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Solo technique analysis
By:  Matthias Purdon   (2012/08/12)

Technique analysis is something I want to build into the second half of my summer training. This is a challenge as I am living on Saltspring Island, a place that is not exactly a hotbed of cross-country ski training related activity. I am almost sure (it is my third summer training here) that no one else rollerskis on this island except for me. Aside from arousing some interesting looks from motorists and those passing by, this makes working on technique more difficult. When I rollerski, I ski alone with no coach to give me feedback or anyone to lay the boots to me on an interval set.

I came up with two partial solutions. First, with my iphone camera and some quick editing on my computer Iíve put together some good (well, passable) clips for video technique analysis. Now I can be my own video-analyzing coach, and my coach John Suuronen as well as some of my other mentors out there can have a look at the video link on this article and let me know what they think.

The second Ďsolutioní is that, while Iím out skiing, doing some other training, or within the odd daydream I simply think about technique and how I might improve my own. Through this process Iíve discovered some problems with my skiing, and linked them to weaknesses in my body, which I have been working to fix.

The biggest problem with my skate technique, which John identified this spring when I was still in Ottawa, is that I use my quads too much in the initial stage of my side push. The solution is to bend more at the ankle, push off a slightly more straight-up-the trail ski, and to bend the upper-body in conjunction with a harder arm push. The goal is to have your femur bones perpendicular to the ground or further forward (at tip I got through the grapevine from new NDC coach Mark Doble), and hips forward for the first half or more of the push. This saves your quads, gets more power from your upper body, and gives you better top end speed in fast conditions (flats, easy pitches up or down).

The trouble with trying to ski with perpendicular to the ground femurs is how does one initiate the final, still very important, side push of the ski without primarily using your quads? The answer lies in the lower back, bum muscles, and hamstrings which take on the brunt of the big power youíve harnessed from your upper body and now have to transfer it down into your legs (it is at this point the quads take on their reduced role) and onto the ski. So to ski like this (Petter Northug skis like this very well, saving his quads for his now legendary accelerations at the end of mass start distance races) Iíve made a conscious effort to strengthen my lower back, gluts, and hamstrings, in the gym, rollerskiing, ski walking etc.

Specifically, Iíve started doing partial Olympic lifts, and include considerably more dynamic abs, glut, and hamstring exercises in the gym. Iíve also focused on doing a full arm extension and torso bend when Iím doing double pole strength on rollerskis. Finally, Iíve worked on skiing without ďrolling outĒ (forward) my shoulders, or skiing with a big forward arch in my upper back. Keeping my shoulders neutral allows better power transmission from the upper body through to the hips (a straight line rather than a curved one), and allows for your hips to come further forward in the recovery phase. 

Without much to gauge my improvements by, I will say that Iíve made progress on this aspect of my technique, although it still needs work. Watching the video, I see my hips come fairly far forward, and the initial push seems to be traveling from/through my upper body without squatting back too much. There is certainly room to improve my forward ankle flexion, and my femur bones donít seem to be perpendicular to the pavement quite yet. Hopefully some more helpful critiques and cues for improvement come out through the publication of the video as well!

Anyway, thatís it for now. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy the video!


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