Strength Training For Figure Skaters

Figure skating is one of the most demanding sports in the world because it is the combination of the requirements for middle distance running (programs last between three and five minutes), Olympic lifting (extremely explosive movements), gymnastics (holding difficult positions for 10-15 seconds) and the hitting aspects of hockey or football (the sudden impact with the ice when a jump doesn’t go according to plan). For this reason, it is important that figure skaters train for all of these events. If you are a parent of a figure skater, you should consider the 5 facts below when making the decision whether or not to have them strength train.

1) Your child is going to have muscle imbalances that are hurting their on-ice performance.

Figuring skating is a very repetitive sport that places a disproportionate amount of demand on landing leg. Most of the skaters I have worked with tend to have well balanced landing legs due to the sheer number of jumps and landings they perform during their practices – 100’s of reps per week. The other legs however do not function as well. Their knees tend to buckle during testing which is a good indication of a weakness in one of the muscle responsible for straightening the leg {most skaters tend to have a weakness in the vastus medialis obliquus which is the tear drop shaped muscle on the front of the leg to the inside of the knee.} It is important to correct this imbalance and doing so will improve the skaters’ performance.

2) Your child would be safer and more resistant to injury if they where stronger.

Figure skating can be a contact sport, particularly when learning a new jump. Falling is inevitable so it makes sense to build up the body to help absorb the impact. You can also help to prevent knee injuries by training the hamstring muscles given that they play an important role in knee stability – if the knee doesn’t twist ACL injuries will be avoided. Figure skaters tend to have weak ankle stabilizers because their skates are fairly ridged and this also puts them at an increased risk of injury.

3) Your child is going to need to get stronger to progress at their sport.

To advance from doubles to triples a skater is going to need to jump higher and rotate faster and this is only possible if they get stronger. The strength required to make this leap will come with lots of practice but if they strength train a skater will achieve these gains more quickly. This could save them a lot of time and move them through the ranks faster than their non-training competition.

4) Your child should have a good sense of body awareness.

Skaters need to have a very good sense of where they are in relation to the ice and the rest of their body. This sense develops over time and is enhanced with completion of all types of movements. Strength training that takes a joint through the complete range of motion is going to enhance body awareness because it puts the body into all types of positions. It will also be enhanced by performing movements were the skater holds a position so they can feel the muscle contract e.g. a front plank or a superman hold. These movements, called isometric holds, help to establish the mind/body connection that is critical for improving body awareness.

5) Your child’s brain is going to develop to be better at the things it does more frequently.

One of the marvelous things about the human brain is its ability to devote greater portions of itself to the things that happen more often. This means is we get more brain power to do something the more we do it – the more we move the better we get at moving. By incorporating strength movements into a training regime, we increase a skater’s ability at controlling their movement. While there may be no direct carry-over from split squats to triple axels, performing splits squats will cause changes to the nervous system that WILL help the skater’s movement.

When it comes to strength training for figure skaters, there are really no reasons for them NOT to do it – provided they are trained by a strength coach who understands the needs of the athlete and the demands of the sport. Assuming their coach knows what they are doing it’s only going to make the skater more athletic and improve their chances of winning and avoiding injury.