Ice Skating Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Ice skating stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with ice skating injuries for good.
Ice skating is a very popular and widely watched sport, and is also regarded as a fun indulgence as a form of exercise. Ice skating originated about 4000 years ago, somewhere in Southern Finland. What originally started as gliding with crude forms of skates was later refined into the finer art of skating. Over the years, the simple sport of ice skating has evolved into three separate sporting events enjoyed at the Winter Olympics and elsewhere:
- Speed Skating
- Figure Skating
- Ice Dancing
If you’re looking to improve your ice skating or just seeking to prevent ice skating injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that’s just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
In speed skating events, racers can reach speeds as fast as 30 mph. The Olympic men’s speed skating events are held on oval tracks and the races involve distances of 500, 1,000, 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 meters for the men. Women’s speed skating events use the same track and distances, except that there are no 10,000 meter races for the women. There are also short track speed skating events that are in essence relay races, with batons being passed by the skaters to members of their teams, just like in the track and field event.
Jackson Haines was the first person to skate to music, back in the 1860s. His performances included the use of ballet music as the background for his fluid dances across the ice. The popularity soon grew and the international competitions began to include the jumps and other skills, since the winner was judged by the audience in those days.
Now, Olympic competitions require entrants to perform a short routine with defined skill requirements, followed by a longer freestyle selection, where they can show off their skills to the music of their choice. There are also competitions for partners during the Olympics and all have their own set of skills that must be shown to the judges as well as specialties such as lifts, dips and synchronized movements.
Many professional figure skaters turn to ice dancing after they have retired from competition. Shows such as the Ice Capades and Disney’s themed stage performances have kept the pros working long after their sporting career have ended. Much heralded skaters including Peggy Fleming, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Kristi Yamaguchi and Tara Lipinski have all found fame on the smaller arena rinks across the country and have toured world-wide to much acclaim. These performances range from full out international dancing competitions and individual exhibitions to enactments of children’s stories using ballet-like performances on ice.
Ice skating comprises of a series of spinning, twirling and gliding movements, all of which are executed gracefully over slippery ice. Almost all of the muscles of the body are used in this sport, from the leg muscles and abdominals to the arm muscles. Some of the anatomy involved in ice skating include:
- The muscles around the ankle joint – the calf muscles, both soleus and gastronomies, as well as the tibialis anterior of the shin contract during the push off and glide phases of ice skating.
- The knee performs the action of extension for the stride push off, as well as flexion while returning the leg to the glide position. During the extension, the quadriceps – vastus intermedius, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis and vastus medialis provide the power for the push off. While during the glide, the flexion movement calls on the muscles of the hamstring – biceps femoris, semitendinosus and the semimembranosus, to keep balance and stride flowing smoothly.
- The hip joint allows for a wide range of motion to provide five very important movements: Internal Rotation; Abduction; Adduction; Extension; and Flexion.
- The abdominal and extensor muscles of the back are the support muscles that stabilize the core area. These muscles connect the movement of the lower body to the upper body, while maintaining stability in the hip and lower back. The major muscles involved include the rectus abdominus, the erector spinae muscles of the back, and the external and internal oblique abdominal muscles.
Most Common Ice Skating Injuries
The movements are beautiful and at times mesmerizing; the speeds at which some skaters can move is blinding. However, one wrong move or even just hitting a piece of debris, can lead to a fall. According to research, ice skaters are nearly five times more likely to suffer either head or face injuries, as compared to inline or roller skaters.
- Head & Arm Injuries: Most people think that wearing a helmet and wrist pads would provide ice skaters with the protection they need. That’s not true though. When you fall, your first instinct is to slide your arms out in front of you in an effort to protect your head; after all, a sprained wrist is better than a concussion. Unfortunately, this does not always work. Ice is a frictionless surface and your splayed out arms will just keep sliding on the ice and will not help you break your fall. While the helmet may offer a degree of protection if you fall on your back, it won’t do you any good if you fall face down. Would wrist braces stop this from happening? Highly unlikely.
- Knee Injuries: In addition to scrapes and bruises, which are the most common knee injuries, you could also twist your knee while beginning a spin or landing from a jump. This could injure the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), which will result in pain on the inner side of the knee or the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), which will cause the knee to give out when weight is put on it. Although not so common, a blow to the knee can cause misalignment of the knee, which in turn can result in chronic knee pain because of the wearing down of the cartilage. This condition is known as Chondromalacia Patellae. Rest is the primary treatment for minor injuries, but physical therapy or surgery may be needed to fix these injuries depending upon their severity.
- Injury to the Tailbone: A broken tailbone, which results from constantly falling on your butt, can present its own set of problems. If you break your tailbone or coccyx, it may heal on its own when you are younger but chances are it will not heal correctly and will result in a lot of pain when you are older.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Here are a few strategies that will help you minimize injuries during ice skating:
- Wear the right and appropriate attire, which gives proper padding to the vulnerable areas in your body, including your knees, elbows, ankles, and the groin.
- Utilize proper exercise and strength training for good physical conditioning, especially strengthening the muscles mentioned above.
- Take time to warm up and stretch all your muscles before you start your routine.
- Ensure you have had sufficient training and instructions and are physically and mentally ready before you venture out on your own.
- Avoid skating when you are exhausted or injured.
- For outdoor skating, keep a watch out for signs indicating thin ice, and also make sure to carry ice-claws and ropes to help yourself or anyone else in need.
The Top 3 Ice Skating Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for ice skating; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions beside each stretch.
Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.
Kneeling Upper Hip & Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.
Standing Toe-up Achilles Stretch: Stand upright and place the ball of your foot onto a step or raised object. Bend your knee and lean forward.
Looking at photos and watching videos on your computer is fine, but to really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a free copy of my Stretching DVD & CD-ROM.
The exercises and recommendations on this page are just a small sample of the many stretching exercises presented on my free Stretching DVD. In total, you'll get 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you where ever you go.
The Stretching DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out my free Stretching DVD & CD-ROM for yourself.
About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the Stretch Coach and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.