Spin perfection for skaters is one of the most captivating things to watch in our sport. With the right piece of music and expression, a spin can capture moments of powerful energy as well as moments of serene elegance. With so many variations possible from the ISU judging system, there really is no limit to spinning!
Before we go on, we wish to introduce Paul Crocker who has written this article on behalf of Skate Perfect.
Paul started skating at just 5 years old. Coached by Julia Parvin and Gary Peed as well as many others along the way. After many successful competitions in low level opens, he went on to have 9 consecutive gold medals in the artistic section of the “national team challenge”, a gold medal at masters level skating for the International “NISA Cup” and was Adult British champion in gold free dance in 2013, 2015 and 2017. He also competed at Senior level with dance partner Chantelle A’Court at the British National Championships in 2016.
The same year Paul also was on the GB team as a coach for the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria where the team returned with multiple podium places including 8 gold medals. Between 2016 and 2017 Paul attended every British Championship event, as a coach, rink side at the British Skating Championships, British Adult Skating Championships, British Synchronised Skating Championships, British Inclusive Championships and British Solo Dance Championships.
For this year of skating and coaching, he was awarded “Young Coach of the Year” by B.I.T.A. (British Ice Teachers Association). He’s since been back to the Special Olympic World Winter Games in Sweden as head coach for Team GB helping the athletes achieve even more success. He is an ambassador for “Inclusive Skating” and is the co-founder of “The Inclusive Ice Academy”, who provides National skating camps for disabled skaters. Here is Paul in action, and the following text will be his inspiring advice on how to get that spin perfection for skaters.
Dynamics of the perfect spin from beginning to advance
Now, we’ve all got to start somewhere, so let’s start right from the beginning. As a skater new to the sport it’s one of the things we aspire to do: A nice, consistent, one-footed perfect spin! If only it was that easy. After much practice, we realise it can be harder than it looks! It’s quite often that a skater will have their first 3 or 4 jumps consistently landed before they have a consistent upright spin.
I’m saying this to put some perspective on progress. If you’re relating to these words, I say this: Keep going! Everyone can get a good spin and there are actually reasons why spins aren’t as easy as we realise in the beginning! I hope this article can help you understand a bit more about spin perfection on the ice.
Why are spins so hard in figure skating?
In a nutshell, perfect spins aren’t easy because of the dynamic variations that can occur: balancing on your entry, holding your core strong, finding (and staying on!) the ‘sweet spot’, even the ice surface has a part to play in the consistency of spins.
What elements create a perfect spin on the ice?
The basic principles of spinning:
- Body Alignment
When basic skating spins get more advanced, we’re talking more about these as well:
- Edge control
- Strength and flexibility
1. Skating Balance
From entry steps, to entry edge, to spin positions and to exit; balance is important in all of it – what gives more balance? Two things:
- Doing the spin, a lot!
- Working core strength and spin positions off ice on a balance board – this one is quicker!
A lot of skaters rely on the on-ice process being the only way they strengthen the spin, but much can be said (Perhaps we realise this more now with Covid-19) about working these spin positions off ice too.
Recommended exercises for the perfect spin:
- Planks 10-60 seconds total. Check out this fantastic video for Core Strength
- Use a Balance Board to practice the spin position over the same 10-60 seconds time frame. Do these on flat land or ideally a balance board. If you don’t have one; use pillows, your sofa or even your bed:
2. Skating Body Alignment
Spins have a “centre of gravity” that is the axis of the spin and where usually your body balances from. Quite often, a common error is the weight of our heads (The heaviest part of your body!) is not over this centre and will actually make the spin loose balance, loose speed and generally make it harder work for the skater.
- Balance board to practice the spin position over the same 10-60 seconds time frame can help here too.
3. Skating Power
Power can be used in 2 ways for the perfect spin for skaters.
Speed (How fast you spin) or Duration (How long you spin for).
I say “Make it last, not too fast!”.
“Potential Power” comes from opening up your body positions at the start of your entry to then use for either; speed or duration.
More ‘power’ can be got from a good “Whip”:
I use “3 stickmen” to explain “Potential Power” for an upright, the same theory can be used for all perfect spins:
Stick man 1: Everything out – arms and legs (The MOST important position) Let the spin pull these out for you with momentum!
Stickman 2: Leg in, arms out – balance from the bottom up.
Stickman 3: Arms and leg in!
Advanced Principles for spin perfection for skaters
4. Skating Efficiency
This is the process of making things work more without trying harder. Finding the best entry, body position, sweet spot, and power use. This is what helps a skater use every last bit of the potential energy they have ‘charged’ for a longer, faster perfect spin!
5. Skaters Edge control
When we really get into better spins, we’re talking about converting power from an edge to a spin. A better edge involves finely tuned timing in the knee bend, pressure on the edge and edge shape to create the perfect entry.
6. Skating Strength and flexibility
Beyond an upright spin are many other positions: layback, biellman, broken leg sit spin, I-spin, and more! These difficult variations by the book require significant use of strength and flexibility to achieve them. They are not “out of the box” spins that anyone can do without extra strength and flexibility training – again fastest gains being made off ice.
Top Tips for the Spin Perfection for Skaters
2 foot spin:
Your 2 foot spin has to be a reasonable level to be able to try spinning on one foot. Id recommend being efficient enough to rotate at least 3-4 times round before trying to do a one footed spin.
Start using one of the 3 ways in this video:
1 foot spin:
Here’s an exclusive video for you on upright spins – this is not yet available publicly on YouTube!
- Work your entry from 2 to one foot gradually before trying the three-turn entry.
- Aim to open the start of the spin and use ‘the 3 stickmen’ for more power.
- “Start small – get tall” I use this all the time to describe the knee and ankle bend from the start of a spin (Entry edge) to the final position (Stickman 3). You should start low in the knee then slowly rise as you pull in. Lower knee – lower centre of gravity – more balance!
Sit spins, in my experience, require power for the perfect spin for skaters. Your upright spin should be efficient enough to get round about 10 times to be able to have enough power to get a perfect sit spin. If you’re not there yet, keep working on the upright until you get there.
If you can get 10 or more in an upright, it’s a process of slowly getting further and further down. Off ice pistol squats (Standing and lowering to a teapot position) can help. On ice it’s about lowering your sit spin to a safe level that you can hold – what I call the “safe zone” and also pushing through the “safe zone”. Practice 2 ways:
- Trying to hold it down in the ‘safe zone’ and trying to get back up
- Trying to get to the safe zone and push through it – not necessarily getting back up!
It’s the fastest way to figure out the “route” from standing to sit spin position.
Keep your head over your spinning foot ALL THE WAY DOWN – many people either lean too far forward or sit too far back.
The stickmen work here too – start open, bring the leg to the front, then use your arms where you need them – everyone uses slightly different arms.
I can’t emphasize enough how much you need to stretch in a camel spin. Whatever you think is 100% stretched, double it and try again! Camel spins are not relaxed spins to a beginner spinner. The stretch is how the spin stays balanced and holds its momentum.
- Stretch! I say “banana’s” as this is the shape your body should make if you stretch enough in the leg and the body!
Important note: Camel spins are not always harder than sit spins. I always try to start these two spins at the same time and usually they will arrive at the same time. If I waited for the sit spin to get good before starting the camel, it would be a waste of time. They are different in their own ways and you should practice both in training.
Centering your spin:
Centering is a feeling of “letting your spin find its own centre”. You literally have to wait for your foot to stop in the centre of where the edge is heading – every edge is different; every entry can be different but with patience you can let (Almost) every spin find its own centre! I explain in this video and it will help explain how to get that spin perfection for all skaters:
There’s an exercise in the above video I swear by. To this day I have not met a skater who has been able to do this without some practice, after which their spin entry has greatly improved.
- Facing out on a small circle (Replicating the similar size to your entry curve) push and hold a complete circle. The circle should be smaller than a hockey circle. By holding the ‘trailing’ side back, you will never turn early (causing travelling). Trying too hard to spin often make us turn too soon (Before it’s found it’s centre!).
- I say: “don’t spin the spin, let the spin, spin you!” What that means is, let the edge become the spinning momentum, try not to force any momentum from throwing your legs and arms round or turning your foot too soon.
The Spin Sweet Spot
Here’s a quick way to show you the right feeling under the foot for the sweet spot to obtain that spin perfection for you skaters:
Gliding backwards, hold a straight line on your spinning foot, have your free leg in front and try to push up in your ankle to find the first toe pick. You’re aiming to get a constant scratch with the rocker of the blade and the first toe pick. That way there’s 2 points of contact on the ice – far more stable that just the rocker – or just the toe pick!! Think of that as the difference between a unicycle and a bicycle – I know which one I’m better off on!
If you’d like to really geek out on spins, marks on the ice and spin theory see my spin doodle video here:
Off Ice Spinners
Spinners come in many shapes and sizes and mostly are an aid to your spins. That said they don’t always feel the same as the ice so the skills you’re learning on them are only part of the picture needed to replicate fully what we do on the frozen stuff. Pros and Cons on spinners
|Body Alignment Improved||Most spinner rockers aren’t the same as our blades|
|Balance Challenged||They slide or move unexpectedly|
|Spin Position Practice (Even if only briefly)||There’s no toe pick or second point of contact (Unicycle!)|
|Core Stability Challenged||Can be frustrating 😉|
Final word on spin perfection for skaters
Consistency comes from repetition. You should try to do lots of spins to get them better. Be patient, and try to record your progress. That could be a video, or it could be noting your “records” of how many times you went round! With so many variables to getting a perfect spin, practicing different ways can also strengthen your spin – try different entries, different arm, leg and head positions, just play until you can do it many ways. Read here to see what your competitors do to check there progress.
I love ice skating, it’s one of the most diverse sports in the world. It’s made me who I am and I will forever be in debt to it. You can enter this sport at any age and be a part of all or just one of its many, many diversities: Dancing, Acting, Technical Perfection, Big Jumps and spins, social, fun, speed skating, teams like synchronised skating. Kids, teens and adults sharing the ice also share the same bug for skating and I love helping people realise what they can achieve within the sport. Have fun, stay safe and remember:
Skate Perfect thanks Paul Crocker’s excellent advice in spin perfection for figure skaters. He has dedicated a lot of written advice and superb videos to explain each tip in detail. We hope this was engaging read for all ice skaters out there and those thinking of starting out for the 1st time.
You might find this article interesting – why Figure Skaters seem to get stuffed animals / plush toys at the end of their performance.