Originally Posted by Si
I would suggest that an important issue relative to the semantics here are the perceptions of the skier. When a suggestion to flex is given to some skiers they will just sink down and put themselves in the back seat. For some, retraction triggers a light bulb for pulling the skies up or lightening the load on the skies. Of course for others retraction is just a confusing term.
I don't at all see how one is more "active" than the other. Unless these two terms are defined by the person using them to mean different things relative to skiing I don't see much difference in the context of skiing. Personally, I find the concept of retracting my skis or feet up to work much better. (I can give you a number of personal anecdotes demostrating this effectiveness).
As an instructor (who I am impressed with by your posts on Epic) I would think you would just want to try and choose the terms that your students respond to most appropriately.
You're right about talking to students students SI. I'm much more likely to use words like shorten and bend your ankles knees and hips than I am to say flex or even rarer, retract. In the end whatever connects to a student is what I would use. In general discussions like here, we need to be able to differentiate between words and define what we mean by them. I'll try to explain the difference between these two, retraction and general flexion as they apply to our lower body in skiing. As I see it anyway of course.
1: We can all agree that flexion simply means decreasing the angle between two bones or body segments, so retraction lies within this action.
2: Generaly retraction is defined as pulling something back or removing something. In skiing I see this as pulling up the feet towards the butt, and that's how it has always been presented to me.
3: In retracting the legs, or pulling the feet towards the butt we are using different muscles than we are when we simply allow the forces to let the butt move towards the body. Retracting would use the flexors, while using the power of the forces and reducing the muscle effort to allow flexion is using the extenders, working in eccentric contraction. I'm simplifying this so bear with me.
4: If we subscribe to the "your muscles can only do one thing at a time", and we understand that most of our hip/leg flexors also do double duty as hip/leg rotaters, and if we need to be actively rotating or steering from the hip then we might find a conflict here in use here, when we ask our flexors to rotate the joint as it flexes it.
5: When we extend our legs and hips we overpowering the force of gravity and turn generated forces, to flex and allow those same forces to pull our butt towards our feet requires nothing more than reducing the effort in our extender muscles. Here I might say relax the leg to a student, and then proceed with an explanation of how and why.
Try this exercise. Stand in a good tall ski stance with slight flex in your lower joints and then simply reduce the effort you are using to hold the position, you let your butt move towards your feet. You can do this faster or slower depending on how much resistance you maintain in your muscles. I find a great degree of control here, and I can instanly adjust the rate or stop it. Now stand the same way and pull your feet towards your butt, retract. Different muscles are used here, with much less control and more effort required. Hopefully this will show the difference between the two.
I we use the muscles we are already using to change from extension to flexion by reducing the effort they are putting out, and harnessing the power of the forces we reduce the effort, are more efficient and free up other muscles to work in different ways (rotation). Now I'm not saying we should not retract, but that I think most people react differently to the words retract and flex, and they aren't interchangable. I could be way off here, and I'm no final authority, but that's how I see it. In everday skiing I see allowing our butt to move towards our feet in varying rates, is much more effective than pulling our feet towards our butt. Later, RicB.