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The role of the upper body

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
HELP!!! I'm at a loss on this subject, and the more I "learn" the less I seem to know. What is the role of the upper body in skiing? More specifically, how are we, as skiers, supposed to operate it in concert with the lower half of our body?

This question inspired by the photos of the "Cannonball" posted here a while back, and the resulting comments... (now as an aside, I can tell you that this "Cannonball" guy has skied all of the major resorts in North Dakota and Manitoba and he really knows how to hunker down over his jabbers, despite his humble beginnings as a young skier from Goodpiss Lake, Ontario) Yep, he knows his stuff.

So even if you can't take my word on his credentials, let's assume that the turns pictured are darn near "perfect". What can be gathered from these photos about the role of the upper body in skiing? Anything? HELP!!
post #2 of 12

The secret for the upper body is to keep it "quiet". There's a lot of weight up there. It costs a lot of energy to move that weight around. And the muscles in the upper body don't have a lot of impact on the skis. So moving them does not give you a lot of benefit.

However, there are some things the upper body does do. First off, one needs to get it off the top (directly vertically above)of the skis to stay in balance when turning. Secondly, the arms can aid balance through the use of poles and timing (via the pole swing). Thirdly, the stomach and back muscles can be very helpful in maintaining an upright position in response to terrain changes (e.g. BUMPS). Finally, the head and shoulders are not always perpendicular to the skis (i.e. always looking dead ahead in the direction you are travelling). In the beginning of a turn, the shoulders should be slightly facing to the inside of the turn (pointing more downhill than the skis). After the fall line (the point in the turn when is facing directly downhill), the head and shoulders should start facing slightly oustide of the turn (still downhill). This implies some movement of the head and shoulders, but it's very subtle and more a result of what is happening below the waist than above.

So the bottom line is that the goal should be to let the lower body do most of the work and try to keep the upper body from doing too much.
post #3 of 12
Allow it to respond to the intent directed to the the feet,
and enjoy the ride.

post #4 of 12
Just some random info:
Postural distortion of the head and neck can affect the vestibular system, as well as vison. This can have a negative effect on balance.

A "foward head " posture is sometimes overcompensated by an excessively lordotic lumbar region. This can affect the transference of forces from the feet.

Excessive upper body tension can cause dysfunctional breathing, which in turn can cause anxiety. In an old thread about the physiology of fear and anxiety http://www.epicski.com/cgi-bin/ultim...=001040#000000

we discussed the idea that the results of anxiety involve cortisol without adrenaline. The result is tension without exhilaration.
post #5 of 12
Heh-heh. Tension without exhilaration. Sounds a lot like my job!! :

I thought the role of the upper body was to act as a beer receptacle and pizza storage unit! I've had it all wrong! The Humanity!

post #6 of 12
Quite simple! The upper body must be commited down the hill ... the rest of the body follows along for the ride. The traditional "quiet upper body" is a bit of a hold over, in the 60's it had more of a passive connotation.

Today, it's more dynamic. The student should think in terms of the upper body constantly moving down the hill.
post #7 of 12
Spag: I thought the role of the upper body was to act as a beer receptacle and pizza storage unit! I've had it all wrong! The Humanity!

Me too! No wonder I have to workout constantly to keep in decent shape.

yuki: Quite simple! The upper body must be committed down the hill ... the rest of the body follows along for the ride. The traditional "quiet upper body" is a bit of a hold over, in the 60's it had more of a passive connotation.

If I did not know any better I would say that you misrepresented what a "quiet upper body" means. The traditional objective of the "quiet upper body", attempted to eliminate turn initiations via the upper body. So I think a quiet upper body reflects a body that uses upper/lower body separation to initiate movement from the feet (rather than the body). True, the body has to be committed down the hill, but it should be the feet that place it in that position, not the other way around.
post #8 of 12
Arc says it simply. That's how I see it too. But then LM raises an important point too. How does our postural alignment, flexibility, and strenght affect our upper body enhancing moves? This can put a definite hitch in our kinetic chain giddyup. If the chain runs from toe to head, then it stands to reason there will be issues of quite movement we need to adddress, doesn't it?

I was told recently that 70% of our mass is above our hips. If this is true, then it would seem that any dysfuntion in the core area can have great impact on our skiing. Does skiing require strength alone, or strength and flexibility coupled with good postural aligment?

I have this picture in my mind of a bricklayer trying to ski. His core is strong and stiff, so much so that the supple funtional movements that create positive alignment in skiing won't happen. Football players come to mind also.

Then there is the learned movements of other things we do that don't enhance skiing or simply the time we spend not moving (like work, or right now at the computer). Do we simply ignore our functional core by saying keep your upper body quite? Do we really believe that all skiing movements happen below the hips, and everthing else is just along for the ride.

With 70% of our mass above our hips what our upperbody does is either enhacing or it's hindering our skiing. I don't see our upperbody being neutral or inconsequential. Just like we train the kinectic chain movements below the hips, we may need to train our bodies movement patterns above the hips also. The hard part is understanding the root cause of the hiccup in our chain.

Our chain is only a strong as our weakest link. Just tentioning our core, or saying move down the hill is over simplistic in my book, and may work for some but may leave many out of the loop.

My $.02
post #9 of 12
60's and 70's ... rotary was the key and a long as you kept the shoulders "looking" down the hill and "quiet" you were OK.

The feel is much different from "projecting" the upper body down the hill (show me the bottoms of your skis).... in concert with the roll of the ankles. My point here is that the concept of "quiet" upper body has evolved. Quiet laterally (across the fall line) but, quite in motion in the direction of the fall line.

[ November 16, 2003, 06:38 AM: Message edited by: yuki ]
post #10 of 12
To what ARc said I'ld like to add that the body carried the head which is the device that contains the fun meter.
post #11 of 12
I loved reading Liamarie's response, of course I didn't understand it....It seems as Emeril Lagasse often says..she has taken her commentary to "new levels." More than "notch" above.

But is skiing a physiologically a stressful sport.... it certainly is.

So the role of the upper body is to move down the hill and not interfer with the lower body's movements. Positioning it correctly over the skis [ as was pointed out in another post]will minimize or eliminae a lot of what Liasmarie was talking about. Having a loose trunk, i.e body separation so the action below the waist doesn't distort the upper body position is key.

I of course have not seen the photos, but what should be happening in short quick turns, is that the lower body is makng all the turning movements below a quite upper body.

However, with shaped skis and in making the longer [ greater arc] turns, then then upper body more closely follows the path of the skis, but still does so quitely.
post #12 of 12
The roll of the upper body is only realized by a skier once they learn to use muscles and skeleton between the lower and upper body (ie lower back stomach etc) to leverage and isolate the dynamic lower motion of skis and legs from the downward gravity flowing relatively quiet mass of the upper body. That mass may be somewhat quiet but it is at all times leveraging forces below by its critical position and form with respect to motion and terrain. Skiers which have not realized this level of positional skill may not recognize what advanced skiers are doing by simply viewing their skiing. -Dave

[ November 16, 2003, 08:25 PM: Message edited by: dave_SSS ]
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