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The World's Premiere Nordic Skiing Publication Volume 21, Issues 1

Training & Technique

An Olympic medallist or World Cup leader is the model everyone looks to for the best ski technique. But are they always the best example? The answer is yes and no. Yes, because in the fight for speed our body finds a way to ski faster and easier. No, because it may not be the best way, as there is always a tendency to develop habits that are inefficient.

What techniques are still popular? Where did the technique come from? Bjorn Daehlie's swing of the arms, for example, was copied by many world class skiers and this strong side/weak side technique was adopted by many. Whenever there is a champion, the sports scientists use that champion as their ideal. But in this case the result is what I call limping skating.

Remember how skating started. First with one ski in a classic track and another out of the track for the skating push (marathon skate); and later came the theory of the Nose-Knee-Toe position. While many coaches and skiers were able to get good results using these methods, it is far from what I call "Natural Technique."

I have been studying ski technique and looking for the fundamental principles for over 35 years. From the beginning of skate technique I felt there was something wrong about the asymmetric "strong and weak side" approach. In clinics and classes around the country, I have explained and demonstrated the advantages of natural technique, but now I can use video analysis to show, frame by frame, what is good and what is bad.

In my research and analysis of video images my goals are to find:
- What makes your skiing hard?
- What makes your uphills steeper?
- What makes your glide distance longer?
- What makes your relax time shorter?

The answer is NATURAL TECHNIQUE. In this article I will discuss skate climbing, but it is only a tiny fraction of the total analysis of natural technique. The key elements to focus on are: equal push with your legs, a natural leg swing and eliminating body twist. These elements are useful in every aspect of technique.

We must learn now that twisting the body is not efficient. DO NOT DO TWIST! Instead, think of pushing the body forward. The Nose-Knee-Toe position is natural only for a long, fast glide segment of a skating motion. It is a natural consequence, but not a method to teach skiers to skate. The way to reach this position is to push correctly. Just how to do this is a very big question and is, in fact, the most important of skating theory and something we will address in a future article. It is also impossible to completely explain my theory of natural technique in one article, but I am working on a book and videos to do just that. Here I will show you some of the parts of natural technique

Climbing Technique
For a skier, learning to climb is a feeling of great accomplishment. Let's learn about using natural technique on a steep uphill. I don't think it is necessary to explain what a steep uphill is, for me every uphill is steep.

The accompanying photos show Marcus Nash at the 2000 Nationals on the last steep uphill before the stadium at Soldier Hollow. I see with my own eyes why Marcus Nash is so good. Out of over 11 hours of video I finally found these legs!!! Marcus is a very gifted skier and here he is using natural technique on this steep climb. His coach is to be congratulated!

Here we see one double-pole cycle (two steps with legs). The joined half picture (the left of each pair) shows the same stage of the step for both right and left legs to emphasize their symmetry. The blue lines on skis show the ski on snow and the blue lines on ski poles show poles on the snow. The white lines on ski and poles show they are off of the snow. The yellow lines on his legs show symmetric push and his swing leg's position. At the same time as he is planting one ski, Marcus is pushing the other ski out to the side. Notice the motion in his knees. Although one frame only takes 1/30 second we can see a big change. Look at frames 1-15, 2-16, 3-17, and 4-18. Notice that before planting the ski, the knee is open, and at the point of planting the ski, the knee is in and pushing.

Notice the equal push with the legs as you can see by following blue lines on his skis in frames 2-16 to 19-3. Also notice the equal swing with the legs in frames 20-4 through 1-15. The left half of the body is demonstrated in the second step of the cycle.

Here's how Marcus does it: Full leg extension, frame 19-3 Followed by quick relaxation. (Swing - pendulum = relax.) Marcus does not lift his leg up- the ski is still close to the snow and he does not lift his hips up, see frames 20, 21 He plants his foot outside of his hip, which helps to save leaning in frames 2, 3, 16, 17. There is an immediate straightening of the leg in frames 2, 3, 4, 16, 17, 18, 19. At the same time he continues to push with the other leg and uses a double leg push. See the graph - the yellow circles indicate frames with the double leg push.

The following graph shows the constant application of push or force to go forward. The blue boxes show push with the legs and the red boxes show push with the arms. You will note that there is never a point when there is no forward force in one of the four limbs. Frames 2 and 3 show that there is even a moment when both legs are in contact with the snow.

Many people will be surprised that there is no jump. The 'jump' up the hill is so popular now, but ask yourself,

Does the jump make the hill steeper for you?
Does the jump make the hill longer for you?
Does the jump make you feel tired or weak?
Does it make you feel relaxed, or does it take extra energy?
Think about it when you decide how to increase your tempo

Now a little about upper body technique

Next we look at double planting ski poles with an analysis of top World Cup racer, Johann Muehlegg. Poling in skating is basically a double pole push. The upper body push starts with planting your ski poles just like in a classic skiing double pole motion. It is like having two more legs with almost the same functions.

Here is Johann Muehlegg on the same uphill one year later during the 2001 World Cup at Soldier Hollow. We can see from the images that this technique is very natural for him. At this point his tempo is about 120 to 130 steps. Even at a tempo of 155 steps he uses the same double planting of his poles. The result is that it helps him avoid twisting his upper body. The yellow lines show the upper body motions (the twist of his shoulders). Compared with other skiers, his upper body works much more efficiently.

Good luck. If you have any questions you can contact me at Antonina

Antonina Anikina is a renown Russian cross country ski coach now living in Duluth, MN. She has attained the highest level of coach's certification in her country where she coached two time World Junior Champion Andrea Astashkin. She coaches and teaches through-out the Midwest and is known for her animated and energetic teaching style.

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