Key Body Angles and What They Mean

Key Body Angles and What They Mean

Lesson 1 talked about the importance of learning to adapt technique and being flexible in your approach to cross-country skiing.Keep that in mind as we look at body angles in this lesson. Our model is the Olympian, Ivan Babikov. He’s an excellent skier but that doesn’t mean you should try to copy his exact positions.The angles and positions discussed in the lesson are adjustable, at least to a certain degree, depending on context. This is one skier, on one day, in one situation.Like Olivia, who you met in Lesson 1, Ivan is an XC Ski Nation demo athlete. At the time of filming he was on Canada’s World Cup team but he’s since retired from racing and is now Canada’s National Team coach.In this lesson we’ll look at the classic technique, Diagonal Stride. It’s the most popular and widely used of all Nordic ski techniques.

Diagonal Stride

This striking position is a favourite for technique analysis. Ivan is just about to plant his pole. In this position we will look at:

  • Hand position
  • Elbow and shoulder angles
  • Pole angle and pole plant
  • Arm extension

1. Hand Position

Hand approximately at shoulder height just before pole plant. This promotes good posture and helps keep the hips forward.

2. Elbow and Shoulder Angles

Arm and shoulder joints are bent ~90 degrees. These are strong positions for the muscles in the arms and upper body.

3. Pole Angle and Pole Plant

Pole is angled slightly back and planted near the boot.

A lot of people are surprised by how vertically the pole is planted on easy terrain. They wonder about the efficiency of this position because it doesn’t seem like a good angle for pushing forwards.Pole angle is not the only factor that contributes to an effective pole push. There are many factors to consider. For example, muscles take time to develop force. You are not a robot. Ivan isn’t either.If your poles plant more vertically, by the time you build up to maximum force production, your poles will be optimally angled for pushing you forward.Where the pole tip plants on the ground relative to the boot varies depending on terrain and speed. It plants further back on steeper and slower terrain.

4. Arm Extension

How far back the skier pushes with his poles depends on his speed and how much he slows between strides.

Notice Ivan doesn’t extend his hand very far behind him. Many skiers think they need to finish their pole push with a strong tricep extension, but that’s not the case. How far you extend your pole push behind you is another variable that depends on context.Ivan’s working through a full range of motion because he has good speed. This is about as far as he would ever extend his hand behind him in diagonal stride. Often it won’t go past his hip at all. Long gone are the days when pro skiers push their poles straight behind them.

Legs Together Position

This “Legs Together” position is another favourite for technique analysis.Even though the feet are side by side and look similar, the legs are doing completely different things. His right foot is kicking (pushing) back while the left is swinging forward.In this legs together stance we’re looking for clues about overall position, which we talked about in Lesson 1. Again, novice skiers tend to sit back, whereas experts press into the hill which helps create momentum.Three landmarks for evaluating position are:

  • Shin and torso angles align.
  • Hips ahead of heels.
  • Visible gap under the heels.

1. Shin and torso angles align

The lean at the upper body is matched by a similar angle in the lower leg and indicates a good forward position.It’s not unusual to see the torso a little more upright than the shin angle. The angles don’t have to match exactly.

2. Hips ahead of heels

The back of the hips are positioned ahead of the heels. This is another indicator of a good forward position.

3. A Gap is visible under the heels

World Cup racers at the Tour de Canada races in Canmore, 2016

You should see a gap under the heels of both boots. It’s pretty astonishing how far forward elite skiers get when skiing aggressively.Incidentally, you can see why xc skiers need excellent ankle mobility.

Diagonal Stride Technique

Many skiers feel Diagonal Stride is both the easiest and the most difficult Nordic ski technique – the easiest to do at an entry level and the most difficult to master.That’s certainly how we feel. Chris spent almost 2 hours on a video breakdown of Ivan and Olivia’s Diagonal Stride technique for our “Nordic Ski Technique Explained” series.All Nordic ski techniques evolve. Our ideas about technique change as we study skiers and experiment with different ideas.We don’t claim to have all the answers at XC Ski Nation, but we do keep asking questions.

Lessons in this Course: