Slalom skiers are an interesting breed. They are never fully satisfied with their score, constantly in pursuit of one more buoy and usually have some sort of gripe about lower back issues. Lower back pain plagues our sport as much as fin tweaking and spray leg. Maybe even more. And you likely have even experienced it yourself. Slalom skiing puts a rather complicated and heavy toll on our body every time we ski. We might not even be aware of it but the position is unnatural for the human body and our stance screams for compensation in our body.
This compensation, to make up for the unnatural stance, is necessary for us to ski our best and continue to gain more buoys. It is part of the game! But we have to understand that those compensations while we participate in our sport slowly cause the body to shift which more often than not results in bad posture and a myriad of other subconscious compensations.
So what do we do? It’s easier said than done but the concept is relatively simple: We must bring the body back to it’s neutral position.
Looking at a typical slalom position, we notice that we really try to resist the pull from the boat by pushing or holding the pull from the boat to create speed, torque and angle. As a matter of fact, waterskiing is one of not too many sports I see where you have two different sources of energy input. One is your upper body and the pull from the boat forward and the other input is the water where you resist against with your ski and lower body.
So you will notice that those two energy sources/inputs will meet somewhere. Ideally it should happen right in the middle of your body. Then you will feel “connected” to the boat as we like to say! But that’s also where we feel the most amount of pressure.
When we talk about a “normal posture” we mean that our hips are neutral (they feel tucked) straight under the center of our bodies and our back looks somewhat flat. This an ideal position.
In order to achieve a natural “normal” position, you need:
1. A really well-functioning core with substantial core strength
2. A mobile spine and a mobile yet stable hip.
As soon as any one of these areas begin to lack, you will subconsciously compensate in your day-to-day life which can result in long-term issues or can go completely undetected.
Where the two energy sources meet behind the boat and in the middle of our bodies, we create a ton of pressure and exaggerate those areas in which we are weak by leaning on the areas of compensation. So any slight compensation you had before will just get more pronounced and made worse. It’s a habit game because the muscles which are already causing the compensation in the first place will get activated even more and will exaggerate this compensation.
As an example, if you are lacking in core strength you are prone to do every single move you do over the day in hyperextension of your spine, shortening the distance between each vertebrae and in turn, shortening those muscles. In this instance the decreased muscles pulls your hips backwards causing the pelvis to sit at an anterior tilt or drop. This means that your pelvis falls forward, which decreases the space between vertebrae in your lower back even more. Muscles therefore continue to get tight and you will feel pressure in your lower back. Many people assume this means you have “lower back” issues when in realty it is a merely a symptom of an area of weakness.
So like I said before, you can go on without noticing, but putting it into the slalom skiing where we live in a slightly hyperextended and exaggerated environment, under an intense amount of pressure, for our spine to resist the pull forward, this compensation will wreak havoc.
The way to get out of this habit is pretty simple. If we already have this compensation, we work on relaxing / stretching and mobilizing the muscles in the lower back and hip and afterwards work on loosing the habit of our improper posture. Only after these first two steps are accomplished, we then train to strengthen the core and hip muscles (This includes your glutes, flexors, abductors and adductors).
By doing so, we have a chance of decreasing the pain and issues we bring upon ourselves through slalom skiing.