Summary: Strong forward body lean is one of the most obvious marks of an advanced nordic skier. The “Stride Triangle” and the “Invisible Wall” are concepts that help novice and intermediate skiers learn how to angle their bodies forward without letting their hips fall back.
Forward Body Lean
It’s a challenge for novice and intermediate skiers to develop enough forward body lean. It’s not a position that feels familiar or comfortable to them.
The most common cue in circulation to help with position is “Hips forward!”
The problem with the hips forward cue is it typically causes people to arch their back and press their pelvis forward. What they actually need is simply to get their weight a little more forward on the base of the foot.
“Ankle flexion” is a cue that is supposed to help with body position too and prevent the problem of people weirdly pressing their hips forward.
But “ankle flexion” isn’t a meanful cue for most people.
The forward position of Nordic skiing is tough to get used to.
Visualize Your Stride Triangle
I invented the “Invisible Wall” drill to help with body position.
It’s hands down the best way I know for knocking adult skiers out of their regular diagonal striding movement patterns and improving overall position.
I start by having skier’s visualize a “Stride Triangle”. That’s the shape your legs make wrt the ground when you’re walking, running, skiing etc.
Here’s what a Stride Triangle looks like in walking:
In walking, part of the Stride Triangle extends in front of the upper body. The lead leg swings ahead of the body and the heel strikes the ground in front.
If your classic ski technique is pretty much “walking on skis”, you’ll get a similar outcome. This is called “shuffle technique”.
It’s normal to heel strike in walking, but it’s not good for running or cross-country skiing. It’s one of the main challenges for novice and intermediate skiers.
In expert Diagonal Stride, the angles and positions are all different. The upper body is angled forwards and the Stride Triangle is tipped up and behind the skier.
The universal cross-country skiing advice to “keep your hips forward” is supposed to help skiers get into this position.
The hips are forward of the Stride Triangle, but compared to the shoulders and upper body, they’re actually further behind than they are in a shuffler.
That’s why the advice to “keep your hips forward” confuses people. Are the hips “forward” or are they “behind”?
“Hips Forward” Good Advice, Gone Bad
The problem with the standard “hips forward” cue is that it interferes with developing forward body lean.
Tell someone to “get his hips forward” and he’ll probably press his pelvis forwards and arch his back.
Tell the same skier to “keep their feet behind” them and you will get a much better result.
“The Invisible Wall” A Drill For Diagonal Stride
Once you have the image of your “stride triangle” imagine an invisible wall that extends from just in front of your hips straight down to the ground in front of you.
You can make your Stride Triangle as big as you want, but try not to swing your leg forward of the wall. (It will still come forward, but not nearly as much.)
Here’s a 1 minute video of Kai explaining and demonstrating the drill. (For our international visitors, there’s a transcript at the end of this post.)
Another thing that can help you develop your forward body lean is more of a mental trick that I like to call the “invisible Wall”. Basically, you imagine there’s a wall extending from your hips down to the ground and your feet and legs can’t pass it, like that.
You can kick as far back as you like in this direction but you’re limited by the wall in this direction. Sometimes you might actually kick your toes a little bit past “the wall”, but it’s really more of a mental trick to make sure you aren’t going like that (pushes leg forward to demonstrate overstriding.)
Demonstration of skiing while imaging the Invisible Wall