The 3 Best Stretches for Ice Skating

Improve your ice skating and minimize injuries with 3 of the best ice skating stretches.

by Brad Walker | First Published June 5, 2010 | Updated April 3, 2019
Ice skating originated about 4,000 years ago in Southern Finland. Currently, three sporting events are included in the Winter Olympics and elsewhere: Speed Skating; Figure Skating; and Ice Dancing.

The Olympic men’s speed skating events are held on oval tracks covering 500, 1000, 1500, 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Racers reach speeds as high as 30 mph. There are no 10,000 meter events for women.

Ice Skating Stretches and Flexibility Exercises

Muscles used in Ice Skating

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 includes:

  • 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

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. Some of the most common ice skating injuries include:

  • Head injuries, including concussion.
  • Arm and shoulder injuries, including wrist sprains and fractures, rotator cuff tears and separated shoulder.
  • Knee injuries, including Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) sprain and Chondromalacia Patellae.
  • Tailbone or coccyx injuries from falling onto your backside.
  • Ankle sprains and fractures.
  • Muscle bruises and contusions.
Stretches for ice skating

Injury Prevention Strategies

Here are a few strategies that will help you minimize injuries during ice skating:

  • Wear the appropriate attire, which gives proper padding to the vulnerable areas in your body, including your knees, elbows, ankles and wrists.
  • Ensure you have had sufficient training and instructions in proper skating technique, and are physically and mentally ready before you venture out on your own.
  • Off-ice neuromuscular training for core stability and improved postural control.
  • Always warm-up properly prior to training and especially competition.
  • Allow an adequate cool-down period and perform after skating stretching.
  • Utilize proper cardiovascular and strength training for good physical conditioning, especially strengthening the muscles mentioned above.
  • Increasing flexibility in the muscles and joints will reduce the stress on these areas while skating.
  • 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 3 Best Ice Skating Stretches

Ice skating stretches are 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 of the best 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 with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.

Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Lower back stretch for ice skating
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.
Hip and quad stretch for ice skating
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.
Lower calf and Achilles stretch for ice skating
Standing Toe-up Achilles and Calf Stretch: Stand upright and place the ball of your foot onto a step or raised object. Bend your knee and lean forward.

Want more Ice Skating Stretches?

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Research and References

Brad Walker - AKA The Stretch CoachAbout the Author: Brad Walker 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 (author page) 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 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.

Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.