Updated: Nov 14
Back in 2016, a movie called "The Arrival" landed in theatres. It was an interesting sci-fi story about two characters struggling to translate, and communicate, with alien beings. In one memorable scene, Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) explains;
“We need to make sure that they understand the difference between a weapon and a tool. Language is messy and sometimes one can be both.”
As instructors, this really resonated. The words we use - especially cues - have a direct impact on how skiers learn, progress and enjoy their cross-country skiing journey.
With that, let's get to it.
the hips forward
What does HIPS FORWARD even mean?
It's the cue heard 'round the world: HIPS FORWARD. At some point, you've all been on the backend of that phrase. You've thought it, said it, and maybe even repeated it to your friends. It's the most overused and arguably - least understood - cue of all time. So, let's start off this post by clarifying what the words actually mean: > HIPS = This is your center of mass, meaty middle, pelvic bones, belly button, etc. > FORWARD = This word is a catch-all to describe a body position where your shoulders are IN FRONT of your hips, and your hips are IN FRONT of your ankles. That's it. HIPS = center of mass, FORWARD = hips in front of your ankles That's all. Thanks for coming to our TED talk. Kidding, we've got pictures and video, keep scrolling.
the hips forward
Why is HIPS FORWARD an unideal cue?
While there isn't anything inherently wrong with those two words being used together. It tends to get squiffy because:
1️⃣ Skiers don't know what to DO with the words. By hips do you mean pelvic bones? Forward? Forward of what? How FAR forward? etc, etc. This can be especially challenging for some beginner skiers who struggle to understand their bodies.
2️⃣ "Hips forward" is NOT a movement cue. It is a POSITIONAL cue. There is no thrusting or independent movement of the hips. It is a position to achieve and maintain throughout skiing.
3️⃣ When the cue hasn't been properly explained, most skiers will not understand the goal = shoulders IN FRONT of hips, and hips IN FRONT of ankles - and lacking effective drills to get the feel of the position, "hips forward" isn't helpful in creating the desired change in skier performance.
✅Let's make it easy: Take a look at the video below. It clearly demonstrates the difference in body position. Specifically, the relationship between the shoulders, hip and ankles. NOTE - this position was reached statically (NOT moving), first - and then the runner attempted to maintain under movement.
the hips forward
Here are some images to help clarify the positional differences between "hips forward" or being seated in your heels, based on the video.
The unideal: > On the left we can see the shoulders are in front of the hips (yay!), but the hips are directly above the ankle (boo!). > Your hips, pelvic bones, and meaty middle - dictate your travel. If you are trying to get UP a trail with as little effort as possible, you want your center of mass working with you, not sitting on the stool waiting for a beer. The ideal:
> Everything is aligned, and now the shoulders are in front of the hips, and the hips are in front of the ankle. > This ideal position will contribute to continuous forward motion, with less effort.
the hips forward
How does this look in cross-country skiing?
The unideal: > Here are some stills of unideal body positions across both skate and classic techniques. Notice the awkward relationship between the shoulder, hip, and ankle joints. > These skiers all struggle with finding flow, fun, and efficiency in their skiing because so much of their body weight (hips, pelvic bones, meaty middle, center of mass) is BEHIND their ankles.
The ideal: > In all examples, the skiers are demonstrating shoulders IN FRONT of hips and hips IN FRONT of ankles. > And the relationship is linear during weight transfer in classic striding + V2. Skiers who can apply a "hips forward" body position will be fast (er) efficient and have more fun skiing.
the hips forward The Maintain-ing.
"Hips forward" is, at its core, a POSITIONAL cue. When the ultimate thruple - shoulder, hips and ankles - are aligned, in a "forward" position - we need to maintain this WHILE we ski. CLASSIC > Andrew Musgrave shows us the way. End of. Just do this, all the time. Seriously though, the green line helps to illustrate his ideal position under movement and that line is hunting him like a dawg. > The image on the right: Just a still because it's SO good.
SKATE Here's Andrew Young during a V2 rollerski segment. > Andrew's V2 is the stuff of dreams. He's powerful, lifted, and absolutely crushing whatever nausea-inducing workout he's making look easy. Again, the green line is on him like wax on skis. All effort is directed to efficient forward propulsion, nothing is wasted. > The image on the right: Just a still because it's SO good.
the hips forward The NORDJÖRK Cue.
The best cues are the ones that get you into the desired position OR moving in a way that will be more efficient. It is important to understand the difference between position cues that call attention to body parts, or cues that have you applying energy/tension. The difference? Movement cues usually contain a verb or action word. What works for you, might not work for everyone and that's OK. Universal cues are elusive. For maximum effect we want to keep them simple, memorable and where possible external (outside the body) and distal (fancy science word for farther away). Here are a variety of alternative positional and movement words that may help you find more success with the "forward" position.
Lead with your belly button Hips, pelvic bones, and center of mass - these are all words used by teachers and instructors because it's a clean and easy way to properly reference physical points. However, many novice, beginner, and even intermediate skiers struggle with understanding their bodies and how to manipulate them.* This can be challenging, but, we've used the "belly button" to great success and although still, technically a body part, it is sorta external. Give it a try! 🧥Pockets first Most ski jackets have pockets. Focusing on the clothing that is in/around your center of mass, hip, and pelvic area can be equally effective at finding forward. 👣Weight on the balls of your feet. You can't get "forward" without putting weight on the balls of your feet. It's tactile and kinesthetic because you can actually FEEL the pressure inside the boot. 🕸️Spiderman This one came from a fellow instructor (thanks Driz). Imagine Spiderman at the top of a (mountain, tree, building) he's directly across from you, shoots his web at your belly button, and pulls you towards him. This is an outstanding visualization trick that can really impact your body position. *Research has shown that experienced/advanced athletes, in any sport, love their bodies, talk about them in motion, and understand the joints/muscles responsible for movement.
the hips forward The Extra Things We Like To Say.
Even in the digital world, coaches can't stop talking: 👉 The most important take away from this post? "Hips forward" is NOT a movement cue. It is a positional cue. There is no thrusting or independent movement of the hips. It is a position to achieve and maintain throughout your skiing. 👉 Please don't add power and ski fast without first nailing this fundamental position of shoulders in front of hips, hips in front of ankles (SHANK - that's a thing now), AND maintaining that position while moving. Position + Power = Rocketsauce. Unideal position + Power = Umm, no. 👉 When we start creating tension in the joints, there are moments throughout both skate + classic techniques where the thruple will start to uncouple. But we need a "forward" position in order for the uncoupling to work effectively. 👉 Ankle flexion can be a limiting factor with finding that forward + flexed position. As well - you can have ankle flexion WITHOUT being forward. Be careful using these words to achieve a "forward" position.
the closer What We're Thinking About.
Take a look at our next blog post, from BSF Team Pro Athlete, Simon Zink. We dive into the "hips forward" cue and you'll love watching him rollerski and talking about all the things. Takk! Jenn & Kevin