Friday, 4 March 2016

Performance Series: Drills to help lateral seperation

With the amount of snow that we are currently having, I'm not sure my performance series blog is best timed.  However, many things that I am going to discuss can be incorporated into training programmes to be of future benefit so here goes! 

Lateral separation works in a side to side plane of motion.  The BASI (British Association of Snowsports Intructors) manual discusses lateral separation as 'when some parts of the body tilt with the skis and others don't'. It states that 'sometimes we will actively seek to separate laterally and other times it is a natural reaction to the movements we are already making'.  It is a movement pattern required to optimise long turns on the piste with the aim of being balanced over the inside edge of the outside ski. This movement pattern is easily identified when watching Giant slalom and Super G racing. An angle is created through the body as the lower body moves towards the centre of the turn while the pelvis remains relatively stable. If you are unable to achieve lateral separation, you are likely to inclinate (tilt as a block) more, increasing the pressure on the inside ski, thus affecting your balance, pressure and the ability to influence the ski turn. 

If you are struggling to achieve lateral separation or if your coach has identified room for improvement it may well be down to technique. However, off hill analysis can help to identify any restrictions in the body which may be contributing and training can be focused to improve it.  Read on to find out more. 

Lateral separation is achieved through movement of the ankles, knees, hips and spine. The amount of movement made determines the turn shape.  The ankles are required to pronate and supinate (tilting onto the inside and outside of the soles).  The knees are required to flex and extend, whilst linking with the abduction (outwards) and adduction (inwards) motion of the hips.  A good amount of hip flexion is required and there will also be some degree of rotation through the ball and socket joint of the hips underneath a relatively stable pelvis.

Before I go into tips and drills to improve lateral separation, first we need to understand what is involved.  It's not often that we perform sideways movements in day to day life. Walking, running, stair climbing etc are all in a very linear plane, whereas skiing is asking our bodies to adapt to new demands in the lateral plane (amongst others). Some of the key elements that are needed for lateral separation include:
  • good flexibility
  • good range of movement in your hips
  • high levels of core stability
  • good agility
  • balance and righting reactions
  • good strength in your hip abductor muscles to prevent 'A'-framing
So lets start with flexibility.  When analysing the considerations here, I do not necessarily want to think of muscles as individual units, but as a whole fasical train or sling. Fasica is the biological fabric which holds us together (, wrapping around our muscles, bones, organs and bodily structures. A fascial train is a sling of connective tissue that links individual muscles into functional complexes and is essential for coordinating stability and movement

In lateral separation, one of the main fascial trains we are concerned with is the lateral fascial train:

The lateral fasical train

To lengthen and to gauge the flexibility of your lateral fascial line, simply try a side bend (figure 1). Ideally, you should be able to reach your fingers below your knee crease on the side your are reaching down.  Reaching your arm over head increases the stretch (figure 2) and keeping your arm close to your ear enhances the movement further. 

Figure 1: Side Bend
Figure 2: Side bend with over head reach
During lateral separation, your lateral fasical sling lengthens and shortens as you move from turn to turn.  Within the lateral fascial line, your quadratus lumborum muscles are key players in lengthening and contracting.  Test your ability to perform this by reaching your arms over head, then reach over to one side (figure 3a & 3b).  Allow your hip to sway in the opposite direction as you do this.  Then return to the middle.  

Figure 3b
figure 3a
If this is easy, you can introduce a medicine ball overhead to start to load the muscle.  

figure 4 a
figure 4 b

Good flexibility is also required through your hip and gluteal muscles.  You can open your lateral hip by doing the stretch shown below (figure 5). 

Figure 5
Lateral lunges that vary in depth and tempo will help with hip mobility and lateral control (figure 6a, b & c)
Figure 6 a
Figure 6 b
Figure 6 c

Good balance and core control can be worked individually or in combination.  The picture below demonstrates lateral leg lifts whilst standing on a bosu ball (figure 7).  The addition of a 3 kg medicine ball greatly adds to the challenge and helps to engage your core.   

figure 7
To challenge your balance further, introduce more dynamic drills such as some side to side touches. Stand on one leg and touch the ground to one side (figure 8 a). Stand tall and then reach to the other side. Progress this by increasing the length of your reach out to the side (figure 8 b).  To challenge yourself further, stand on a unstable surface (such as a bosu ball or wobble cushion) as your perform the reaches or hold a light weight in your hands.   

figure 8 a

figure 8 b
General conditioning and agility drills for lateral movements can also include:
  • high lateral step ups
  • sideways shuttle runs
  • lateral box jumps
  • side to side hopping
I will write a future blog on 'A'-framing, because this is a whole new topic in itself, however having good hip stability and strength is a key factor here.  Ensure that when you are performing any squatting movements that your knee is centred over your middle toes.  Try and correct it if it drops in. If you are unable to correct it, you may need further analysis.

It is difficult to be specific about the number or sets and repetitions, frequency of exercise, weights and resistance, because every individual is different with different needs, however feel free to contact us for advise or book a biomechanical assessment for an individual program.  We had some great feedback following an assessment from a level 3 trainee ski instructor recently:

'Verdict on the knee is startling improvement, hardly noticeable now to others.  All trainers are most impressed with the change and asking what stretches I am doing.  Re: long turns, again stretching before enabled me to engage edge and carve with a noticeable improvement.  It was noted by my ski instructor that my skiing style is changing daily in line with physio and much progress is being made'.

The drills above are just a few ideas of how you can incorporate lateral movements into your training. There are many more ways of doing this and everyone will have different requirements necessary to achieve the movement patterns for high performance skiing.  When you are doing any off the hill training, always remember to ensure that you are warm and in a safe environment.  Also remember to make your training progressive so that you can continue to develop your skills, strength, power and stamina.

We do not recommend that you introduce these exercises without consulting a physiotherapist if you have any current injuries or back issues. We do recommend seeking advise from a healthcare or fitness professional when starting new exercises.  

The purpose of this blog, is to provide general information and educational material relating to physiotherapy and injury management. Bonne Santé physiotherapy has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information.  In using this blog, you agree that information is provided 'as is, as available', without warranty and that you use the information at your own risk.  We recommend that you seek advise from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues. 


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