the hip flexor, (tensor fascia latæ), You can also use it at Starbuck to order a special Lattee, it really confuses the hell out of  them. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My new knee by ConforMIS!





Why the ski "Tip" lift is important, for all skiing levels?

The biggest change in the body while skiing and making turns happens during the transition from one set of edges to the other.


Why is the lifting of the tip so prevalent with expert skiers? Were they taught to do it this way. In most cases no.They evolve this movement because it's more efficient, they discover it works and they keep using it. 

                                           What does lifting the tip do?

Simply, it engages a different and correct set of muscles that activates a stable hip transition. Most skiers don't recognize that there is a profound hip transition as well as a ski edge change and a CG transition for every turn. The hips slide over from one side to the other in transition to align the body for the forces coming up in the new turn. This involves setting up the proper counter acting and counter balancing movements. Some will ask what are counter acting and counter balancing movements? They are explained in my book, "The Essentials of Skiing".  Books and DVDs about these topics are available on my web site; www.Harbski.com
The tip lifting movement,  also stops the skis from shooting forward, critical for all junior racers who end up in the back seat. the movement comes from the tibialis anterior muscle on the front of the shin. and engages several other key mid body and torso muscles that hold the upper body over the skis during transition. This happen through the engagement of the kinetic chain.

 But "How" is this accomplished? And why is the "tip lift"  part of this             important phase of skiing?

Shiffrin



Top swiss slalom skier. Counter acting and lifting the tip.




Lifting the old stance ski has been around as long as great skiing have been around. 
In this photo you see Harald Harb's old outside or stance ski being lifted at the tip, while the tail of the ski is still on the snow.  2013 video!

Marcel Hirscher best skier in the world for the last 6 years lifts the ski tip to release the stance ski.



Ozz National demo Team one of the best skiing teams in the world,  releasing the old stance ski by retraction and tip lifting.



Stefano  Gross, italian National Team, one of the best slalom skiers in the world ski tip lifted to enter the turn.

Gross balance transfer by retraction and tip lift.



                                                    After the tip lift?

After the tips lift and the skis are coming to the new edges the skiers will convert this into a tip down ski tail up or level ski relationship. This demonstrates a profound ability that only a few of the very top skiers have. This is called foot pull back in PMTS, we have been teaching and coaching this for decades. We knew early on that extending was slow and extending the hips forward was not what was happening with the top ski racers. They pull the feet or a foot back, causing the tip to lift.. The tip lifting starts this process and prepares everything above the ankles,  in the kinetic chain to prepare for achieving  fore/aft balance properly and quickly.


Harald Harb tip lift to release in a 2013 video.


The expert skier has a releasing process with three distinct steps: bending, flexing relaxing and or retracting the old stance or outside ski leg, is step one. This causes a weight or balance transfer to the uphill or little toe edged ski. With an expert skier this begins the crossing of the body toward angles for the new turn. With an intermediate skier, because they generate less forces due to smaller or lesser angles, tipping the newly released ski (toward its little toe edge) is an important additional movement. Even in world cup skiing the skiers are trying to tip the newly released ski onto it's little toe edge, before the outside ski comes to the edge. This is accompanied by pulling and tipping that ski in closer to the newly developed stance ski. This gives the skier a more focused concentrated body alignment over the outside ski as they develop the increasing drop into the arc with their body.

If you are watching world cup skiing on TV, it is very easy to see who will be fast,  and it is not from more aggression like the commentators like to endlessly tell us. It's who is the best ski bender of the group. How do you become the best ski bender? Two ways, feet closer when developing the new angles above the gate and developing bigger angles faster. Faster angles are developed by faster retraction (flexing or bending) of the old stance leg. The faster the angles are developed the sooner the release out of the arc is accomplished. A real speed killer is pushing on the ski. Pushing on the ski either at the end of the arc or during the arc, stops the tipping movement that increase angles. This is where it gets to be all about timing the point of most pressure. If your pressure comes too early you have to release and set again. or commonly known as double edge set or late edge set.

This is why it's very frustrating to listen to the TV commentary, they have it backward, the skiers are "NOT"  trying to get early pressure, they are trying to get early angles, so they can time when they get the most pressure to the exact right point in the arc.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Basic Cuff Alignment

For some reason cuff alignment has gone nuts. Years ago the basic most rudimentary understanding was put the leg in the middle of both sides of the top cuff of the boot. 

The left boot would normally be considered close to what you want to begin with. The footbeds should be in the boot, to stand on. When the cuff is touching the leg or pushing against the inside of the legs also called the medial side, that is called "cuff strong" or over powered.  The problem with over powering the leg with the cuff, is it pre-loads the big toe edge or inside edge of the ski, even in a straight run. If you try this from a straight run, both skis flat, and lift one foot/boot/ or ski off the snow; the ski immediately rails or you fall to the outside. So to balance and stay in a straight run on one leg, you have to push your leg, rotate the femur, inward which looks like you are pushing the knee against the over strong cuff or in toward the other leg. In fact that is exactly what happens. This makes the ski rail. and the upper body has to compensate as a result.

Hirscher before the boot changes that are influencing his once perfect technique.

This is the first in a series I will publish, about boots and their influence on world cup skiing and individuals. In the following photos, over the last 4 years of Marcel Hirscher's skiing; they show high angles and great carving around the gate.  In everyone of these photos and many more during his previous boots era, and set ups, his boot and lower leg are lined up perpendicular to his ski. And he is able to create excellent counter balancing with his upper body, in everyone one of these photos.

If you study these photos and compare  them to the last photo in the series; I posted below, you will notice the contrast. The boot and leg and ski are no longer at right angles.

This is a very simple demonstration. I have added more recent turns from this season's races that demonstrate the exact same thing that appears in the last photo,.  I also evolve this discussion on boots, biomechanics and their effect on a world cup skier.

I demonstrate what and how over cuff strong boots, which many are, affect all racers even juniors. Many boots don't have cuff adjustments, and some that do, don't have enough adjustability.


When everything is lined up perfectly skiing looks like this.


This is about as extreme as it gets for angles, yet with this previous set up, which was correct, he didn't have problems with the release or the engagement, everything was naturally aligned and his body had no unusual contortions, it has now.

Again alignment and skeletal alignment making the forces run beautifully through his body.

When Hirscher's boots were right, he had a slight knee angulation that transmitted grip and power to the ski.




It is clear in the photo below from the last race, that the lower leg is not lined up at the same angles as in all the other photos posted above. This affects Hirscher's ability to use his best technique. This isn't happening in one turn, it's an every race and almost every  (right turn, left foot) turn phenomenon. He is losing in some races by very small margins., in spite of all his adaptive gyrations. This boot problem if corrected properly would go a long way to making that issue go away.
Hirscher is all wound up with conflicting body movements, and these are necessary to adapt to the poor boot set up. He is also making many double turns on his left foot, causing huge time losses. He recovers fortunately with his right foot turn. The two are totally different turns, from on side to the other. This is the other clue that it's a boot problem.

On the left foot turns, going right, when the courses are further off set, Hirscher is having to delay the ski angle until he can get his body in the right place to avoid an overly strong edge set and to avoid the ski from railing. This is costing him a few hundies on every turn, that adds up to many tenths in a 60 gate slalom.

Here are some other examples from other runs and races, showing his mis-alignment. He has to make many adjustments and contortions he never used to make 2 to 3 years ago with the other boot models.

When you see this, it is not knocked kneed,  boot bottom alignment, it is a cuff problem. It's a delayed release, caused from an extreme knee drive,  the resistance from the over powered position of the cuff,  causes and creates extreme knee drive and knee angulation, releasing from this situation causes this delay. Never used to see Hirscher having to contend with this before. 


The boot cuff is too strong toward the inside of the leg which causes a late release, and this extreme releasing problem shown in the photo, can result. If you read my Blog,  notice the similarity between his shin angle and that in the posts I put up about Mikaela's boot problems. Both are in Atomic boots.
 
Here is an example where Hirscher with his feel and genius is feathering the ski out away from his body to delay the angle and pressure. Because the wrong cuff angle,  he can't bring up the angle early, which then causes late hits and harsh edge sets. He often now, on the really round turns can't slice the arc, he double edges on most of those turns.

With his older boots, say 3 years ago, you never saw these situations happening with Hirscher, he was the example of perfect skeletal alignment to the ski edges.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Mark Engel 2nd after first run of Zagreb world cup slalom.

Here is Mark training with us at Mt Hood.

Mark beat Marcel Hirscher in the first run.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Mikaela Shiffrin has big turnaround in GS due to boot changes.

If you have been following my previous Blog posts below on this page; about the Shiffrin boot issues, you can see here some changes have been made that have improved the situation. With the changes which were so obviously needed she becomes functional. She is much closer to the set up of last season. Also, she is using the older cuffs on these boots. However now compare the left turn on the right foot turns, to previous posts about the alignment on this Blog. It's much better, yet it's still not ideal. It's good enough for Shiffrin to work with. Before this change she was fighting to survive. 
In this photos if you focus on the angles of her right leg you can still see she doesn't trust the boot and has to feather and skid it into place before she can trust the angles. A well trained eye can see see she is rotating her hips to help with the arc, (obvious when you watch the video in slow motion) once the ski is far enough away and the leg straight she is able to bring the ski to higher angles and come back to a hip counter action movement. As in the next photo.
A much better situation than the set up before Christmas.






What is amazing is that the whole staff, US Team, Atomic Technical staff and even her mother can't see when things are totally off. And I mean so off she could injurer herself by trying to race in these boots. After all, Hirscher broke an ankle trying to push an Atomic Boot on edge about 7 years ago.

And further on that line of thinking, Mikaela doesn't seem to feel the difference when it's wrong. She thinks she can brut force the ski to do what she wants. But the results and times prove she can not.



Saturday, December 17, 2016

Woes for Shiffrin in GS continue.

What is really concerning is not only the lack of confidence Shiffrin has in her GS skiing, and her frustration, but what are the consequences of this kind of position? 


 It can't work with a set like this with the boots. This is almost exactly the set up Fanara had going for him. This is a highly precarious position for the knee! Click on the individual photos for a better look! You can do the comparison to Fenninger Veith below?

It's going to take more than some plastic canting strips, the boot needs to be reconfigured, meaning the medial sidewall needs to be modified to allow some foot eversion, , the cuffs need to be aligned properly and then the base or bottom of the boot needs to be set up.


She is doing her best to get the ski on edge and bring the knee somewhere under her body, but it's not working. She can't roll or tip the ski over due to the resistance.


Anna's set up lets her get her hips to move inside close to the snow, while adjusting her ankles and feet to tune the ski angles. 

Little changes regardless of what part of the arc she is in,  she is balanced and her skeleton is perfectly aligned to the forces. No adapting necessary.

Add caption

Shiffrin Suffers through bad boots!

 The Michaela Shiffrin boot story.

The boots are so over powered, her edges are either on or off, she can't keep the tipping progrssive, that is why she is hurrying. The Cuffs of her Atomic boots and lower structure of the boot lock up her feet. She doing everthing from and with her adductors, no finesse.
The ski is flat at the most critical part of the arc?????
The knee is outboard, hip leaning away, so the ski can slide.
Sliding without commitment to angles?
Here Shiffrin gets the hip angulation the only kind available, but it's fleeting and often she doesn't have time to develop this. It's not ideal because it requires huge commitment and it very difficult at these speeds and on this surface to get in and out of this angle.




In this turn, she was able to drive the knee using her adductor muscles. "Explanation below!"
Another turn, she had to skid into, not putting the ski on edge progressively above the arc.

Again, here is a moment maybe 1/100 of a second where she was able to push the knee in to get some grip, but this is so fleeting she can't depend on it. And if she forces it at the wrong time, it's very dangerous. This is a highly vulnerable position for GS skiing.

First, before we all go crazy with these descriptions and reactions about Mikaela Shiffrin's trouble's on the GS course, you have to use accurate terminology. When describing or analyzing ski technique you have to be accurate about the forces in play. and you have to know the difference between, when the forces are reduced due to a skier's actions on purpose; or from where the skis are pointed relative to the falline.

As was often repeated, inaccurate terminology in the written analysis can mislead the actual causes of the problems trying to be shown. 

"Accuracy of movement and biomechanics must be logical." 

From the photos and from others doing analysis there is much confusion and misinterpretation by the so called experts, even racers themselves.

One description included these words.
"She can't release the hip", was often the terminology used. The hip doesn't release, there is no mechanism in the hip to release a ski. It has to come from the base, which is the ski edge and then the leg. 

You have to give up grip to release the CG or CM, which, I think is what the author was trying to convey.


Once you begin to focus on the actions of the ski edges, how they are angled or tipped, you can do movement analysis of the upper body's compensations. John Teague (ex-FIS racer) has the right approach, he is describing the problems at the bottom of the kinetic chain, which results in the upper body adaptive requirements. 

In Mikaela's's case, she has very little confidence in her GS skiing, which is obvious to everyone. She is skidding, sikvoting, and very late with angles. Because her boots are built to place her feet, ankles and cuffs out board. We call this supinated or inverted in medical terms. 

It's very difficult to get the ski progressively on edge with this situation. Her ankles and feet are basically blocked or locked out of eversion, (moving toward or getting the ski or boot on to the big toe edge side. This is very difficult or almost impossible to do with this set up, which means she has to use adductors muscles on the medial side of her leg, to drive the knee and ski on edge. 

She does this in combination with leaning and skivoting  because without the skids, the edges would be uncontrollable, and harsh. "like a highly railed ski" However, once she gets to a certain point under the gate she can lever over the outside ski, with her knee drive, using the adductors to create edge angles and grip. But this only happens temporarily.

Problem with this, it's like a light switch, on, fully on or off. And once she goes for the "ON" knee drive, the knee drives excessively to an "A" frame", a highly vulnerable situation, because all the load comes at once. This feels horrible and it hurts, that is why she is so tentative, she doesn't trust it. 

And as some have already mentioned, it's very difficult to release an "A frame" that is the only thing holding the arc. My 25 cents! The sad part, the techs and the coaches either don't see it,  or don't have a solution.











Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mikaela Shiffrin, to Tessa Worley!

The comparison here is "mostly" for the right leg both are affected but the right side boot set up is worst . On the left leg boot set up they are both more functional but still off the mark, for body alignment to the forces. However, in the right leg set up Mikaela Shiffrin, is compensating on every turn, with a stiff outside leg, less grip and more skidding. This relates to hundreds and maybe tenths of seconds per course sections.

Shiffrin in Pink!



Tessa is in Grey, and it's easy to notice the difference in boot set up between the two.  Tessa has a more bent leg with the knee slightly more angled toward teh slope and the inside boot. Shiffrin has a straighter leg, with the knee separated from the inside boot.
These photos are only "examples" of concentrated study and slow motion and stop action study, there is a definite pattern here that I have pointed out since the beginning of the season. 



 You can see there is a much closer body and ski angle on the left foot side comparison between the two skiers, which both use better. Although Tessa's right boot set up is obviously superior.


 Here again the boot tipped out, the knee is not ideal, it's a delayed engagement, however it shows the angles of the leg and boot don't match.


A fraction later, knee still out, and the leg straight. All of the arcing, craving comes late, after the gate, which has consequences for the next turn. It's these little adjustments like this, that can make it or break it for a podium, a win or a 6th place.