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How to reduce the tension in my lower back

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
How do I relax my lower back? I've been told I carry tension there in my skiing, and also that my upper body looks a bit stiff. I also feel that I have problems getting my hips over to the side enough. All of this could come from that tension in my lower back.

Any drills, thoughts, ideas on how to deal with this?
post #2 of 17
My thinking first goes to stretching and dry-land training (for example, try a horse stance turning while keeping your back really relaxed).

On-snow, you could also do some extreme turns, doing a fair amount of waist-break to play with your balance. I'm thinking you likely have a structural alignment challenge that doesn't have your big muscles doing the support.
post #3 of 17
A lot of tension in the lower back could be caused by a number of things. High on the list would be fore and aft alignment, oversize boots and overall technique.

A good program of cross lateral training off the slopes would be the only thing I could suggest without watching you ski.

Could you post a little video?
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
I do have structural issues, short left leg and scoliosis which puts my hips out over my left leg. I have a lift in my left boot.

My boots fit and are aligned well (Greg Hoffman), and I think my fore/aft balance is good right now. I'd vote for "overall technique" from your list Pierre.

I have a long bad habit of breaking at the waist, which I am mostly overcoming now. However it is possible that this has created limited muscle memory, as it hasn't allowed me enough upper body separation.

I'd like some drills to help get my hips out to the side, and increase upper body separation, as well as develop more leg extension/retraction. I'm taking a PSIA bump clinic in a few weeks.


I will try to get some video in the next couple of weeks.
post #5 of 17
SMJ upper body separation is all about letting the femurs rotate in the hip sockets so that our skis can turn at a different rate than our upper body.

Exercises like forward and backwards side slips, falling leaf and pivot slips help develop this separation and are very good drills to prepare you for bumps. Also walking downhill in boots with poles while keeping your upper body (hips included) facing down hill and allowing the feet to follow the turn back and forth.

In terms of fore and aft balance you mention limited muscle memory. Sounds to me like you have too much. That is in the way of the normal planter flex repsonse to gradient. If you push down on the ball of your feet in response to turning down hill you are very likely to break at the waist.

Learning to move forward by opening the knees and the hips while keeping the shins on the the tongue of the boots and staying off the toes is something most people have little muscle memory for. The opposite response, the planter flex response (opening all joints sumutaneously) is natural. Learning to move fore and aft in this way is learned to various degrees by most skiers and is much more critical in bumps for flexion and absorbtion.


Working on developing this movement pattern does not have to take place on the slopes. You can develop this muscle memory at home without boots on.
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Good stuff Pierre, interesting that you mentioned falling leafs, because I've been trying to get better at 360's (whirlybirds) since I ski backwards in front of students a lot, and want to be able to spin around to forward smoothly.

Falling leafs are a recommended drill for that as well.

Looks like it's falling leaf weekend (fortunately won't have to rake up the leaves afterwards.)
post #7 of 17
SMJ,
Without getting too much into the physical condition of your back it isn't possible to say much. Mostly because a drill that I would suggest for a skier without back problems might aggravate your back. Although it would be great for everyone participating here to understand the challenges you face due to your back problems, your privacy is something we all need to respect.


Year round dry land physical training would be high on my list of suggestions. Especially core strengthening activities like a balancing drills on a BASU BALL. Of course that goes hand in hand with stretching activities to help increase your range of motion in the lower back and hips. The idea being a stronger core doesn't get taxed as quickly by the demands we place on it when skiing. Obviously the best advice about a strength and conditioning program needs to include advice from your health care team. While this might sound like a disclaimer, I know first hand that when it comes to your back there can be unintentional but life changing consequences. So IMO screwing up your back simply isn't going to help you improve your skiing.


On skis one of my favorites is to do hula circles with the pelvis.
I start small while standing still. Slowly expanding the size of the circle until I reach the point that I am just about ready to topple as the hips move around in a circle.
I follow that with doing a traverse across a very shallow hill and repeating the first drill. Remember it's important to start small and slowly increase the size of the circle.
Eventually, I go straight down that same hill while repeating the same exercise.

At the conclusion of each segment of the drill I alway look at the tracks I left in the snow. It alway surprizes me how much the skis react to just moving the hips in these little circles. When done correctly, the traverse track should resemble a Garland and when done directly down the hill there should be some well defined little arcs as well as some flat spots in between those little arcs.
This approach to deliberate hip moves also should make you more aware of when you don't move your hips as you ski. In addition, I've found once my student gain the confidence to move their hips around the circumference of the circle, they are much more willing to move their hips directly across the circle (from any point on the circumference to another point on that circumference).
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
This is on a greenish slope on SL skis.


post #9 of 17
Can't view it...
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Revised link.


post #11 of 17
Very disciplined turns SMJ. If anything they are too disciplined. Do you feel like your legs extend and flex much? Watch the video and see if you can spot the angles in the leg joints changing. I see the inside leg flex a bit but the ouside leg doesn't extend much, if at all. Remember along with core strength we also need the legs to be more active so they can reach out further in the control phase. Which will even out the pressure more through the entire turn, instead of allowing it to just build up in the last half of the turn.

So even though you are protecting your back, getting stuck in a "position" is contributing to stress there. Especially since you have a history of breaking at the waist (instead of bending and straightening all of the leg joints). Maybe try extending the knees/ankles in the first half of the turn more and flexing them more in the last half as a starter. Explore that with the outcome of a wider range of motion there being a stronger focus. You will probably feel the hips open and close more as a consequence of the other joints opening and closing but try not to make that your primary focus right now. You may also feel the pelvis moving forward over your feet more but again even though that is a very positive consequence, it's not the primary focus, yet. Getting the legs to move through a wider range of motion is enough to focus on right now.
I also noticed a lot of inclination but not a lot of angulation. Can you do that, or does your back limit that movement? Bumps especially require more independent upper and lower body usage. Which I would suggest is a softer focus at this point, getting un-stuck is more important. Once you get un-stuck the rest is much easier to add.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post
Very disciplined turns SMJ. If anything they are too disciplined. Do you feel like your legs extend and flex much?
This is an area I'm working at, particularly so I can ski bumps and crud better. I'm taking a PSIA "Senior Bumps" clinic in a couple of weeks. I'm 56, so I just qualify.

Quote:
So even though you are protecting your back, getting stuck in a "position" is contributing to stress there.
I'm not protecting my back, no back pain or issues, just the scoliosis and short leg. It's just that I carry a lot of tension in it. The hula exercise you suggested is awesome for this.

Quote:
Especially since you have a history of breaking at the waist (instead of bending and straightening all of the leg joints). Maybe try extending the knees/ankles in the first half of the turn more and flexing them more in the last half as a starter. Explore that with the outcome of a wider range of motion there being a stronger focus. You will probably feel the hips open and close more as a consequence of the other joints opening and closing but try not to make that your primary focus right now. You may also feel the pelvis moving forward over your feet more but again even though that is a very positive consequence, it's not the primary focus, yet. Getting the legs to move through a wider range of motion is enough to focus on right now.
Great stuff, thanks.

Quote:
I also noticed a lot of inclination but not a lot of angulation. Can you do that, or does your back limit that movement? Bumps especially require more independent upper and lower body usage. Which I would suggest is a softer focus at this point, getting un-stuck is more important. Once you get un-stuck the rest is much easier to add.
I can angulate more, this was such a shallow slope that I think I got lazy with that. However inclination is another issue I'm working on.



I feel, as you do, that getting loose (or un-stuck) is the key to opening many doors for me. Today I skied for the first time on my Watea 84's in about 3" of fresh snow. It definitely loosened me up after using the WC SL skis all season until today. I let myself bounce (not literally) through the crud today and just went for a ride at times, which kept me loose.

At my current stage the mental things are the most important and what hold me back the most. Not "going for it" in bumps or in variable conditions. I am making huge strides in that area, and loosening up my back will help. I think of all the "drills" mentioned in this thread, the hula hoop movement one is going to do me the most good. Just shaking my hips and being aware of them.

Just like my focus on being aware of the pressure on the middle of my foot was the most effective way to get me truly forward. All my work at pulling my feet back, projecting my COM over my skis and so on didn't do it. Focusing on where I actually WAS, by feeling the center of my feet, did do it. All the things that were necessary for me to be forward just happened when I focused on the outcome instead of the movements.
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
Just to reiterate, I don't have symptomatic back problems.

Scoliosis is curvature of the spine, mine curves to the left, and as my left leg is shorter then my right leg my hips are naturally off to my left. There is no pain associated with this. I lift and bike, so I'm in pretty good shape off and on. I just ski stiff often. I started skiing at 35 and become extremely serious about it about 7 years ago. I just have no history (as a youth) of sports or athletics of any kind. I was a musician.
post #14 of 17
Doctor Doctor, give me the news, I've got a bad case of the hunched stance blues.

SMJ, check out the athletic stance segment in the Building Blocks DVD I sent you. Your stance is kind of squatty, with too much flexion in your knees. It's putting your hips aft, and it appears you're trying to roll your shoulders forward to compensate without catching grief for flexing forward at the waist. That's enough to make anyone stiff and tight in the back.

Do you stand that way when you watch a parade? I bet not. Stand up straighter and allow your body to relax. In the clip you're only doing steered turns. Standing up will extend the legs and allow for easier and more precise steering. I'm seeing tail push at the beginning of the turn, and the aft hips and flexed legs are most likely contributing to that.

Don't worry too much about moving the hips inside with these turns. These are low energy, low G force turns. Little lateral hip displacement is needed. For these turns, put your focus on getting tall, on feeling your body relax, on making your initiations ultra clean and totally push free, and keeping your track narrow and consistent from start to finish.

Words to keep in your head as you start your turns:
Soft,,, gentle,,, gradual,,, patient,,, clean.
post #15 of 17
One of the consequences of the hula turn is that the joints in your legs need to open and close without stopping at one angle. A quality that cannot happen when you get into the locked and loaded stance you demonstrated in your video. It pretty bullet proof but the limited range of movement relies on a lot of muscle power instead of allowing the skeleton to do most of the weight bearing tasks. So for weight bearing Longer is stronger. It also limits your ability to absorb terrain. So an even shorter and softer stance is needed at times just so you don't get bounced. RANGE OF MOTION drills to add to your list might include leapers, limbo, traverses through a bump field (maintaining a level head as the whole body flexes and extends to adjust your stance to the terrain variations).
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
jasp I skied this morning and focused on the ankle/knee extension and flexion pattern you suggested. It was very helpful and what I'll be focusing on for a few days now. I thought it was creating an "up" move, but hrstrat who I was skiing with said he did not see an up move so I guess it was just the legs!

And yes Coach Rick, i did standup taller.

I believe by having more active legs I'll have a more relaxed back as it can't be tense and have all that motion going on below it smoothly.
post #17 of 17
Wooo wooo! Glad it worked.
I was out working on something similar today. Bob had us working on exploring a couple different ways to produce a wider range of motion in the legs. It took me a bit to grasp the some of the new ideas but it certainly is food for though and a focus for further study.
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