When skaters are asked what kind of off-ice training they do the answers are frequently a combination of a stretch class or stretch coach, ballet, or a jump coach. All three work very specifically to help you improve: stretch classes and ballet will help improve your flexibility, ballet can additionally improve your posture and help your artistic presence during routines, and jump coaches hone your technique when jumping. Missing from this list is training designed to make you a stronger, more powerful skater.
The truth is that neither stretching nor ballet is going to make you a more powerful skater. Working with a jump coach will make your triple loop competition ready, but it’s not fundamentally going to challenge your muscles overall. Here’s another secret: if your body isn’t physically strong enough you won’t be able to hit your double or triple jumps and at some point, your performance will plateau.
What is going to bridge that gap and make you, physically, a better skater? Strength training.
I’ve found that skaters shy away from strength training because they’ve bought into a couple, damaging myths. Let’s go ahead and debunk the biggest offenders:
Myth #1: Strength training means hours in the gym lifting heavy weights.
There’s a lot going on here so we’re going to take this one step at a time.
Strength training can happen anywhere. A gym is not necessary. There are several effective exercises that you can do at home or at the rink. It also does not need to take hours and hours away from your life. Strength training for 30 minutes to an hour, two or three times a week is sufficient. And heavy weights? Also, not required. Calisthenics is easy, low cost, portable and highly effective strength training that doesn’t require external weights at all. The entire principle behind calisthenics is that you can train your muscles to be stronger using only your body weight as resistance, which means you can do it anywhere you go because you are the only tool you need.
Myth #2: If I incorporate strength training, I’m going to bulk up fast. I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder.
This is a myth frequently bought into by women and it is 100% untrue. The amount of effort it takes for a body builder to achieve that level of muscle mass is colossal (no pun intended). Body builders put in hour after hour at the gym with targeted regimes focusing on hypertrophy (building muscle mass) as opposed to building strength or endurance. The successful ones are also working with personal trainers to stay on track with their exercise programs and dieticians to ensure they are consuming the requisite number of calories (which is excessive for the average person – trust me, it takes effort to eat as much as a body builder needs). In short: as a skater you’re not going to get there. And as a woman, your estrogen levels are not going to allow you to become Arnold Schwarzenegger, sorry! If you don’t believe me, google female body builders. They all clearly have muscle definition and a lot of it, but no one who body builds naturally (even at a professional level) looks like the Hulk.
On the contrary, strength training often lends itself to a svelte, athletic body in both men and women. Plus strength training for figure skaters isn’t going to focus on hypertrophy, but rather on endurance and strength. That means you’ll even be training differently than a body builder, which will lead to a different aesthetic.
Before you begin a weight program, seek out a fitness professional who can supervise and correct your form, if necessary. And for any significant change in your health and fitness routine, check in with your physician to make sure you’re all good to go.
Let us know if you have any other questions about why strength training should be incorporated into your routine, or if something is holding you back!