I have had the good fortune of working with a number of figure skaters. Occasionally, parents of children who I do not coach will ask me about the benefits of strength training for figure skaters. Below are the 6 reasons I cite for getting figure skaters involved in strength training.
1) Strength training will eliminate imbalances and correct tracking issues which will decrease injury – for example, a weak vastus medialis will cause the patella to track laterally due to a muscular imbalance with another primary knee extensor, the vastus lateralis. The issue is that the lateralis is usually tight due to daily active living and can cause the patella to track improperly without a strong vastus medialis to act as a stabilizer in opposition. This can cause an imbalance and resultant tracking problem which can, in turn, lead to pain and possibly injury due to poor biomechanics from an improperly functioning knee joint.
Sandring, S. (2005). Grey’s Anatomy. Spain: Elsevier Churchill Livingston.
2) Strength training will aid the body in injury prevention. It can prevent misalignments of muscles and reinforce correct muscle patterning in biomechanics. Strong hamstrings aid in structural balance of the posterior aspect of the knee. Due to the hamstrings actions on the knee, the biceps femoris performs a lateral rotation of the tibia when the knee is semi flexed and the semitendinosis performs a medial rotation of the tibia when the knee is semi flexed, improving strength within the hamstrings will reduce the possibility of shearing or twisting injuries of the knee joint. Strong glutes are essential to help reinforce any movement the hamstrings make and in addition help steady the femur on the tibia which aids in landing, for figure skating in particular.
Kendal, F.P., McCreary, E.K., Provance, P.G., Rodgers, M.M., Romani, W.A. (2005). Muscles Testing and
Function with Posture and Pain. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
3) Strength training improves neurological control which can improve both gross motor movements – jumping – and fine motor movements – the subtle footwork that the judges are looking for. This control becomes more and more important as a skater advances through the senior and elite levels given the complexity of the tasks and skills they need to perform. Improved proprioceptive awareness will also accompany these increases in neurological abilities allowing a skater to develop their “ice sense”.
4) Strength training makes tasks that are difficult today easier in the long run. By increasing strength and skill an athlete will be able to progress to more difficult jumps because they are able to jump higher, rotate faster and stick landings with more ease. If we take the 1 arm brace press as an example (a standing 1 arm DB shoulder press where the free arm is extended to the side and bracing the body) there are a number of ways this strength movement can improve figure skating performance. For example, it will improve core stability as there is an isometric contraction of the oblique muscles to hold the body stable. It improves shoulder strength which has been shown to improve vertical jumping and improve forward arm drive that is needed to build momentum for starting rotations. While these things will improve through skating alone, the rate of improvement will be increased though progressive strength training.
5) Completing difficult endurance or strength sets will improve mental toughness and can make skating feel easier. Anything that makes a tough task seem easier will boost an athlete’s confidence which will improve their on-ice performance and make skating more enjoyable. Knowing that they have a strong, well balanced body will eliminate doubts of this nature from the mind of a skater … and believing that they can is the first step in doing something.
6) Being stronger will improve soccer, sprinting, athletics (track and field), volleyball, etc…. performance. It will also make everyday activities easier. The reason for this if very simple – strong muscles produce more force when they contract so you will need to recruit fewer fibers to produce the same force. This will translate into faster running, higher jumping, and easier lifting.
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