Off-Ice Fitness Games for Figure Skaters

By Kristie Lynch


August 1, 2017
   In The Loop Extended Articles


Figure skaters spend countless hours on the ice committed to improving their craft of jumping, spinning and executing new gliding movements. Another jump, another spin, another program, all while attempting to become faster on the ice, stronger in a spin position and attempt a more difficult jump becomes a daily part of life. With this dedication to on-ice development and progress comes a call to action to train properly both on and off the ice. Off-ice training protocols help decrease injuries, increase skill development and overall help keep athletes healthy. There are many traditional off-ice workouts that have wonderful benefits. Besides these routine off-ice training regimens, a different approach to off-ice conditioning through games may also be helpful for skaters’ advancement. For example, strength exercises like the plank and cardiovascular endurance activities can be implemented through modified games while working with partners, small groups, or larger group of skaters. 

The purpose of this article is to expose and educate coaches to be open-minded to off-ice concepts that can be achieved through game settings. Aspects of both health and skill-related fitness may be showcased in these games including cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, body composition, agility, balance, power, speed, coordination and reaction time (Corbin, Pangrazi & Franks, 2000). These physical fitness concepts can be tailored to meet the individual needs of the skater’s age, skill level, cognitive development and any other modifications needed during game play. These games can be incorporated into differing settings, whether in a gym or on a field, and can be played with very little equipment. Three enjoyable activities, which are applicable to most skaters, are highlighted in this article.

Definitions of Health-Related Fitness (Corbin, Pangrazi & Franks, 2000)
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1. Cardiovascular Endurance: A health-related component of physical fitness that relates to ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen during sustained physical activity
2. Muscular Strength: A health-related component of physical fitness that relates to the ability of the muscle to exert force
3. Muscular Endurance: A health-related component of physical fitness that relates to the muscle's ability to continue to perform without fatigue
4. Flexibility: A health-related component of physical fitness that relates to the range of motion available at a joint
5. Body Composition: A health-related component of physical fitness that relates to the relative amounts of muscle, fat, bone and other vital parts of the body

Definitions of Skill-Related Fitness (Corbin, Pangrazi & Franks, 2000)
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1. Agility: A skill-related component of physical fitness that relates to the ability to rapidly change the position of the entire body in space with speed and accuracy
2. Balance: A skill-related component of physical fitness that relates to the maintenance of equilibrium while stationary or moving
3. Power: A skill-related component of physical fitness that relates to the ability to the rate at which one can perform work
4. Speed: A skill-related component of physical fitness that relates to the ability to perform a movement within a short period of time
5. Coordination: A skill-related component of physical fitness that relates to the ability to use the senses, such as sight and hearing, together with body parts in performing motor tasks smoothly and accurately
6. Reaction Time: A skill-related component of physical fitness that relates to the time elapsed between stimulation and the beginning of the reaction to it

Activity 1: Plank Points

  • Objectives: The primary objectives for skaters during this activity are to achieve increased muscular strength, muscular endurance, coordination and balance
  • Equipment: Beanbags or balls are needed
  • Organization: Skaters spread out with a partner in general space
  • Description: Skaters assume a proper plank position and slide or roll a beanbag or ball on the ground toward each other. The goal is to score as many points as the skater can by getting the bean bag or ball through their partners hands while both skaters are holding a proper plank position. Play continues until five goals are scored or for a certain amount of time. Safety rules are discussed before the game begins.
  • Modifications: This game can be played between three or more skaters as well. More than one beanbag or ball can be introduced into each game. Partners or small groups may change skaters for different rounds.

Activity 2: Builders and Bulldozers

  • Objectives: The primary objectives for skaters to achieve during this activity are increased cardiovascular endurance, coordination and agility
  • Equipment: Cones are needed
  • Organization: Skaters spread out in general space. Cones are spread out with some cones standing upright and other cones on their side in the physical activity area.
  • Description: The goal of the game is to have the “builders” stand the cones upright using their hands only as quickly as they can and the “bulldozers” to knock them down using their hands only as quickly as possible. Skaters switch roles. Play continues for two-three minutes per round. Safety rules are discussed before the game begins.
  • Modifications: Different size cones can be used to adjust cone height during play. Locomotor skills such as carioca, gallop, high skip and jog can be used as different traveling movements while skaters are in play.

Activity 3: Fitness Marks the Spot

  • Objectives: The primary objectives for skaters to achieve during this activity are increased cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility
  • Equipment: Rubber spots or cones (enough for each skater) and exercise cards are needed
  • Organization: Each skater stands next to a spot or cone. Spots or cones are scattered in the physical activity area with exercise cards under each spot or cone.
  • Description: Skaters move in general space using a locomotor skill. After thirty seconds, the skater stops on a spot and performs the assigned exercise card under the spot or cone. Safety rules are discussed before the game begins.
  • Modifications: Exercise cards can be made to strengthen whichever area of health-related or skill-related fitness that need improvement. Other workout equipment can be integrated while using exercise cards such as jumps ropes, kettle bells, balance boards and resistance bands.

Exercise Card Ideas
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1. Plank
2. Side Star
3. Crunches
4. Downward Dog
5. Tree Pose (eyes open/closed)
6. V-Sits
7. Calf Raises
8. Squats
9. Tuck Jumps
10. One Foot Hop/ Two foot Jump, Jump Rotation Patterns

Locomotor Examples
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1. High Skip
2. Gallop
3. Back Pedal
4. Carioca
5. Hopscotch
6. Power Walk
7. Crabwalk
8. Jog
9. Lunges
10. March

Summary
In conclusion, learning both health-related and skill-related fitness through a games approach may add benefits to the best off-ice conditioning practices for figure skaters. The importance of diversifying off-ice training lends to increased physical gains and fun while nurturing teamwork and competitive camaraderie amongst skaters. A comprehensive approach to off-ice conditioning, utilizing both traditional and nontraditional measures, may equip skaters with possible participation in lifetime physical activity. Ultimately, developing a figure skating fitness program where skaters enjoy themselves, are physically improving their skating skill set and can gain a framework for developing a healthy lifestyle are pivotal while executing a successful off ice conditioning program for positive on ice improvement.

References

Corbin, C., Pangrazi, R & Franks, B. (2000). Definitions: Health, fitness, and physical activity. President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest. 3(9). Available at http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED470696.pdf.

National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Poe, C. (2002). Conditioning for figure skaters: Off-ice techniques for on-ice performance. New York City, NY: McGraw Hill.