off-ice training and conditioning
It’s important to know that a stronger ice dancer can acquire skills on-ice at a faster rate and reduce the risk of injury if they practice off-ice training and conditioning.
Here, I want to explore the importance of body posture, strength and elegance for ice dancers. I’ll then go further to outline the benefits of ballet, yoga and aerobic exercise for ice dancers.
Posture, Strength & Elegance
Why is posture important in Ice Dance?
The purpose of correct body posture is balance. Posture and balance are uniquely important for ice skating because ice is slippery and ice skates are designed to take advantage of this slipperiness to glide forward and backward. Consequently the distribution of your weight over the skates has a significant effect on how the skates, and you, will move.
Stabilising muscles for the trunk; abdominal (rectus abdominus, obliques), back (erector spinae) Balance; fine control (anterior tibias, posterior tibias, gastrocnemius, soles, peroneus), shoulder girdle (rotator cuff)
Proper posture is crucial for the balance you need to glide smoothly, stroke vigorously, and attain great speed. It allows you to execute quick and agile direction changes, perform expressive and creative footwork and express yourself to music. Correct posture allows you to focus muscular forces and the forces created by motion on the correct part of the blade. Finally, proper posture allows you to use your muscles most efficiently, reducing unwanted motions that cause loss of control and balance on the ice.
Propulsive muscles for the legs; hip extension and abduction (gluteals, muscles of pelvic area, hamstrings), knee extension (quadriceps), ankle extension; plantar flexion (gastrocnemius, soleus)
Basic skating posture has two components. The first centres your body weight over the front half of the skate blade. The second controls the position of your body weight from side to side as well as body rotation. These positions are fundamental.
Why is strength important in Ice Dance?
Strength is defined as the ability to produce or resist force. Off-ice training, in addition to improved posture and balance, is necessary for development of this strength. This is achieved through good muscle tone. Muscle tone gives the Ice Dancer maximum ability to lift high, a leg extension as well as stretch the free leg out, long and low whilst travelling at speed across the ice. Achieving dance moves which can be breathe taking.
On-ice practice or skill work alone will not suffice, regardless of level. Strength training is beneficial for injury prevention and enhanced ice dance performance. It increases the integrity or strength of the muscles, soft tissue, and bone so that the ice dancer can better endure the stresses incurred from on-ice skill training.
Why is elegance important in Ice Dance?
Leg extensions both forwards and backward offer beautiful body lines especially when preceded by deep knee bends to exert maximum force in both pushes and stroking. This combined with intricate foot work and the essential synchronicity of the Ice Dance couple can make for amazing ice dance.
Ballet, Yoga & Cardio
Why is ballet important in Ice Dance?
Poise, line and beauty are developed in the art of ballet practice, all of which are essential in Ice Dance. Be prepared to experience all kinds of frustration, disappointing body limitations, self-doubts, but at the same time, the incredible fulfilment ballet practice brings both physically and mentally.
Learn the 5 positions in ballet and practice basic ballet moves until you master them.
Passion and persistence are key so be patient, explore, and enjoy every little bit of the evolution of your body and mind. You can do basic ballet moves at home if you can’t take classes or if you just want extra practice.
Why is yoga important in Ice Dance?
Some ice dancers have too much flexibility in certain joint areas. A skater who is too flexible, may have greater risk for injury than the skater who is inflexible. There needs to be a balance between stretching and strength training to maintain or promote joint stability. Keep in mind that correct strength training techniques will also increase joint and muscle range of motions and flexibility.
There are many forms of yoga; Hatha, Surya Kriya, Bhava Spandana and Guru Pooja, to name but a few. While there is no definitive way to categorize yoga postures, there are four main physical orientations that can be helpful to know; seated, standing, supine and prone. Along with seven postures; back bending, balancing, core strength, forward bending, hip opening, twisting and side bending. Yoga Include some yoga in your off-ice training. Being able to readily achieve an ‘open position’ from your hips ensures your footwork on-ice is more precise and distinct.
Why is cardiovascular exercise important in Ice Dance?
Aside from cardiovascular exercise strengthening your heart, regulating blood sugar and boosting your mood. Aerobic exercise also reduces chronic pain, regulates weight, aids sleep and lowers blood pressure.
Everyone can agree that in order for an ice dancer to complete a technically challenging programme with a duration of up to four minutes with well-versed choreography, a high level of both aerobic and anaerobic cardiovascular fitness or conditioning must be present.
Aerobic The system requires oxygen for long-term physical activity. It relies on an ice dancers cardiovascular capacity (ability to efficiently breathe air) to produce energy for movement.
Anaerobic This system functions without oxygen and causes the accumulation of waste products in the muscles and blood, such as lactic acid. In the anaerobic energy system, the ice dancer uses energy already stored in the body to produce movement.
Include some off-ice training and conditioning along side your passion for ice dance. See your on-ice skills flourish in the knowledge you’re doing all you can to ensure the health and well being of your ice dancer physique.