Key ice skating techniques

Figure skating spins and jumps

Once you’ve mastered the basics of ice skating (staying on your feet that is!), you might want to try out some of the many choreographed jumps and spins that have made ice-based, figure skating exercise so popular. This realbuzz.com guide outlines some of the main ice skating moves and techniques that are open to all skill levels, including beginners just starting out in the sport.

Figure skating is one of the most popular ice-based activities, with thousands of people globally enjoying its many health and fitness benefits. After learning the basics of the sport it might be worth attempting some of the following key ice skating techniques if you really want to push your skating on to the next level ...

Key ice skating techniques

Key figure skating jumps ...

There are six major jumps in figure skating, all requiring a large degree of flexibility, poise and — above all else patience. Aerial jumps will demand lots of hard work in the short-term, before you fully master their motions, but the experiences and satisfaction you’ll glean from them will soon make it all worthwhile.

Figure skating jumps are categorized as being either ‘toe’ jumps or ‘edge’ jumps. Toe jumps see skaters launch themselves into the air by ‘picking’ the surface of the ice rink with one of the ‘toe-picks’ on their skating boots.

In contrast, edge jumps don’t involve any toe-pick movement. Instead, participants use only their momentum and foot muscles to leap powerfully into the air.

Toe jumps:

  • Toe loops  When attempting a toe loop, the figure skater jumps in a counter-clockwise motion. He (or she) quickly glides backwards over the ice rink before using the outside edge of their back skate and the toe-pick of their front skate to launch into the air. The performer spins half a revolution in mid-air before landing, once more, onto the outside edge of their back skate.
  • Flips  When attempting a flip jump, the figure skater glides backwards across the ice rink before launching into the air by pushing on the inside edge of their back foot and the toe-pick of their front skate. The performer then spins a full-revolution in mid-air before landing smoothly onto the ice and continuing to skate. 
  • Lutzs  The lutz jump is exactly like the flip; only here the skater launches into the jump from the outside edge of their back foot rather than the inside edge. It’s very difficult to stay balanced when launching into a full, mid-air revolution from the outside edge of the skate. As a result, the lutz is a tricky move to master, requiring hours of hard work, pain and frustration. In the end, it’ll be worth all the effort though!

Edge jumps:

  • Salchows  The salchow jump sees the performer launch into the air by pushing on the inside edge of their strongest foot. After performing a half-revolution in mid-air, the skater then lands smoothly (all being well!) onto the outside edge of their weaker foot, before continuing to skate their way across the ice.

  • Loop jumps When attempting a loop jump, the figure skater takes off from the outside edge of their strongest foot before spinning a full-revolution in the air. The performer then lands backwards onto the same foot and either carries on skating across the ice or prepares to launch into another spin.
  • Axels  The axel is a key ice skating technique for all beginner skaters to aspire to! Here, the performer gathers momentum before launching forwards into the air by springing from the outside edge of their strongest foot. The skater spins one-and-a-half revolutions in mid-air before landing onto the outside edge of their weaker foot. Tricky, eh? Without the aid of a toe-pick to help launch the skater, this is an incredibly difficult maneuver which can take years of hard work to master. So keep practicing!

Key figure skating spins ...

Whereas figure skating jumps require the performer to maneuver their body in mid-air, spinning moves generally take place on the ice rink surface itself. When entering into a spin, the skater rotates on the ball of their foot, allowing for the greatest possible flexibility.

  • Upright spin  This is one of the easiest spins to master in the early days of your ice skating tuition. Upright spins see the skater position their body in a straight, upwardly position with one or both of their feet remaining on the ice throughout the maneuver.
  • Sit spin  This spin is self-explanatory really! It’s carried out when the performer skates on one leg only, whilst stretching the other limb straight out in front of them. Whilst spinning, the performer bends their skating leg as far as they can essentially sitting down as low as possible without toppling over. In competition, judges award points based on how close to the ice a performer can bend whilst still maintaining their rhythm. It really is a case of ‘how low can you go?’
  • Camel spin  This popular move sees the performer position his or her body into a ‘T’ shape. The performer’s stronger leg is used for skating, whilst the other limb is stretched backwards, straight behind the skater’s head. During this spin, the performer leans their neck forward, bringing their head in line with the straightened rear leg. This maneuver may sound rather daunting, nevertheless, with practice and patience, the balance and suppleness that the camel spin requires will come to you in time ...

Figure skating requires a large degree of skill and grace, if you hope to get beyond the basic moves. However, once you’ve worked your way up from the easiest techniques like the upright spin and toe loop you’ll be reaching towards the much-coveted axel jumps and camel spins in no time. So why not improve your balance and poise by getting into figure skating today? It could be the ideal way to really boost your body’s health and fitness!

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