Movement Analysis 102
by: bud heishman
How good is your eye? As a ski instructor or coach, your movement analysis skills are the key element to your job effectiveness. Accurately identifying cause and effect relationships and developing an effective lesson plan are paramount to success. The following will help you understand the four areas of effective movement analysis and how to better identify the real CAUSE in cause/effect relationships.
Most instructors/coaches have been exposed to a rudimentary movement analysis outline to help categorize basic movements and develop either a remedial or developmental lesson plan. While there are multiple opinions on how to go about this process, most focus solely on technique and body movements, but there are some other very important areas to consider which help more accurately diagnose the real cause of a skier’s movements!
These four areas include:
Let’s take a look at each one:
This is the area most instructors are familiar with and focus their attention. Technique is simply the chosen movement patterns the skier exhibits to accomplish their intent. Intent determines technique. If my intent is to use turning as speed control, or to “stop going there”, I will exhibit defensive movements, conversely if my intent is to use turning to “GO there”, I will exhibit more offensive movements. An offensive intent would be to ski a slow enough line to control my descent yet ski around that chosen line as fast as possible. As opposed to turning to stop going this way. One intent will display very different movements from the other intent. We should seek to nurture positive movements with offensive intents to unlock the joy of skiing for our students. Intent will actually be revisited in the psychological area below.
You may use a template to profile the skier something like:
- are they comfortable on the terrain?
- what is their turn shape?
- Is their intent offensive or defensive?
- what are their skis doing on the snow?
- turning power coming from where?
- how are they edging their skis?
- general stance and balance?
- what is the weakest skill or area that I want to focus lesson?
- is this lesson plan going to be “developmental” or “remedial”?
- what is my plan?
This is just one example and you may have a different approach but the important thing in doing MA is to identify the movements the skiers is using and the functional merits of these movements, then develop a lesson plan to address what you saw and lead them toward the movements of expert skiing. Expert skiers make “GO” turns!
Balancing (centering) skills
- A skier’s ability to center his/her energy around their center of gravity (slightly below the navel). Placing awareness here and moving from center allows us to move fluidly down the hill providing perfect dynamic balance, keeping the skis lively and responsive to our inputs. We gain strength without rigidity. The core “GO” factor! A skier’s balance while moving on skis is directly related to sagittal plane angles created by equipment (see alignment) as well as their psychological intent to either GO or NOT GO.
- A skier’s ability to turn their feet beneath a stable upper body.
Where are the turning powers coming from? If the rotary impulses are generated in the torso or hips we must retrain the movements to originate in the lower legs. All turning movements should be directed down the hill at initiation. Tips go down the hill rather than tails going up the hill. Movements to release the old turn will begin the new. Sequential movements at initiation represent a defensive or braking intent while simultaneous movements represent offensive intent. Releasing edges rather than using a rotary push-off should be the goal, though an expert skier will own all the possible movements and use whatever it takes get the job done when necessary, However; The primary or default turning powers should be generated from the feet and legs. The transverse plane alignment will have an influence here.
- A skier’s ability to balance over the inside edge of their outside ski
and their ability to release and modulate edging movements. Edges are released to begin a new turn, rather than stepped or stemmed to overpower the platformed ski, as the default movements. The frontal plane alignment will influence the skier here.
- A skier’s stance and balance
and their ability to shift and modulate pressure on the sagittal, frontal, and vertical planes. These movements aid in modulating pressure under our skis to maintain equilibrium while absorbing and increasing pressure with our intent. The sagittal plane alignment is the most influential here.
This is a key element which affects how the skier must stand and move on their skis to balance. If a skier’s alignment is off, which the majority of skiers are, their movements to balance and turn will be compromised. A trained eye will be able to spot these compensatory movements easily. Many times misalignments are the primary cause of poor technique and must be remedied before substantial progress in technique can occur. Specifically when assessing the skier’s pressure control and edging skills you will find alignment issues are a strong contributor to the movements displayed. Unless these alignment issues are addressed, any drills or exercises to change the skier’s movements will be futile.
Understanding and assessing these four areas in your MA routine will ultimately make you a more effective instructor/coach. Offering the student/athlete an accurate prescription for development and change will place some of the onus for progress on the student to see other professionals to make the required changes to their equipment alignment and physiological condition to optimize their technique. Of the four movement analysis parameters, the most immediate benefits are realized by proper alignment. If the student/athlete is poorly aligned any amount of coaching will not effectively change their stance or balance on skis. While “Functional Movement Screening” and physical therapy may help reposition alignment, improve range of motions, and strengthen weak areas the process takes a long term commitment by the skier/athlete to make physical changes in their bodies. Accurately identifying and reconciling alignment issues with a good boot fitter will provide instant results and clear the path to technique improvements. This is why understanding and being able to differentiate technique issues from alignment issues is so very important to effective teaching/coaching! Note: Should the student/athlete commit to a physical therapy routine and make changes to their body, their boot alignment should be reassessed periodically to make any necessary changes.
I have identified 9 alignment parameters or angles a good boot fitter will evaluate and modify to reach optimum alignment and are generally addressed in the following order. Each plane is assessed from the ground up, meaning the boot fitter begins with the foot and ankle mods then moves up the chain.
Sagittal (fore/aft) plane (pressure control adjustments)
- ramp angle - dorsiflexion range of motion determines ramp angle adjustments
- forward lean angle dorsiflexion rom and calf circumference determine forward lean adjustments)
- delta angle stand height differential between binding heel piece and toe piece determined by assessment of where knee plumbs over skis. A good static reference will show knees over toe of boot. Dynamic testing will more effectively zero in on optimum.
- binding mount position where binding is placed over ski’s sweet spot. Some skiers prefer a mount position a bit aft on the ski requiring a bit more forward leverage to stay over the ski’s sweet spot. While others prefer a more forward mount allowing a more upright position and better switch stance position. Ultimately experimenting to find one’s preferred position is best, but sometimes impractical. More and more binding systems today permit this experimentation. We may find too that a different position is favorable for powder while firmer snow requires a more forward position on the same ski.
Common indications of misalignments on this plane include:
- hips behind heels and excessive breaking at the waist
- consider boot sole length and binding delta by viewing student from the side to determine if angle is too flat or too steep. a short boot sole on a high stand height differential binding will produce a very steep angle causing hips to move back to compensate and knees to be over-flexed. Conversely, a long boot sole on a flatter binding will produce a very upright stance requiring the skier to break at the waist to balance because of the inability to flex the ankles sufficiently.
- If the skier has limited dorsiflexion in ankle they may experience the balls of their feet burning or sore and feel excessive heel lift with a tendency to ski in the back seat to establish heel contact with the boot sole. A heel lift and removal of spoiler shim will help this issue
- Conversely, a hyper mobile dorsiflexion range will cause the skier to feel a need to flex excessively to transfer pressure to first metatarsal head. The solution here is to possibly drop the ramp angle and/or increase the forward lean of boot.
- When skier is standing in a cuff neutral position look at where the knees plumb over the boots. A good general position to look for it knees over toes. If the knees are ahead of the boot toe or behind the boot toe, delta and/or ramp angles are suspect.
Frontal (lateral) plane (edge control movements)
- foot bed angle zeppa and footbed to STJ or Sub Talor Joint neutral. A well-made custom footbed will correct, with proper posting, for other foot anomalies such as forefoot varus or valgus to ultimately place the foot in a “soft” neutral permitting functional movements of inversion and eversion to facilitate optimal balancing.
- cuff angle accommodative to match tibia curvature, not to correct knee position. The goal is equal spacing on medial and lateral side of lower leg inside boot cuff.
- sole cant angle boot sole or under binding canting to a symmetrical and stacked position. Most times the target is center of knee mass over center of boot sole with some exceptions.
Common indications of misalignment on this plane include:
- Asymmetry between right and left turns
- “A” frame or “O” frame or knees in or knees out when running flat skis.
- excessive knee angulation to establish platform is indicative of under-canting.
- excessive skidding and inability to edge the ski is indicative of under-canting or knees in issue.
- excessive hip rotation or lateral hip projection are indicative of an over-canted or knee out issue
- outside knee wobble after fall line is indicative of an over-canted or knees out issue.
Transverse plane (rotary movements)
- boot offset or abduction angle the amount of boot offset should be considered in a new purchase to best match the skier’s physiology. Some one who stands and walks pigeon toed should avoid highly abducted boots whereas a duck footed skier will benefit from a more abducted boots.
- cuff axis angle another consideration when purchasing a boot which affects the tracking during flexion. Most boots today have a pretty straight forward cuff axis but still an important angle to consider for the skier’s anatomy
This parameter is about what’s in the student’s head. Is their mental attitude offensive or defensive, how do they view turning? What is their intent when turning? Is it a way to get where they want to go, like our purpose for turning the steering wheel in a car or a bike, to GO there!.....or does turning represent a means to slow down, to not go there. This is a paradigm shift in thinking for many. Most skiers think of turning as a way to slow down which robs them of the intent of expert skiers and causes a multitude of defensive movements. If this intent is not adjusted early in the skiers’ development it will become a challenge to change to an offensive, GO there, intent.
Is the student fearful? aggressive? passive? Were there any past experiences or injuries that are affecting their mental state or causing them to guard? Why are they skiing or taking a lesson? What motivates them to ski?
Common signs include:
- FEAR or a pull back of the head or genitalia (Mermer Blakesley, “In the Yikes Zone”) address fear by narrowing the focus or minimizing the task.
- defensive skiing, or turning to slow down vs. to GO there. Address by creating offensive attitude and seeking speed on shallower terrain. Ski the slow line fast. Encourage the enjoyment of acceleration.
This parameter is all about the skier’s body and how it functions, the asymmetries like leg length differences, ranges of motion, past injuries. Strength and fitness levels are another factor here. Functional Movement Screening (FMS) is a great way to evaluate the bodies weaknesses and asymmetries to develop physical training plan to minimize injuries and gain strength and control. A strong, flexible, balanced body will improve skiing abilities!
Common signs include:
- asymmetry with lower leg rotation range of motion.
- asymmetry in leg length difference causing turn initiation problems on one turn.
- general turn asymmetry caused by past injury guarding.
- lack of strength or endurance
- poor balance
All four areas above are interrelated and important to understanding the real causes of what you see in the skiers’ stance and movements on skis. To omit or ignore any one of these four parameters is an omission in effective movement analysis. For a better understanding of cause and effect, sign up for one of our divisions’ clinics on alignment during the season or at Spring Convention. Understanding and assessing these four areas accurately will make you a much more affective instructor/coach.
Finding the real cause in movement analysis requires an understanding of the interrelationship of the above four areas and how each contributes to the overall image we see. Being able to differentiate between these areas and accurately identify the cause of what we see the skis doing in the snow and what the body movements and positions are telling us is the key to a successful lesson. For example, if a student is not flexing their ankles and breaking at the waist, we need to determine if the cause is technique, alignment, physiology, or psychological issues. It could be any of the four or a combination, yet inexperienced instructors tend to look only at technique and build their plan around exercises and tasks to elicit a better stance. If in fact the real cause is related to another area these attempts will be futile and frustrating for the student/athlete and instructor/coach and will yield no change in stance until the real cause is addressed.
In conclusion, be mindful to consider these four areas in your everyday Movement Analysis and you will become a more effective instructor/coach.