Thursday, 17 March 2016

Performance Series: Tips to help rotational separation

What is rotational separation?  Generally it describes the movement of the lower limbs rotating independently of the body.  The shoulders are facing the direction that your centre of mass wants to go while the legs turn beneath. The torso may stay fairly ‘quiet’ or it may have a role depending on the snow and terrain. A good core is necessary to provide a stable base from which to pivot below. Rotational separation is necessary for good ski technique, both in combination with lateral separation during piste performance and in the bumps, for short radius turns and when skiing off piste. The movement requires blending pressure and rotation through the skis and it enables us to balance on the outside ski and to exit a turn smoothly.

So, lets take into account the various physical components that you need to achieve rotational separation.  Firstly, you need good mobility and flexibility in your hips and good flexibility in your waist, specifically through your obliques (the muscles in the side of your waist).  You also need good length through your iliotibial band which runs down the outside of your thigh.  If we look at this in terms of our fascial system, as we did with lateral separation, rotational separation majorly involves the spiral line.

We do use rotational movements a lot in day to day life, such as when picking some thing off the ground to our side, looking over our shoulder or passing objects across our body. However, most rotational movement on a day to day basis occurs throughout our whole body, rather than separating at the waist, or the movement occurs from our torso, which isn't necessarily what we aim to achieve with rotational separation in skiing.  

As well as flexibility and mobility, for optimal rotational separation you also need good balance, coordination and good core stability so that your legs can move underneath a stable platform.  Often, people find the act of moving their lower limbs in isolation of their torso quite challenging.  We recommend initially starting with some basic exercises to help dissociate your hips and pelvis. By re-creating the movement patterns off the hill, you will help create neural pathways and remember movement patterns to transfer to your skiing. These simple mobility exercises can help. 

Start simply with knee rolling.  Lie on your back and roll your knees from side to side as below: 

If you wish to increase the range of movement and the stretch through the spiral line, progress into a spinal twist by rotating your upper body in the opposite direction to your legs, as below. 


If you wish to progress to higher level flexibility work for your hips, try a 'z' sit.  This is a fairly high level stretch for your hip joints.  Do not perform this movement if it gives you any pain.

Start by sitting on a small block or cushion.


Then roll your legs one way into a 'Z' position and hold for 5 - 10 seconds. Then repeat on the other side. You can follow your legs with your shoulders as per the first picture, or to increase the stretch rotate your shoulders in the opposite direction (see picture below).  

Once you have the mobility and flexibility exercises finely tuned, you can increase your focus on core stability and balance exercises.  

Have a go at a single leg stand with a rotating knee lift, as below.  Your pelvis should stay facing forwards, whilst your knee lifts and your twist from the hip.  This challenges your balance, engages your core to stop your pelvis rotating and helps with hip and pelvis dissociation.  

When this becomes easy, you can introduce some theraband resistance to further challenge your balance, core and increase your gluteal muscle activity.  Again, ensure that your pelvis stays facing forwards and does not twist or sway through the movement.  We hope you all find that this exercise makes you as happy as it makes Andreas!

To increase the focus on your core, you can introduce some pilates based exercises.  A strong core is essential in rotational separation and it plays a large role in helping to provide a stable base through your pelvis. 

Lie on your back in a neutral position and lift your legs into the table top position demonstrated below.  Take care not to over arch your back.  We usually advise having supervision from a physiotherapist or pilates instructor to learn this movement. 

Once you have a strong table top position, you can progress into knee turn outs.  Keep one leg fixed in table top and allow the other leg to turn out from the hip.  Make sure your pelvis stays fixed and does not lift or rotate on the opposite side.  Only allow the moving leg to turn out as far as the pelvis will allow without tilting.  Then return that leg to midline and repeat on the other side.  

Table top
knee turn outs

A higher level progression of this exercise is to start in table top then allow both legs to rotate to one side.  Start with you knees bent and progress to your legs straight.  Do not attempt this if you have any back problems.  Again, ensure that your pelvis is fixed and the movement is coming from the hips and below.  


Another great exercise to develop your core and agility is hanging twists.  I have not yet managed to get a photo of this exercises but I will aim to post one to facebook over the next few days. 

Find somewhere to hang, such as a climbing frame, monkey bars or a pull up bar.  Bring your knees to your chest but as you do this twist them side to side.  Keep your upper body as still as possible.  This is a fairly high level exercise and it will work your core and lower abdominals hard.  

The above exercises are great ways of building together the components that you need for the physical movement of rotational separation.  However, we like to progress to movement specific tasks so lets look at some more functional exercises. 

The first exercise we'd like to introduce is twisting squats in doorway.  Find a floor that is tiled, laminate or a shiny surface.  Stand on a towel in a doorway.  Support yourself in the doorframe and keep your upper body facing forward through the doorway.  Then add in some rotational squats, as demonstrated in the pictures below.  Alternately twist your hips knees and feet from side to side whilst keeping your upper body still facing through the door frame.  Amongst other muscles, this will help train your quads for skiing and further enhance the dissociation between the upper and lower body.  


Multidirectional lunging is also a great functional movement to develop rotation.  Stepping in all directions and rotating through your upper body with the addition of holding a medicine ball out in front of you is a nice way to progress. 

Finally, you can also incorporate some plyometric training. This is specifically a good focus if you are training for bumps skiing.  Do not introduce plyometric work if you have any pre-exisiting injuries without seeking advice from a physiotherapist first.  Start with a series of tuck jumps.  Aim to bring your knees up to your chest and don't break at the waist (see picture below).  Aim for good height, symmetrical legs and a quiet, well absorbed landing. Once you have mastered this, progress to a rotating tuck.  Keep your upper body facing forwards and aim to rotate your hips, knees and feet towards to corner of each room. 
Repeat this in a rebound fashion.   

Everyone will have different needs in terms of the exercises above.  Some people may have excellent core stability but poor hip flexibility.  Others may struggle with the coordination of the movement to achieve rotational separation.  It is difficult to be specific about the frequency of exercise and numbers of repetitions, therefore please do contact us for further advise or for a biomechanical assessment for an individual programme. 

The drills above are just a few ideas of how you can incorporate rotational 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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