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How to get rid of a one legged A- frame

#1
Curious especially from instructors here what they recommend for A frame remediation. I have always had some sort of an A frame, though it has come and gone in different severities depending on the boots I’m in. My right knee drops inward, that can be an issue for turn initiation on that side. I’ve had different fitters and instructors take different stances on the problem. I did have one pair of boots that seemed to mostly eliminate it by not only canting, but also raising the offending leg because it is a little bit shorter than my left leg. Problem with those boots were that they put me in a horrible position where my knees were super far ahead of the rest of my body and it wore on my knees to ski like that.

Fast forward to now, I definitely have an A frame still with my right knee. I seem to compensate in some way to keep my edge angles quite similiar in most instances, but I’ve been thinking that this is probably one source of my woes in powder. My last instructor in bumps and powder last season really emphasized my one knee tilting in and when we worked on it I could focus enough to use my muscles to not let the A-frame occur. My other knee doesn’t do this and therefore turns to that side are much easier. He seemed to think it was more about focusing on it than an anatomical issue for most people. It takes a lot of focus to eliminate it, but I can do it. Does that ever become ingrained though?? I’ve been told the same thing in workout classes about that knee tracking inward, so it’s definitely not something exclusive to skiing for me.

So I’m curious what you all think. Is this something I can train both on and off snow to eliminate with muscle work and focused intention on snow? I honestly would rather not go nuts on boot work since I’m in a boot that fits well for the most part, and I’ve found in the past that tinkering and tinkering often leads to more issues for me. Less seems to be more..

What do you do to help a student with a wonky knee? Do you plan with technique or equipment fixes?
 
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#2
Is it truly adversely affecting your skiing? Not all "A" framing is bad (although those who chase the holy grail of the perfect turn will disagree).

As you have indicated in your post, it is important to understand whether this is an anatomical issue that can be corrected with equipment, or something else. Seems like you've been down the equipment modification road. For me, it IS important that when we are in our normal relaxed stance, skiing straight ahead on a low angle slope, the skis are as close as possible to being flat. If your right knee is tracking inward, it means that on your left turns you will be more and/or sooner on the edge. Not a problem on groomers but it could be a problem in more difficult terrain where you may want flatter skis that can more easily be pivoted. If you know it, and it's not too bad, you can compensate on left turns by tipping that right leg outward a bit and/or committing more aggressively down the hill with your torso to get off that edge. It just makes things a little harder since committing down the slope when you get into true steeps is already a challenge.

Then . . . . . there is the "something else". We can be perfectly aligned on our equipment and still have the appearance of an A-frame if our weight is committed aggressively to the outside ski of the turn (as we should be unless we are in powder or crud). If we are really standing on the outside ski that inside leg of the turn is light. And we may not pay much attention to it and the knee can drift inward. Is it bad?? In my book, not necessarily. It depends on the skier's intention. I might have that kind of an A-frame if I am lazily skiing down a groomer shifting my weight almost entirely from leg to leg and conserving energy. If I want to, I can edge that inside ski by thinking about the little toe edge and/or tipping that knee out a bit, and it will then match the edge angle of the outside ski I'm standing on. But that takes a little more effort and concentration - so it depends on my mood. OR, if the snow is firm or icy, or I just want to be edgier and faster, I can think more consciously about that inside leg and make sure it's tipped to match the outside one. But that is starting from a place where I know my skis are flat when I am in my normal relaxed stance.

Does that make sense? To re-state more succinctly - I would try to evaluate whether you think your A-frame is adversely affecting your ski performance in the conditions and terrain you want to ski. If it's not, who cares what it looks like?!! Don't listen to the yahoos who want to correct an A-frame just because they can see it. But I know you and you are a really good skier and you like to challenge yourself. If it IS affecting your skiing, and those left turns are giving you problems in tough terrain, figure out if you can compensate with body position to overcome the anatomical difference between your legs. If you can't compensate, you've got to go back to the equipment modification thing. . . . . as frustrating as that might be.
 
#3
Is it truly adversely affecting your skiing? Not all "A" framing is bad (although those who chase the holy grail of the perfect turn will disagree).

As you have indicated in your post, it is important to understand whether this is an anatomical issue that can be corrected with equipment, or something else. Seems like you've been down the equipment modification road. For me, it IS important that when we are in our normal relaxed stance, skiing straight ahead on a low angle slope, the skis are as close as possible to being flat. If your right knee is tracking inward, it means that on your left turns you will be more and/or sooner on the edge. Not a problem on groomers but it could be a problem in more difficult terrain where you may want flatter skis that can more easily be pivoted. If you know it, and it's not too bad, you can compensate on left turns by tipping that right leg outward a bit and/or committing more aggressively down the hill with your torso to get off that edge. It just makes things a little harder since committing down the slope when you get into true steeps is already a challenge.

Then . . . . . there is the "something else". We can be perfectly aligned on our equipment and still have the appearance of an A-frame if our weight is committed aggressively to the outside ski of the turn (as we should be unless we are in powder or crud). If we are really standing on the outside ski that inside leg of the turn is light. And we may not pay much attention to it and the knee can drift inward. Is it bad?? In my book, not necessarily. It depends on the skier's intention. I might have that kind of an A-frame if I am lazily skiing down a groomer shifting my weight almost entirely from leg to leg and conserving energy. If I want to, I can edge that inside ski by thinking about the little toe edge and/or tipping that knee out a bit, and it will then match the edge angle of the outside ski I'm standing on. But that takes a little more effort and concentration - so it depends on my mood. OR, if the snow is firm or icy, or I just want to be edgier and faster, I can think more consciously about that inside leg and make sure it's tipped to match the outside one. But that is starting from a place where I know my skis are flat when I am in my normal relaxed stance.

Does that make sense? To re-state more succinctly - I would try to evaluate whether you think your A-frame is adversely affecting your ski performance in the conditions and terrain you want to ski. If it's not, who cares what it looks like?!! Don't listen to the yahoos who want to correct an A-frame just because they can see it. But I know you and you are a really good skier and you like to challenge yourself. If it IS affecting your skiing, and those left turns are giving you problems in tough terrain, figure out if you can compensate with body position to overcome the anatomical difference between your legs. If you can't compensate, you've got to go back to the equipment modification thing. . . . . as frustrating as that might be.
Well, I’m not sure I guess.. I have been working a lot on bumps and trees, and did make some good progress last year finally, but still plenty to improve on. I also still have the worst technique in powder, I really struggle there and wonder if this could be a bigger issue in 3D snow if my skis aren’t doing the same thing?

The private lesson I had last season was at Mad River Glen, we were going slow motion in the bumps and coming to a stop on the top of each one before turning again. The issue came up because my right knee was sort of blocking me from being able to turn to the right since it was leaning in towards the mountain rather than pushing out to start the turn to that side. When my left leg was the downhill one my turn would just happily start as it’s supposed to. So he wanted me to pay attention to that. I could definitely feel the difference when I made it a point to get my right knee down the mountain, but I was just curious if concentrating on it will eventually get it to happen without so much concentration and become more natural. When I see pictures or video of my skiing, I do notice the right knee. I’m okay with it esthetically, but after that lesson I started wondering if I’m hindering myself in the terrain I want to be in most now which is off piste and therefore more off of the edges. Seems that knee tipping in could be causing a delay to my turn on that side. Might be worthwhile doing another lesson this season where I can make that a focus and see what someone makes of it in other terrain besides moguls as well. I was just curious what different instructors thought on this issue and how it may vary between overcoming it with technique versus boot work. I’d like to work with someone who isn't biased on it such that I can get a good idea if I am hindering myself or not and what the best course of action is, if any. Since I’m focused on it right now, it will probably be a great thing to focus and do some drills on in the early season when terrain is lacking as well as in the gym if suitable.
 
#4
IMG_3334.JPG

Ursula and I both have mini A frames here. See how our right knees have drifted inward? I can assure you that we each have almost all of our weight on our left (outside) legs. This was taken by a photographer after my very first trip down the Couloir and I can assure you I was in lazy skiing mode and happy to be on a nice green groomer! That kind of A frame for me indicates easy, efficient, completely not thinking about it, skiing to me. Why expend more energy that you need to for the terrain?

Laura 2018.jpg

Here I am tipping (the right leg) a little more aggressively - but there is still a small A-frame - ski edge angles don't quite match. See the snow spray off my left ski? 95% of my weight is there.
Just want to give you mental pictures of the A frame thing in the context of my last post.
 
#5
By that description of the bump skiing in Mad River Glen you confirmed what I was thinking. Your right ski is probably too edged (speeding you up) in left turns, and then - yes - it will hinder the initiation of each right turn because you have to make a bigger than normal move to flatten it and get going. I should have mentioned that. I think it's something you can probably get used to and will become more subconscious with repetition. Where it could be a problem is that it might tend to "pop up" whenever you go into something new or more challenging. But we ALL have those things! :smile: Try consciously working on it for awhile this season - first on groomers - to try to develop some muscle memory for what it feels like to initiate right turns so that they are just as easy as the left turns. I would also do alot of sideslipping with the right leg downhill. Slip and edge to stop. Slip and edge to stop. Over and over. You've got to figure out what a clean release feels like on that trickier side. Are you an ankle feeler? Little toe push down? Tip knee out? See what works best for you.
Do these alot before you take it back into the bumps.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
@MissySki, I'll address the fix-it-with-technique approach.

You may have femoral anteversion. That means the femur on that right side attaches to the pelvis at the front of the pelvis, rather at the side. Here's a picture that shows the results of such a situation... the femur tilts inward (Q-angle) more than skiers would like, placing the knee way inside and causing an A-frame in the lower legs.
Q angle and femoral anteversion.png

When that knee bends, it will move even more inward, it will pronate that foot, and it will tilt the top of the pelvis forward, like so:
Pronation pelvic tilt femoral anteversion.jpg

Here's another image showing that package of related movements:
anterior pelvic tilt.jpg

One way to fight this movement package is to work on neutralizing the anterior pelvic tilt.
What you don't want:
anterior_pelvic_tilt_diagram.jpg
To fight this and counteract the knee issue, move the bottom of your pelvis forward, and hold it there while you ski. You want to ski with the middle image below, neutral pelvic tilt, but it will actually feel like you're attempting to do the first image, posterior pelvic tilt, because the muscles are so unfamiliar with holding the pelvis this way.
anterior vs posterior pelvic tilt.png

Here the issue is from the front. "Pelvis shifts backward" in the image below means the top of the pelvis moves backward, or forward. Neutral is not pictured here. The middle image is anterior pelvic tilt, which may be causing your knee issue. Many images of anterior pelvic tilt show toes pointing in, pigeon-toes. But that doesn't always happen. The right image shows how the toes may point ahead if the person stands with knees hyperextended, as the fourth image above where the feet are held way back.
straighten your legs with your pelvis.jpg

I know this stuff because I've had to deal with it too. On hard snow a canting wedge beneath the inside of the boot helps, but it does not perfectly fix the inwardly moving knee when bent.
 
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liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#7
Here's a common exercise that highlights what moving the bottom of the pelvis forward feels like.
floor exercise.jpeg

Here are the muscles involved in adjusting the pelvic tilt. You can see that the abs are involved in moving that pelvic bottom upward, thus skiing with a tight core, a good thing, is going to be part of this technical fix. The image on the right is what you want to aim for while skiing. Just holding onto the focus is the first success; it's hard to do while skiing when there are so many other things one's conscious mind needs to pay attention to. After training yourself to hold the muscles indicated in the right image in tension as you ski, you can alter the amount of forward movement of that pelvis bottom (ischium) to see how much forwardness works best. Video to see if the knee issue is better.
Screen Shot 2019-10-08 at 11.07.05 AM.png
 
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Jenny

Angel Diva
#8
@liquidfeet - This is awesome.

I've just finished some PT for my back where they were teaching me better movements and these drawings about the pelvic tilt are so pertinent. For whatever reason, I have too much curvature in my lower spine, and am working on integrating the new movements to achieve a neutral spine while walking/standing/sitting/etc. It still feels like I'm going to look like Figure A in the Posterior/Neutral/Anterior drawing, but I actually don't, which was a revelation to me. They put me in front of a mirror and had me look at myself sitting straight up and then when I felt slumped. My slumped was STILL straight, just a better straight - not overly so. I had to go a loooong way before it even looked slumped.

@VickiK - This is what I was referring to when you asked about it.
 

VickiK

Angel Diva
#9
Thanks! I have to re-read this and digest it. I'm prone to having a sway-back, but don't want to go too far and end up with the problems that come with the tucked butt of the posterior pelvic tilt, in life or on skis. Common cause of posterior pelvic tilt--too much sitting and slouching, slumping.

My aim is to strengthen the glutes and abs, and keep focused on standing and sitting properly.
 
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RachelV

Administrator
Staff member
#10
Thanks for all this great info. Looking forward to seeing if the pelvic tilt stuff in particular helps my a-frame at all (mine is... big :smile: ), but yeah, definitely going to re-read and digest everything.
 
#12
All of this pelvic tilt stuff is very interesting. 1) I do sit way too much both on my commute and at work (even though my desk does move so I could stand more..). 2) I’m always told in workout classes etc. to tuck my butt under, and in skiing too since I tend to stick my butt out due to the curve in my lower spine (skiing like that can feel weird though). 3) I’m also the person always told to flatten my lower back when laying down on your back for certain exercises etc., but I literally almost cannot get my lower back to flatten enough to touch the floor again I guess due to the curve in my spine?..
 
#13
There has been alot of discussion on the forum at various times about posture and usually pelvic tilt comes up. I think it's very interesting that @liquidfeet tied pelvic position to the kind of inward knee tracking that you are experiencing, so that may be something to follow up on for sure. You may want to go through this old thread:

Posture thread

where alot of posture issues, including pelvic tilt, are discussed. This thread also has the video that Ursula made for the Divas (on p. 3) a few years ago. Worth viewing again because it includes a segment on pelvic tilt.

I've lived with swayback my entire life since I was a kid. For me, no amount of stretching or strengthening of the requisite muscles has made any difference - so very cool that Jenny is getting results with PT.

But the idea that I could go through life tucking my butt under is pretty much impossible - let alone trying to do that while skiing! If you view the Ursula video, pay attention to the pelvic tilt section because she shows how trying to tuck your pelvis under can actually be detrimental to your skiing!
 

Jenny

Angel Diva
#14
It’s the weirdest PT I’ve ever had. There’s a lot of talking, and some of the things they are having me do are such small, small changes, but there has definitely been an effect, measured by a change in the pain level, and in working at getting my back more mobile. Of course, it took a long time to get this way, so I’m not expecting a miracle cure (although I wouldn’t refuse it!) but it's coming along.

@MissySki - I’m the same way about laying down and having issues getting my lower back to flatten on the floor. I can do it, but I have to think about it.
 
#15
That’s really cool Jenny! :smile:

Just wanted to clarify that a neutral pelvis is definitely good and desirable. What concerns Ursula is when people who have an anterior tilt are told to “tuck it under” (i.e. hold it in a certain position muscularly) and to “not stick their butt out”. (I can only assume that folks giving these kinds of directions have never had this particular anatomical issue). Lol.
 
#16
That’s really cool Jenny! :smile:

Just wanted to clarify that a neutral pelvis is definitely good and desirable. What concerns Ursula is when people who have an anterior tilt are told to “tuck it under” (i.e. hold it in a certain position muscularly) and to “not stick their butt out”. (I can only assume that folks giving these kinds of directions have never had this particular anatomical issue). Lol.

That’s exactly what I’m always told! I try to do that, but it almost feels like I then have less ability in rotating my legs under me when I do. Perhaps I’m tightening the wrong things unintentionally. It’s not very comfortable though.. I need to go back and watch Ursula’s video.
 
#17
That’s exactly what I’m always told! I try to do that, but it almost feels like I then have less ability in rotating my legs under me when I do. Perhaps I’m tightening the wrong things unintentionally. It’s not very comfortable though.. I need to go back and watch Ursula’s video.
Exactly!!! It’s one thing to stretch and strengthen and get your muscles and tendons balanced so that your pelvis is now held passively in a more neutral position. It’s quite another to try to hold your pelvis in an unnatural position with your muscles - and then try to ski!!
 
#18
@MissySki - I’m the same way about laying down and having issues getting my lower back to flatten on the floor. I can do it, but I have to think about it.
I used to think it was because my butt was too big! Lol Only recently did I understand the reasoning when a trainer talked about it in more detail. It’s really hard for me to do any exercises where you lay flat and have your legs extended like for ab work without causing strain in my lower back due to this curve.
 

Jenny

Angel Diva
#19
I used to think it was because my butt was too big! Lol Only recently did I understand the reasoning when a trainer talked about it in more detail. It’s really hard for me to do any exercises where you lay flat and have your legs extended like for ab work without causing strain in my lower back due to this curve.
Yep. I have to really think about not arching my back in those, too.