One of the most common problems experienced when learning to snowboard is lack of knee bend, aka ‘stiff knees’. However, many of us didn’t even know we had stiff knees, until we viewed ourselves on camera / video.
So, what exactly are ‘stiff knees’?
It’s exactly like it sounds. It’s a lack of knee bending which results in you being unable to really control or maneuver your snowboard as you’d like.
What does it look like and how do I know if I’m doing it?
The easiest way to know is to video yourself. Watch yourself riding and if you have stiff knees, it’ll look as if you’re mostly standing straight up while snowboarding, instead of bending your knees.
You may also notice that instead of bending your knees, you bend at your waist. We do this because turning requires bending and pressuring your body into the direction of the turn, if you aren’t bending your knees, your upper body will bend out of alignment and compensate for the lack of knee bend.
If you do have stiff knees, don’t worry, here’s a rundown on what they are and how to fix it
How do I fix it?
Stiff knees will usually fix themselves over time as your body slowly gets used to bending your knees, however there’s a few things that can help you speed up the process.
1) On-hill knee bending drills
To work your toeside knee bending, imagine you’re trying to shove your knees forward, into the snow. Keep your back up straight and thrust forward with your knees.
To work your heelside turns, pretend you’re trying to sit on a chair. Once again, keep your back up straight and as you turn heelside, practice squatting down as if sitting on a chair.
The main thing here to remember with these drills is that you’re always bending with your knees, not your waist. You don’t want to be hunched over and bending awkwardly with only your upper body, you want your whole body (particularly your knees) to be helping you turn.
There’s a common rule among most of us who have problems with knee bending. Even when you know what to do and think you’re already bending your knees, chances are you aren’t doing it enough.
What this means is basically that even if you’re concentrating really hard and think you’re bending your knees 75% of the way, there’s a high chance you’re only bending them 25% of the way.
To compensate for this, exaggerate your movements. If you’re bending your knees, do it twice as hard as you think you should be doing it.
3) Pretend you’re on film
Bending your knees feels awkward at first. Your body isn’t used to it and it’s going to require you to really concentrate to keep your knees bent. You have to train your body to bend your knees at first, at least until it becomes natural.
One of my early instructors gave me a tip that worked quite well at forcing me to remember my body posture and knee bend. He said always pretend you’re being filmed. This means when you’re just cruising down a blue run, pretend someone is watching and taping every single one of your movements.
I find this helps you to keep your technique in mind and prevent you from getting sloppy and cheating on your techniques.
One more thing… when bending your knees, try not to let them bend inwards, push them outwards instead.
Hope you found these tips useful!