This is the third in a three-part series of cues to help you with SkiErg technique. After having introduced hundreds of athletes to the SkiErg, I’ve noticed three very common faults that appear in new adopters. I’ve developed these memorable cues to help them work through those technique flaws. Furthermore, these are the same cues that I use to take an experienced athlete to a higher level of performance. By learning and understanding these cues, you will hopefully gain a better grasp on the mechanics and flow used in good SkiErg technique.
Part Three: Put Your Hat On
After addressing those top priority items discussed in the previous two articles, "Crunch, Don't Bow" and "Climb the Rope”—it's usually time to get people to feel more serious power generation through some positional details. Since we have identified the short-lever crunching movement as the critical piece of the SkiErg stroke, we are going to further refine our start position at the top through the use of the "Put Your Hat On" analogy. The basic goal of this mental picture is to lead your downward movement with your head and chest, and NOT your hands. So if you pretend that you have a brimmed hat (cowboy, wedding, bowler, your choice) as you lift your hands to start the next stroke, imagine that you are starting the downward movement with a core crunch and THEN putting that hat squarely on your head with both hands accelerating past your ears.
Let's back up a little and analyze some body mechanics. I always tell my new students that we should think of ourselves as being built like a miniature T-Rex. That is to say we have very powerful legs, hips and trunks, and relatively weak arms. Sure, it's an exaggeration, but it calls to attention the fact that really powerful movement has to originate from the core and radiate to the extremity, and the more we can emphasize the big muscle groups—not the small muscle groups—the more effective we can be in moving our bodies and other objects through space. So, the goal of this drill is to position our body to maximize the use of our core and minimize the use of our arms to accelerate the SkiErg handles.
And now back to the hat. In the first accompanying image you will see the body position about 1/4 of the way into the stroke. Core has crunched and hands are pulling downward. At this point the core has crunched, the metaphoric "rope" is being climbed, but the hands are leading the way downward. This early use of the powerful lat muscles to drive the elbows downward somewhat violates our core-to-extremity principles because the crunch and the pull have happened together. In the second image you can see that the head and chest have dropped downwards and the lat muscles are just about to kick in, creating a smooth handoff from the anterior to the posterior chain. If you saw this handoff in action you would see that the athlete is "putting their hat on" during the early part of this stroke.
Next time you hop on the SkiErg you can begin using this idea of leading the stroke with your head and chest while letting the hands glide past your ears after that initial crunch. When skiing at a light pace this adjustment may seem a bit forced, but when it comes time to work with some intensity you can be sure that putting on that hat every stroke will lead to faster times in your skiing.