The Best Stretches for Figure Skaters
Not only are boots and blades extremely important for a figure skater to succeed, but flexibility plays a vital role in how you perform on the ice, as well. While you may know the basics of stretching, stretches for figure skaters can be very different from what you’ve come to know. Figure skating warm-ups are also extremely valuable when integrated into your routine to help improve flexibility and range of motion all around.
What is the Purpose of Flexibility Training?
Training to be more flexible has a variety of benefits for figure skaters. In order to achieve the look of a quality figure skater, and add the aesthetic appeal of long lines and extensions, it’s vital to train your muscles to be more. According to the United States Figure Skating Association, some of the benefits of a good stretching routine include improved range of motion, reduced muscle tension, injury prevention, improved body alignment and muscle symmetry, and much more.
While athletes of all sports can develop muscle imbalances, it is extremely common for figure skaters due to their day-to-day training. Skaters go into jumps and spins, rotating the same direction and always landing on the same leg, which can, in turn, cause these imbalances. And while older, more experienced athletes might know the importance of a good warm-up and stretching routine, younger athletes might not understand as well. It’s important to incorporate them at any age, as it can help improve overall performance and prevent injury down the road.
The Best Types of Stretches for Figure Skaters
There are a variety of different types of stretches that you can incorporate into your daily exercise routine. Figuring out what is best for you and when you should perform these stretches will be extremely beneficial in helping you reach your flexibility and range of motion goals.
Static stretching is when a stretch is held in in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time. They are usually held between 15-30 seconds. The United States Figure Skating Association recommends this type of stretching, since performing it slowly can create permanent lengthening of the muscle. It is important to keep in mind that when performing static stretches, your body temperature should be elevated, meaning you should perform them after your warm-ups or after your entire training session has completed.
Passive stretches require an outside force, such as a partner or towel, in order to perform them. During passive stretches, you remain relaxed while you rely on the outside source to apply the stretch slowly. Always make sure you are constantly communicating if you are using a partner to make sure their force isn’t stronger than you are flexible.
Dynamic stretches are performed by moving through a challenging, but comfortable range of motion repeatedly. Dynamic stretches are good for improving functional range of motion and mobility, making them a great option for figure skaters. During dynamic stretches, you should move through the range of motion keeping control, never flinging or throwing around your body parts, and like most stretches, they should be done after a proper warm up when your muscles are warm.
Using Proper Technique
It is important that before you start to incorporate a stretching routine into your training that you understand the proper technique behind each stretch. A proper warm-up is essential for your muscles before you begin. This should consist of five to ten minutes of movement that increases your body temperature and causes a light sweat. Types of exercises that could be done as a warm-up include jogging, biking, jump roping, or jumping jacks. You can do a variety of movements as long as they are getting your heart rate up and increasing blood flow to the muscles you are about to stretch.
After your muscles are properly warmed up, you may begin your stretching exercises. As you perform them, concentrate on each area you are stretching. This can help develop body awareness, as well as helps the body relax.
As you are holding a stretch, you might notice the muscle ease a bit. Pushing into a deeper stretch is okay, as long as there is no pain. Stretching should be pain-free, meaning if it starts to hurt, then you have gone too far. Back-off to the point where you don’t feel any more pain and simply hold that position.
Don’t hold your breath while stretching. Breathing should be relaxed and free. Breathe slowly in at the beginning of the stretch and then slowly out as you lean into your stretch. You should also avoid bouncing during a stretch. This type of stretching, ballistic, is not ideal for increasing flexibility and can cause injury to your muscles.
The most ideal times to incorporate stretching are after your warm-ups, workouts, and each skating session. Use this time to relax and concentrate on your muscles, allowing yourself to have some quiet time.
What Areas Should You Stretch?
Figure skaters use almost all the muscles in the body to perform jumps, spins, and landings. The muscles of the legs such as quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, calves and achilles, groin, hip abductors, and hip adductors are all extremely important for many of the movements a figure skater needs on a daily basis. Although you need to focus on lower body stretches, do not neglect your upper body. Your head, neck, shoulders, upper and lower back, chest, and sides of your torso need to be included in your routine, as well. The overall flexibility of the body will result in improvements on the ice.
While you need to consider all of the factors we mentioned when incorporating stretching into your routine, you should consult with your coach or a professional for a more tailored fit to your needs. Some stretches and movements may not be suitable if you are injured and depending on if you have any muscle imbalances, you may want to focus on specific muscles in the body more than others. If you’re looking for skates that are custom tailored to fit your needs as well, Riedell is here to help you excel both on and off the ice.