Off Ice Training for Synchronized Skaters
Strength and conditioning are as important for Synchronized skaters as for any athlete. That training can be performed as part of team training in a group or individually depending on time and financial constraints as well as the availability of appropriate supervision.
Elements of conditioning include strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, power, and speed, however, it is important to develop the young athlete as a whole not just focus on figure skating. Sport specific training builds on the athletic skills developed in the prepubescent years. That being said, strengthening and conditioning has been found to be safe and effective for young children when the emphasis is on safety and the quality of movement and achieving realistic goals.
Children can begin training when they are ready to accept coaching to perform the exercises correctly. Equipment should be of appropriate design and size. Free weights, body weight and exercise bands offer resistance to improve strength without the use of adult sized equipment.
Knowledgeable trainers should always supervise programs. Encourage core strength first as core stability enhances proper form for all exercises. Exercises that move to all sides and directions develop muscle balance. For Synchronized skaters the stability gained form core control and upper body upper body strength are essential to improving on ice performance. The intensity, frequency and type of exercise vary with the cycle of the skating season.
Flexibility is gained with static stretching. However this can inhibit power performance. Prior to practice or competition, warm up should include dynamic flexibility – exercise that moves the body through the range of motion and increases circulation to the muscles. Static stretching is best performed after practice or performance on a regular basis to attain the mobility needed for moves such as spread eagles and spirals.
It is safe for children to participate in cardiovascular fitness training such as running and interval training. However they do not adjust to climactic extremes as well as adults. Their greater body surface to body mass limits sweating capacity and thus subjects them to greater core temperatures. Hydration before and during exercise is important.
These principles are important for youth and adolescent training in general. The emphasis for synchro skaters is on fitness that improves their ability to perform in a group with the physical stressors that is required.
Jane Gruber provides strength and conditioning support to Team Excel members, specializing in physical therapy and fitness, and assisting skaters as they address sports-related injuries or physical challenges.