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The Importance of "Off-Ice Jumps" - By Figure Skating Coach Lorna Brown

"When technique is pure and right, it has its own aesthetic value!"


A Figure Skater Doing Off-Ice Jump Training

A Figure Skater Doing Off-Ice Jump Training

Photo Copyright © Lorna Brown
Lorna Brown is a British and World Professional ice skating champion and a world and Olympic figure skating coach. In this article, she gives some thoughts on the importance of off-ice jump training.

Over the years it has become more and more apparent that learning how to rotate quickly off the ice is very important. To progress in our art, sport, we must always be open to newer, better ways of developing our technique, to reach our goals with as little ease and risk of injury as possible. When doing off-ice jumps we must simulate as closely as possible, the kind of positions you are attempting when on the ice. An actual jump only takes a split second! We can improve the amount of rotations by training how to be aware in the air and by knowing each part of the jump from beginning to end, in every detail. It is all down to aerodynamics and physics together with fitness and psychology. We need to learn about the correct stance positions, developing the distribution of weight. focus, direction, rhythm and the angles of the body.

Acute concentration is needed as the actions are very fast. Have you ever considered the speed of thought? It is mind boggling to think how your body is able to differentiate from one end of itself to the other in a split second and to realize just how much complexity is going on within your brain during a jump rotation of up to 4 revolutions. 100,000 different chemical reactions occur normally, each second in the brain. It takes more or less 1/2 sec to do a double axel (air time. So we have to learn how to rotate faster and to get in on the way up, if we are going to have the air time to do triples or quads. It all depends on the skater's height, weight, speed and of course good technique and you need to develop those fast twitch fibers in the muscles!

Our body weight is tough to maneuver in such a short space of time in the air. A skater has to be in control of how much force to apply at every stage of the jump, leading up to it, through it and after it for the landing itself. If there is one piece of the puzzle missing, it doesn't work! Gravity pulls us into the center of the earth at 9.81 meters per second per second. Skating is more complex than most other sports because it involves other forces owing to the speed involved, not only across the ice, but also the G-force and centrifugal during jump and spin rotation. Another extremely important skill is mastering exactly how to "brake" or "resist" the rotation into a beautiful elegant arabesque position, which you can miss by the blink of the eye. The actual opening of the rotation which starts to happen while still up in the air on the last part of the jump. This you have to practice holding and sustaining, to strengthen this yielding/braking action which is followed by the actual landing when the free leg swings in a controlled manner to the side and then eventually behind into the arabesque position. I say this because a lot of us believe the free leg goes straight back from the crossed position in the air, but it does not. It goes from the front to the side and then to the back which you can see if you watch it frame by frame on a video.

Everything we do on the floor, should correspond directly with what we do on the ice. It must be "sports specific. " We can learn a lot on the floor. When on the ice we should try to see things from all different angles, to be able to spot where our problems are. Off the ice it is easier to focus and study where we are without tearing around at speed. We can then take these feelings and use them when we get back on the ice. There are also many “on ice exercises” for jump preparations, which compliment and correspond directly to all those off-ice exercises! The Russian trainer e.g. Rafael Aritunian is exceptionally good at these particular kind of exercise and it was he who I had work with me at my "Skate of the Art" summer camps in the UK.

It is so vital to learn the right way from the earliest possible stage of development, if you are going to aim for the elite end of the spectrum. This way there will be less trial and error. Incorrect technique can only get you so far. You could find you come to a stand still or become inconsistent when reaching a higher level. You could also be bothered with injuries because repeating a slightly incorrect misaligned movement, over and over again, can eventually become a chronic injury. Smart practice produces good results and tons of confidence. Trying to limit the amount of repetitions of a jump during learning and ending on a good note, is a good thing to avoid disappointment and injury. When a jump is not working, go back to the preparation itself. Using a harness is often a good help as well as doing some off ice jumps at this point instead of pounding away at it on the ice. When you go back on, you may feel more stable and focused on what it is you need to do.

I believe it to be very beneficial to learn jump rotation ahead of time to enable us to cope better when the time comes for those multiple rotation jumps on the ice. The skater can be taught to learn to differentiate between each quarter - half - one turn, right up to triples and quads, so there is little confusion about where you are in space.

It is important to have exact, simple and correct instructions from your coach for jumps! As I mentioned earlier, you are only in the air more or less than half a second, so don't get crossed lines about what you are supposed to be doing.

To conclude with, here are a few quotes from a famous book, In Pursuit of Excellence by Terry Orlick:

  1. "A refined ability to learn from failure and to grow through losses are necessary to achieve excellence in any human endeavor."
  2. "We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to loose sight of the shore."
  3. "To be there without ever having been there - that is the goal of simulation."
  4. "Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life."
  5. "The real challenge is to integrate our spiritual energy into our human form."
  6. "The work of the individual remains the spark that moves human kind forward."
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