Why off-ice training is important for figure skaters

by Stephanie Siclari

As skaters, we spend countless hours on the ice perfecting our jumps and skating on the sand. We pay attention to our pointed toes and elongated fingers. We put our bodies through rigorous training, often pushing ourselves beyond our limits to stretch a little more in a Beillmann Spin or turn a little faster in our jumps.

Whether you are a singles skater, synchronized skater or dancer, you put a lot of force on your body every day. To accomplish many skating feats, we must have the physical strength, stamina and flexibility to perform our skills without injury.

In “Fantasy Footwork: Two Figure Skating Experts on Injury PreventionSports Medicine Physician Dr Ellen Geminiani, in response to the question of what needs to change to reduce figure skating injuries, says, “We have to overcome the idea that figure skaters have to spend countless hours on the ice at the expense of everything else. Off-ice training helps athletes develop the strength and mobility essential to injury prevention. Unfortunately, it will take a culture shift within the sport as a whole for many coaches and athletes to adopt this more balanced approach.

Proper off-ice training is essential to the development of on-ice skills as well as the preservation of athlete longevity. Figure skating requires flexibility, muscle strength, balance and coordination, as well as joint mobility and range of motion.

Let’s go through each of these elements:

Flexibility: Watching a skater lift their leg in a beautiful Beillmann spin can be a breathtaking experience. It’s amazing how we pull our bodies into incredible positions; it requires flexibility. Don’t be fooled; even our landing or stroking position requires some flexibility. No matter what we do on the ice, we have to have some leeway. We need to spend time stretching and improving our flexibility off the ice to be able to get into those positions and do it safely.

Jump training: Working on jumps and jump rotation drills off the ice helps you learn and feel proper body positioning in the air. As you progress and learn more difficult jumps, it is important that you learn rotation off the ice, in order to understand the timing and position of your body in relation to space when turning in the ice. tunes. Working on landing positions off the ice allows you to focus on the position of your skating knee in relation to your toe during landing impact. The knee should follow the second and third toes because internal or external rotation of the knee puts pressure on the knee and can lead to knee and ankle injuries. Once you are comfortable with the rotation, you can translate that understanding onto the ice.

Balance: It’s no surprise that figure skating requires immense balance. Working on balance drills off the ice will undoubtedly help improve balance and control on the ice. Additionally, working balance drills strengthen the ankle and can help prevent ankle injuries on the ice. The very definition of agility is the ability to move quickly and easily. Footwork and step sequences involve quick foot action. Incorporating agility drills into off-ice training can help train the brain and body to move quickly with control and ease.

Core strength: Core Strength is one of the most critical muscle groups for figure skaters. My motto is: “A strong core is a strong skater.” The core muscles are active in every skating movement, from maintaining posture in basic skating to keeping the body aligned in difficult jumps.

Mobility: The way we move our bodies on the ice—so gracefully from position to position—requires joint mobility and range of motion. If we don’t have range of motion of specific muscles and joints, we rely on other areas of our body to compensate, which can cause stress on our body and lead to injury.

For example, when lifting the free leg parallel during a jump, if a skater does not have enough hip mobility, they will arch their back to create the illusion that their leg is higher, notes the specialist in strength and conditioning Ariel Gagnon-Carr in “Fantasy Footwork: Two Figure Skating Experts on Injury Prevention.”

“Meanwhile, the landing puts eight to 10 times their body weight on their lumbar spine,” says Gagnon-Carr. “Landing with an arched back puts extra pressure on your lower back.”

lower body strength: The gluteus medius is described as one of the muscles (if not the most important) of figure skaters. In my article, “ABCs of Jump Landings: Alignment, Balance, Control,” I write that it is responsible for stabilizing the hip joint and pelvis as well as internal and external rotation and rotation. ‘abduction. The gluteus medius connects the hip joint to the pelvis. Since skating involves a significant transfer of weight from one leg to the other, several muscles work simultaneously to maintain proper alignment of the lower extremities (hip, knee, ankle, foot). You can turn to the gluteus medius to control the alignment and stability of the lower limbs. When a skater is in the landing position, proper knee alignment is to go over the second and third toes. The gluteus medius is just one muscle that should be the focus of off-ice training; skaters should incorporate exercises that effectively strengthen the lower extremities while increasing mobility.

Upper body strength: How often do coaches tell us to “stand up”, “raise your arms”, etc. ? Our posture and demeanor on the ice can make or break component scores and our overall on-ice aesthetics. Working on our posture as well as strengthening the back, arm and shoulder muscles off the ice will help align our body on the ice. Upper body strength is especially important for pairs, synchronized dancers, or ice dancers to prevent injury when lifting with a partner.

Heating and cooling: Warming up preparing and calming down before and after on-ice training is just as important as a rigorous off-ice training plan. Before hitting the ice, be sure to spend some time relaxing the body so your muscles are ready to skate, and after your workout, stretch your muscles while they’re still warm. This will help you prevent injury by taking the ice with “cold” muscles.

Download my off-ice warm-up guide

Stéphanie Siclari has been teaching figure skating and power hockey for all ages and all levels for 15 years. She has worked with skaters around the world, who have competed nationally and internationally as well as the World Synchronized Skating Championships in the United States. She is a former Senior Women’s competitor and two-time U.S. Synchronized Skating Champion and member of the U.S. Team (University of Miami, Ohio, Collegiate and Senior Teams). She is the creator of SKATERFIT, an off-ice and on-ice training program designed to help skaters build confidence and physical and mental strength while providing a fun platform to achieve their goals. For more information, visit coachstephaniesiclari.com. You can also visit his YouTube channel for additional exercises.

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