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Righting & Tilting Reflexes: Applications for Skiers

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
As some of you know, when asked a question regarding ski fitness, I always emphasize core stability.

I was recently asked to do an article on Ski Conditioning for The Professional Skier. Much of it will be based on some of the many workshops I will be attending this summer. However, this evening I was reviewing my research files, and I came across some work by Paul Chek which I feel sheds some clarity and light on this topic.

Chek speaks of two of the body's reflexes, the righting reflex and the tilting reflex. The righting reflex is engaged when the body is moving across a stable surface. If you were doing a barbell squat, and someone accidentally bumped into the bar, you would adjust or "right" your posiion. The gym affords us many opportunities to engage the righting reflex.

In contrast, the tilting reflex comes into play when moving across unstable surfaces. Think of Tog's example of the NYC subway cars, or a moving sidewalk at the airport. Think about skiing {Yeah, lets do that!}. Unfortunately, most gym equipment is in a fixed position, so that the tilting reflex is never engaged.

It has been speculated that 80% of ALL orthopedic injuries could be avoided by developing the tilting reflex. {BTW, I ain't talkin' about the tilting reflex that comes into play after a few too many malt liquors}

Some suggestions. Next time you are at the gym, think of ways that you can make your workout "stability challenged". Have a trainer show you how to do some weight training exercises on the stability ball. Instead of doing lunges on a hard surface, put down a mat under your feet. Your ankles will wobble a bit. Perform certain weight training exercises while standing on one foot. I'm serious!

The possibilities are endless.

Then I saw my reflection in a snow covered hill....

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #2 of 46

hey thanx for the tip. i'll keep that in mind when i go to the gym today.
post #3 of 46
Thread Starter 
Sure thing! And if you have questions, just ask away! I just subscribed to this overpriced online research service for trainers. I can justify the cost if I impart imformation not just to students, but to online friends.

Then I saw my reflection in a snow covered hill.....

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #4 of 46
I just thought of one other example of this.
In the gym you can use self spotting machines to allow you to lift weights fairly safely and contained, yet when you then have a spotter and transition into free weights you cannot lift as much, this would be an exapmle of all the stablization that has to occur.
post #5 of 46
Thread Starter 
EXACTLY!! Juan Carlos Santana {not the muscian} talks about a technique that he calls Stabilization Limited Training. He stresses the fact that the more "stability challenged" your position is, the lighter your workload needs to be. So obviously, if you were a serious body builder, you would want a more stable training environment.

But the one extremely important thing I've learned about skiing this year, is that its NOT about having extradinary muscular strength.

An example: In all modesty, I am "pretty strong for a girl", and actually very well balanced on my skis. Too well balanced. Sure, I can stay upright, even when someone crashes into me. But "falling into a turn". That is a problem. From years of hard core leg training on stable surfaces, my leg muscles do not seem to want to allow me to let go of my inside ski.

So Stability Limited Training is more functional. It dosen't have to substitute all of your other training, but its a nice addition.

Then I saw my reflection in a snow covered hill...

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #6 of 46
Hi Lisamarie -

This is going to have to be a short reply because I'm getting ready for a biz trip, but here are my thoughts. BTW, just to calibrate my responses, I do a lot of physics, a lot of basic (ie, cellular through network level) neuroscience, but no higher level neurosci or neurology (eg, no organ or system level stuff, but I've sat in on the occasional seminar in these areas).

When you talk about the "righting" reflex, it sounds like you are talking about the simpler functions performed by the vestibular system (obviously, in concert with the motor and premotor areas). For these sorts of balancing tasks (in a stable external environment), the vestibular system relies on input from the hair cells in the inner ear, barostatic pressure sensors, somatosensory detection of pressure and motion of feet, limbs, etc. These are all internally generated cues, a sort of inertial navigation system built into everyone's body.

OTOH, what you are calling the "tilting reflex" sounds like all of the above PLUS the use of external cues, namely the detection and anticipation of motion of the external enviroment. For people who are not blind, this would primarily involve the visual system.

Now, you suggested that making "...your workout 'stability-challenged'...using a soft mat..." would be beneficial. From the above definitions, it sounds like routines like this would help with the inputs to the "righting" reflex (as you defined it) that come from somatosensory pressure sensors on your extremities, but such exercises would not help develop the "tilting reflex" because the outside world is still quite stationary (even if the mat is soft).

If your goal is to achieve overall better balance (say for skiing white-out conditions), I think that it would indeed be useful to emphasize (as you suggested) your intertial navigation system, even to the point of including routines where you close your eyes part of the time.

OTOH, if you really want to achieve the ultimate in good balance, I would further suggest that the visual input into the vestibular system of the student be exercised by having the person deal with confusing and non-traditional visual inputs such as the rotating barrel and tilting house at the circus. Fighter pilots (and sadly, JFK, Jr) need exactly these sorts of exercises to help them sort out when they can rely on visual input and when they should not rely on them.

Just my $0.02 - gotta run.

post #7 of 46
Thread Starter 
Actually, that is correct. The mat would develop only the righting reflex. Its usually what we use if our students have no balance skills whatsoever. Interesting to note, most fitness programs do not even develop the righting reflex, except if someone accidentally knocks into you dumbell.

Confession: Up until last night when I was going through some research, I never really thought about the differentiation of the two reflexes. It was all simply, balance training.

Apropos to the concept of training with your eyes closed, Suzanne Nottingham does a good deal of that, and I suspect that she will use it in her ski fitness workshop in July. Stay tuned for an update. In the meantime, check out www.suzannenottingham.com.

I have never thought about the idea of changing the visual input. Hmmmmm.

Then I saw my reflection in a snow covered hill....

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #8 of 46
Stability training is important and Paul Chek is right on the money but like most intellectuals he makes it to technical and to difficult to understand. A functional 'local stabilising muscle group' (TVA, Internal Oblique, Quadratus Lumborum)covers both mechanisms. Unfortunately most people do not have a functional local stabilising group and rely on the Global Stabilising group (Calves, quads, lats, rectus ab, external oblique etc)to stabilise their body. It works ok but it isnt good at subtle stability. As an example I had 2 inch thick clear sheet ice on my drive last week. I tried to walk on it but could only shuffle me feet a few inches at a time. I did a full TVA contraction and could walk almost normally. Did a full global stabilisation with no TVA and was back to shuffling my feet. The TVA is everything but most cannot use it in a functional situation. By that I mean you can put them on a pressure cuff on your therapy table and get full TVA function. Ask them to get off the table and watch their rectus punch through and takes over hence no local stabilisation because the brain is rewarding disfunction because it is easier. Next time you are on the slope take note of how many good skiers still have forward head posture and thoracic kyphosis. A quick test will show long weak hamstring, short tight calves, short tight quads, lats adhesed to lumbar facia and an anterior tilted pelvis. Take note of gymnasts or dancers and look where their stomachs are, sucked in and fired up. With regard to stability exercises have you tried doing a split squat (a lunge where your front foot stays permanantly forward and you don't stand back up between reps)with your front foot on a piece of 2 inch dowel rod (round peice of wood) A serious challenge to your brain and body. Also try any barbell or dumbell work while standing on a half flat med ball or wobble board. Just a few ideas. Keep it simple.
post #9 of 46
Thread Starter 
And how many more times do I need to tell you that you are in the wrong profession? Come join the darkside. NZ needs you!

I was thinking about that foward head thing in skiers, and I do believe that your assesment of the situation is correct. Who is it here who calls that the Stevie Wonder head? I think one of the problems for many people is that they still use crunches as The abdominal exercise of choice. In a vertical position, that would translate into a foward head.

Something I've been kicking around lately. I think that if there were a way to do muscle testing of the transverse abdominals of expert skiers, you would find that theirs is more active than the average person's. I think that they use intuitively what the rest of us have to think about.

Later, I'll list a bunch of other exercises that can be kept "simple" for the sake of description.

Then I saw my reflection on a snow covered hill....

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence

<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited June 25, 2001).]</FONT>
post #10 of 46
I prefer to think of the righting and tilting as static and dynamic balance. Skiing is primarily dynamic. Stationary or static balance exercises will help you but dynamic balance exercises will help much more. The best skiing exercise, besides skiing, for me was playing soccer. It develops foot eye coordination, stamina, and dynamic balance. Bob’s always talking about “steering” with your feet – in order to steer with your feet you need to know where your feet are.

Dynamic balance is not emphasized enough. Your difficulty in falling into the turn sounds like a dynamic balance issue. It is difficult to improve your dynamic balance in a gym because everything in a gym is predictable. To really improve dynamic balance you need unpredictability. One weakness I see in many skiers is the inability to adapt to an immediate or imminent change in condition. They lack the dynamic awareness that would help them deal with the changing condition. Let’s say a skier is carving nice turns heading up to a rollover and she can’t quite see what’s on the other side. She gets to the rollover and sees a wide rock directly in her path, what does she do? She has 4 options, left, right, straight and stop. Usually people stop, because they lack the dynamic awareness or confidence in their dynamic awareness to implement one of the other options. The only way to improve your dynamic awareness is to practice movements in unpredictable situations or situations with a variety of options. Soccer is good because it has both – the unpredictability of the offensive player – and the variety of options you have when playing offence. The only other thing I’ve done to improve dynamic balance is rock hoping – get in a boulder field and move across it as fast as you can – every step offers the 4 options listed above – you decide the best option based on the information in front of you IE – big flat rock to your left – pointy rock to your right medium round rock 5 feet in front of you. Your reaction will be based on your position and trajectory in relation to the rocks and your own strengths.

In my opinion dynamic balance is easier because you have an additional force to use, your own inertia.

I found the icy driveway story interesting. I don’t shuffle my feet or walk normal – I always slide across ice because if you already sliding you can’t slip:}
post #11 of 46
the post above should be obvious to all and i can only add that another exercise i find helpful is to close one's eyes while swigging, switching the containing device from one hand to the other while simultaneously balancing on one foot for 10-12 seconds, then the other, etc., until the 40 is properly extinguished.
post #12 of 46
Damn, that's funny!
post #13 of 46
Real quick,

If the subject is "ski fitness", here's what I know and practice. BTW, I am a fitness guy. I exercise 5 or 6 days a week. 3 bike rides of at least 22 miles, 3 - 30 minute pool workouts (2000 meters), 4 weight sessions. Throw in some light stretching and situps.

1) I find that the bike is great. Greg Lemond started off as a pro skier, using bicycle training to help his skiing.

2) Stretching and weights. Not sure if this really helps or not, but it gives me more confidence...

3) Balance is everything. I spent a ton of time working on balance last season and really feel that it paid off. Next year, I'll spend the last hour of the day doing balance training. And, every time I end up on flat groomers, I ski on one foot; doing Javelin turns, and do the "v" move. So during the day I'm working on balance too.

4) I can't do roller blading because I just don't have the bandwidth. I would if I could though.

5) I'm so into balance stuff that I'm going to get the Power Pivot 8 board. I'll report back the results.

post #14 of 46
MilesB and Ryan,

This weekend, I saw this amazing contraption called the beer funnel. You guys ever heard of this thing? This cat poured 3 beers in it, then boom! They were down the hatch. Impressive.

BTW, I was impressed with the guy - that he had his very own beer funnel and could do three beers.
post #15 of 46

They are called "beer bongs". A big ass funnel with a piece of tubing, about 18" long attached to it. Fill it with about 3 beers, let the foam rise out, put your mouth around the tubing, lift the whole thing over your head, and let 'er rip. Great way for college kids to get drunk in 1/4 the time without having to taste the cheap beer.

Now do this while driving, and that would be an art form.
post #16 of 46
?? Beer bongs ?? In college, I never _ONCE_ put beer in my bong. Yeech!

so there!
post #17 of 46
That must be similar to the "yard of ale" contraption I saw in the UK. Bet a yard of English beer gets one more drunk, esp. when the guzzling of it usually produces, um, reflux, hence why someone holds a bucket nearby.


Dante non ha mai immaginato questo cerchio dell'inferno!
post #18 of 46
post #19 of 46
Thread Starter 
Yipee!!! My thread turned funny! This is my first funny thread. Now I don't have to feel "humor envy" of Tominator or Irul&ublo!
post #20 of 46
not just funny, lisamarie.
Damn Funny.
post #21 of 46
I get the feeling there's some people here who could drink better than 97% of the population...My kind of crowd.

Now that's....the damn dealio.
post #22 of 46
Thread Starter 
well, lets see, the last time I had too many cosmos, I ended up posting incorrect anatomical info, and John H. called me on it. So I guess I'm not one of them.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #23 of 46
another lightweight here. when I do serious wine tasting it's taste and spit for me. but I enjoy it.
post #24 of 46
irul, do you use a paper bag, or do you drink your 40 naked? I use the bag, even if I'm not in public. It seems to make it taste better.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by milesb (edited June 26, 2001).]</FONT>
post #25 of 46
SCSA, did you do 200 days of drinking in 2 years?
post #26 of 46
I seem to have dated at least 3 members of the I can drink better than 97% of the population. 1. College guy who could lose count between 1 six pack and 3 in one evening and still find his way to the El and my dormitory and boast about it (but forget his money and need cash to get home). Never saw alcohol affect his motor skills or walking skills, though I'm sure I saw him loaded/high many times. 2. English guy who thrived on a pub crawl drink contest; of course he did drink enough to tell me he was bi (oops). 3. The most recent ex who drank beer daily (sometimes other stuff, too) as a form of exercise for his liver and taste buds. I think he wussed out on visiting me in the UK because he knew my Austrian buddy would taunt him into a yard of ale. But having seen him at these Memorial Weekend party-o-thons with his tequilla glass, knowing he could drink with #1 above, I think he just lost his nerve.

Oh, my record (UK style; don't want to try again): two double jacks/coke, 2 glasses sangria, and two screwdrivers (was one a double?) in about 1.5 hrs. Unfortunately (or not?) I don't remember certain things that took place between 9:30 and 10:30 that night, other than trying to drink lots of water (the hangover protector) and winding up chasing some 22 year old blond footie player around the bar (never did catch him; was like running after a chicken, but boy was it fun).


Dante non ha mai immaginato questo cerchio dell'inferno!
post #27 of 46
I don't drink anymore.

Of course, I don't drink any less, either.
post #28 of 46
Thread Starter 
Only problem. Now I can't post any of the exercises because I would make this all serious again.
post #29 of 46
I'm going to end up right back in the shi**er, I know it.

Now I want to know if dchan spits or swallows. Then, LisaMarie brings up her anatomy. Then, LisaKaz starts on about chasing footie players (love the word), I mean, I'm done for the day.

MilesB can be found late at night, naked in Canoga Park, I'm sure of it. And BTW, Messr. B., it's 120 days in two years, not 200.
post #30 of 46
message edited by ryan upon further reflection on the ramifications re The Impressionable Youth of The World.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by ryan (edited June 27, 2001).]</FONT>
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