Strength and conditioning for figure skating

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Gorge LeMaster already said it in 1972:

A skater should ideally have the strength of a football player, the balance of a tightrope walker, the endurance of a marathon runner, the precision of a basketball player, the agility of a gymnast, the cool nerves of a golfer, and the grace and musical interpretation of a dancer.

So we have to define, what a figure skater has to improve on ice and what off the ice for each individually. Strength and power are difficult to improve on the ice, but the rest is possible.

If we want a skater to show his/her talent on the ice, we need to improve his/her power, endurance and strength. Only then he or she is going to be able to control his/her body while performing all the technical elements.

All the physical abilities written in the diagram above are keys to a skater’s good performance on the ice. Strength improves power, power improves endurance and so on as it is presented in the diagram.

There are 3 crucial things that strength and conditioning coaches need to focus on:

Strength: maximal strength (example: one leg squat, push up) and strength endurance

Power: ballistic and plyometric exercises. Upper body ballistics with bands, lower body ballistics with weights (Bulgarian split squat clean and snatch or kettlebell swings), different weighted jumps (be very careful with the amount of jumps due to a lot of landings on the ice, therefore a lot of knee and hip overuses), body weight jumps with no arms, normal jumps with a little rotation (emphasis on maximal force production and height), specific figure skating exercises, etc.

Endurance: aerobic and especially anaerobic energy system (off season we are doing it off the ice, in season we are doing it just on the ice).

Strength and conditioning program should be prepared individually for each skater according to:
– a period of their carriers,
– their goals,
– their competitions and
– their specific body characteristics.

I noticed that nowadays most of the skaters have problems with right hip if they are rotating counter clockwise. So we have to do everything we can to prevent it. That’s why I recommend 14 days off after the season. After that we can speculate that the muscles are totally recovered after a though season and we can start to prepare a skater for the next season

Please, let me know if you are interested in how Daša will train for preventing injuries and making herself better in the next season (hopefully :)).

Individualization

In my opinion there are 2 types of figure skaters.

  1. The ones that are very, very natural, can learn very fast and are naturally explosive. They need more emphasis on strength for landings. Their endurance is pretty bad, so we have to gradually plan their endurance for the competitive program. The best thing is to gradually getting the stamina for a whole program and more.
  2. The ones that are not that naturally explosive as type 1, but they have a good endurance. They can train a lot and they can get better even if they don´t feel the jumps so much as type 1. They need to work more on power, but don’t forget that strength is the basis to improve power.

One of the best coaches in the world, Rafael Arutyunyan has told me: ”You know, relative strength is the most important for figure skaters.”.

Keep that in mind, if you are working with figure skaters.

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