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A life time of stiff legged skiing - how to fix?


skibug
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Everybody that I get coaching from, both solicited and unsolicited, remind me of how stiff legged I am.  "Soften the knees, bend the knees" I hear.  I have been slalom skiing for 26 years of which 16 were recreactional (where I developed my glorious technique) and 10 in the course.  I have heard all (at least I think I have) the suggestions on how to "bend the knees" but none of them register and I can't seem to translate it into the movement.  Any of the techniques I have tried either get me broken at the waist becasue I can't seem to find the right pressure point and transistion to resisting the boat; or, I get on the tail because I wind up sitting back on the ski trying to keep my knees soft.  So, a couple of questions:

1.  Off course land drills or off season drills?

2.  Off course / open water drills?

3.  Help?

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There are several world-class skiers who don't ever bend their knees in the course - Wim Decree comes to mind.

That said, if you're really desperate, try this: bind your knees together with some sort of elastic band, such that they can spread apart with effort, but want to remain pulled together (back knee right behind front knee).  Why will this help?   Because it's virtually impossible to keep your legs stiff and straight with your knees drawn together.

TW

 

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skibug,

I will give Horton a strong second on that. If you ski stiff legged don't fight it. Let 'em be straight. Lucky Lowe is an awesome skier and keeps his knees very straight. In fact, if I had to choose between excessively straight legged vs. excessive bent legged I would choose straight every time.

 

I will qualify this with two things you must do to allow this to work. First you can have them straight, but they must be relatively relaxed and not "pushing" on the ski. If you do that you will stop the ski from doing what it needs to do to turn and achieve angle. Second, you must have your weight fairly evenly distributed. (Which will be a lot easier if you are relaxed and not pushing)

 

Have you ever tried that approach?

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TW, great idea, i may try this.

 Horton, because I have been told to......many times; My post was sort of fishing for this type of feedback.

Scot Jones, OK now we are getting somewhere.  How do I relax; because, sometimes I tend to push and I can feel the ski stop around the buoy and not finish.  What are the relaxation techniques/drills.  How do you relax or loosen up without going limp?  I am guessing like anything it is a "feel" type thing.

Thanks for feedback and anymore to come

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Couple of things: 1. How do you grip the rope? Lucky, Mike, Jeff Rodgers, Kristi are all opposite gripped and yeah ski with straighter legs it's that leverage style I call it. Want to ski a more dynamic style requires the conventional grip.

 

2. Using the TRX suspension trainer will work your core mobility. The one-legged squats, flexibility program will help your balance and stance. It's great.

 

3. I am not sure the knee band actually helps with a dynamic stance. I wear one we made here from EVA/Velcro from time to time. In fact I'm using one on the

. Look carefully as I come around one ball you'll see the strap. I use it because I have a habit of letting my knee fly out and this produces a slower offside turn for me. With the band my legs are working more as one unit. I am thinking of offering these as a training product because I really like it.

 

4. To answer the question why bend your knees you'll have to go to Mexico-how-to-ski ha ha. Seriously compressing through the wakes seems to build distance in the course. Your acceleration and speed go up too with that type of position. Will Asher, Jon Travers, JB, MB, Terry Winter are some examples

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Long Story – Short



Some Super Elite skis have a lot of knee bend. They are pro athletes. You and I are not.  


 


With both legs evenly straight, your center of mass over your bindings. Guys like Terry Winter have improved on this by being further forward.






As long as your back leg is not more bent then you front. You will be centered and that is all that matters. Watch tape of Chris Parrish.






I teach skiers to straighten thier legs. I ski better when I am taller on the ski.






Compression is a myth!

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Not finishing a turn usually comes from trying to steer the ski around with reaching forward and chest closed and it puts weight on the front of the ski which digs into the water and stops. At least that is what happens to me.

 

Keeping your chest pointed outward and reaching to the boat (think high and back) will allow the ski to finish. Knees just can't be locked out. The hips coming through the turn to the handle are more important to me than knees.

 

On really short line, you need max extension (sometimes on long line too) and that won't be with bent knees.

 

The thing I always think of for flexing is to keep knees together and drive your front knee over your front ankle. That just puts your hips in the right place going into a turn.

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Alright, so what I am hearing is put a little bit of effort into staying at least relaxed with my legs; but, don't worry about being super soft.  Now I can go back to concentrating on the other 20 some odd things I need to improve, like a quiet upper body, BAP, reaching towards the pylon, counter rotation, staying open to the boat, good edge change.....on and on. 

One thing at a time though, or least one thing at a time between bouys.  It may not be the same thing making referencing LakeOneSkier rant.

 

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skibug,

A couple of thoughts. You can't "make" yourself relax. If you try you might actually make it worse. Just like when you go on vacation you have to "allow" yourself to relax.

The next thing might be to try and watch a (good) skier who skis straight legged and simply try to mimic them without thinking of what to do in a mechanical sense. Skidawg and I were talking about this one time. When you want to raise your right arm you don't think "fire my supraspinatus, then the deltoid, etc., etc. You just raise your right arm. Pick a good skier with a style that is close to what you are looking for and simply tell yourself to "ski like that", nothing more technical. Good luck.

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Another way of making the same point already made by others: The barrier to progress is STIFFNESS, not STRAIGHTNESS.  If your legs and hips are immobile, then they emphasize every little thing that goes wrong AND don't allow you to achieve ideal leverage (or angle, or whatever other way you choose to express it).

If you are having coaches that you trust tell that you need to bend your knees more, my guess would be they are seeing that you are skiing too stiff.  This is why the phrase "soften the knees" may be used by more advanced coaches rather than "bend the knees."  It's actually possible to be bent and stiff, although that's harder to achieve that straight and stiff.

I have some experience in this area, because I skied way too stiff for many years (from about age 15 to about age 25).  For me, there are just a few key spots in the course that I must remind myself to remain supple -- more on that below.

So how do you actually DO this?  Well, first of all it took me years of practice to get even decent at it.  But from that experience I'd identify two main keys:  1) Do NOT lock out any joints.  There is an enormous difference between a leg that is locked out and one that is very nearly straight but is adhering to 2) Make sure your quads are taking some load.  (It's possible you may need to strength your quads in order to do this.)

When I'm working on it, I think about this at two spots:

1) At the start of the preturn.  This is tough because you really have to stand tall at this point -- compression is highly undesirable.  But you also have to avoid locking out.  Here I focus on keeping my quads loaded. (By the way, trying to "relax" at this point may be a mistake, since incorrectly allowing your skeleton to take all the force may seem quite relaxing.)

2) Right before the rope starts pulling me again.  For me, this is the most important spot to consciously soften up my knees and get ready to take the load with my legs and not my back.  This is where a stiff skier really loses distance in the course, because the pull of the boat becomes a big lever on their stiff body, exaggerating the tiniest body position errors.  If a slightly flexible body is maintained at this point, then you can take the rapidly increasing load of the rope on your own terms, and turn it to your advantage.

So that's what I know.  I'm no pro skier, that's for sure, but working on the above was a big part of what took me from struggling at -22 to struggling at -38. 

GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN!

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I have soft knees behind the boat, but am terrible about straightening up pre-turn ... but I'm working on it.

Here's one thing you can do to help get that back knee pushed into that front knee that you won't have to think much about.  It sounds counterintuitive and feels uncomfortable on land, but I have never found it to be noticeable on the water.

Question:  Do you pivot your rear boot?  If so, what direction do you pivot the heel? 

 

I am a right foot forward skier.  When I first picked up a pair of Animal boots years ago, I looked at them and pivoted the heel of the rear boot to the left.  That seemed like a natural, comfortable, semi-bowlegged stance. 

 I was speaking to a friend once who is a 38 off skier.  He suggested to me to pivot the rear boot in the opposite direction.  I scoffed at the idea, saying that this seemed like the most uncomfortable stance imaginable.  He persisted.  He said, forget about how it feels now.  Stand with one foot behind the other (straight).  Now, pivot to the "natural" stance.  What happens?  Answer:  Your rear knee moves away from your front knee.  Now, pivot your heel to the opposite side.  What happens, your rear knee pushes right into your front knee.

I have been doing it that way ever since.  Feels totally great on the water and helps my stance considerably behind the boat.

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Thanimal, thanks for the pointers - I will try and keep loose instead of stiff; because I know if stiffen up at times and stay relaxed other times.  I can feel the difference on how the ski reacts between the two.  As I get fatigued I tend to stiffen up more.  As far as needing the strengthen the quads, not an issue.

East tx skier, I ski with a RTP.  I definitely like the concept of driving the rear knee into the front.  It is something I was playing with a week ago and it did seem to help, just takes some getting used to like you said.  I am going to incorporate that into my "thing to work on".

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Two words; lucky lowe, why bend

Two more words: Rough water

Horton (the blind squirrel) hit a key point "As long as your back leg is not more bent then you front." Many skier with stiff knees lock the front knee and let the back knee bend, so the knees are side by side. This is a cardinal sin. If both legs are stiff, but the back knee is behind the front and both are "slightly" bent, you're probably ok.

Sorry, but Wim's knees are always bent. Its just that the variation in his knee bend at any point in the course is very small, i.e. his knees are firm, not locked and stiff. (IMO, he has the closest thing to perfect form I've ever seen)

If it was easy, they would call it Wakeboarding

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Skied best I have all year tonight. All I did was thinking about being extra tall. Yep, straight legs. Love it.

 Bruce, I prefer "Blind Pig".

For those of you who have not seen Bruce ski, he has a lot of knee bend but it is even and he is very centered (looks unreal from the boat). If you can ski that way, it is way better than straight legs. I just think very few skiers can do it. Many try / most fail.

If you are not centered, you lose.

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Look at Ghost Skier. He is old as dirt, kicks ass and never bends more then you see below. He may be the livinig dead but he is a heck of a skier. 

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_4-6ay9R-bLE/THxjKMIMPFI/AAAAAAAADpY/U1HdE2C4UMU/s400/DSC_5446.JPGFrom Greatlakes Fall 2010

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Ghost is just warmin' up. He's driving the lower body forward - both knees are bent onside pull. Skier #2 trying to get to the dock when the throttle is being cut. Skier #3 Offside pull and that looks like the jumper's grip (opposite? can't tell for sure) Anyway this type of skier style is more upright by default. But it's not possible to really compress into the wakes offside. Have to shoot the ski ahead at least that's what JT does as he slinks through the course.
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If your center of mass is centered (what we really learned from MB and TW) balance is great.

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For sure. I like to move mine forward on the ski (on side load up) so that the ski is flatter (max ski in the water), without dropping my chest and keeping my arms relaxed and in line with the rope. The way I do this is by loading up my human springs = my legs. As the line load builds, the upper body is locked and the legs in a way protect the planing attitude of the ski. What happens when you compress a spring or a ski? It rebounds. This is what that terms means to me - and it involves bending the knees.

 

So we might debate the terms but a skier's gotta do what a skier's gotta do.

 

Locking the front knee is a great way to stay in a classic long-line style.

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is this what you mean?

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_4-6ay9R-bLE/TIDoKAXBIBI/AAAAAAAADwU/WM_YX_Ct6Rg/s800/155269168.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"...compressing is a way of absorbing the load. Waterskiing is an athletic sport, how many athletic sports do you play with straight legs? "

I'll bite. What do you mean?

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By the way I hope we all agree the straight is relative.






I an not telling skiers to lock out - but honestly must skiers who do not run 38 are too squat.



I would say that you can look at a photo of a skier at the first wake and almost predict his high score. More squat (less stacked) = less balls

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Agreed straight is relative, Compressed is the position I want to be in from the first wake through the second wake. As I feel the load increase I bend my knees and absorb the load. I am not going completely limp with my legs I am resisting but at the same time bending....does that make sense? then once I get to the secind wake or troph on most boats I bend the knees another inch or two and let the ski 'skim' out to the buoy. By bending the knees an extra inch or two on the edge chage you are taking weight of the ski and letting it release and carry out wider. As I come into the buoy I start to straighten my legs again to put pressure on the ski so it will finish the turn and then repeat 6 times....

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Maybe "tall" is a better way to think of it. I remember watching Will from the boat. My first impression was how "tall" he looked in the preturn. He looked so upright and balanced it was like he could have been standing on the dock instead of a 9500 coming into 1 ball at 39.

Flash back 15 years. I remember thinking the same about Carl Roberge. Not a pretty skier, but he always looked "big" and comfortable on the ski. When Wade hit the scene the whole compression thing came into vogue. He was a differnt cat. Man I am dating myself.

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bmiller,

I think you are thinking a skier level above what I am talking about. Once a skier knows how to ski really stacked he can start doing what you are saying. Or once you know how to be really stacked this thread may not be for you.

 

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Skiing tall is one of the things Mueller's been beating into me since regionals.  He started insisting that my knee bend was keeping me from resisting the load that built up coming into the first wake. This would cause compression, butt drop, and handle seperation. Once I started figuring out the difference between locked/straight legs and a tall position, things started to click.
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CP is the model. Maybe u do not envision it the way I state above..... but CP does it perfect. From what I can see he also makes it simple.
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Horton, First of all I didn't realize there was such a divided camp on this subject matter.  I figured everyone was searching for the holy grail of "skiing with a compressed style or soft knees".  I am going to stick to my own style and concentrate of relaxing the legs a little bit and keeping my rear knee driven into the back of my front knee.  I do get locked out sometimes and this is what I am trying to eliminate.  It happens more often the more tired I get; so, concentration on that specific item need to increase later in the set.
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I suspect that if you got a bunch of us I a room..... u would find we are generally going for the same thing but thinking about it differently. I am hard headed about my approach because it works for me as a skier and as a coach.
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Optical illusions. CP certainly is one of them. At the limit CP's knees and legs are more active with increased range. Watch him at 35 he's cruising it, no need to overdo things.

 

I am studying JT's style these days. Talking with a coach last nite about it. The early edge change, pendulum or swing effect. It's a different approach than say a decade ago. I am working with that to improve my offside exit and onside results.

 

PS: In the pix John posted I hit the RH gate ball pretty much spot on. I am moving in a 45 degree slip/angle, boat at 55K so in a blink I am right at the gates with decent outbound angle, ready to release out to one. Note that most photos are not taken from on top of the pylon.

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I can'y help but believe that everyone will have certain inherit qualities that are unique to them and those individual natural abilities and tendancies combined with the basic foundation of a particular Sport will produce a wide variety of perfection.

Eric Dickerson had his own Natural upright style that worked very well for him. But, I'll bet if Chris Johnson tried to convert to Eric's style he'd be lucky to stay in the NFL.

Tommy "the Hitman" Hearns had a very upright style and knocked most of his opponents out from the outside. Where as Tyson worked from the crouch on the inside. Ali and Leonard worked from all angles.

Also, we all have slightly different leverage points and strengths/weakness' that will also contribute to ones inherit tendancies.

I'm taller and can certainly see the advantage of CP's technique for someone like me.  

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The question as a skier is - what are you working towards? What are the subtle changes you are going to make to progress? What movements are beneficial, vs counter-productive. What do you need to do to work from where you are to where you want to go?

 

Slalom it's difficult to make radical adjustments. It can be done, but instinctively we opt to our comfort zone so we don't take a header or miss a pass.

 

CP's is certainly a great style to emulate if you have the size. I would put JT right in there as well for lefties. They are your USA #1 and #2.

 

Having said that there is nothing wrong with puttin' on a speedo, locking the front leg and skiing behind a Donzi in a classic Mediterranean style!

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Straight v. Compressed- no one here is saying lock ur front leg, my take on ur compression theory (shark) is compression = squat behind the boat watch any high level 34 or 36 mph skier that runs mucho bouys and they all have no squat coming in to the first wakes, but instead have mild bend but in a strong position, when the pull is maxed as they change edges the knees compress as the ski moves under them and out bound. Mechanically the muscles in your legs would have to work twice as hard to maintain slalom load behind the boat at max load v straighter legs. Goin to a weddin inform u later on few other things
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Dawg,

For a guys who sells used pipe for a living, you sound kind of intelligent . Did the kids write the above post?.... No really .... Very very well stated.

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