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Plyometrics: Beneficial for All Disciplines of Skating, Singles, Pairs and Ice Dance

 by Carl M. Poe

Reprinted with premission from :The Professional Skater Magazine
July / August 1996 – pp. 37 – 38.
©1996 by Professional Skaters Association

With the emergence of various off-ice training program theories, a handful of ideas or concepts are available for skaters to utilize in their training. The method of Plyometric training should be among the main training components (along with strength, flexibility and endurance conditioning) for complete development of the skater. More specifically, plyometric training is not just for the singles skater who wants increased explosiveness for jumping, or greater eccentric leg development for landing strength. Plyometrics is just as valuable to utilize for pairs and ice dance in order for performance enhancement.

Pair skaters can utilize plyometric training not only for jump performance but to increase upper body dynamic power for their respective skill movements on-ice (lifts, throw jumps, etc). Ice dancers can perform plyometric training drills for Hip/Leg power and speed of movement performing various footwork drills, lateral hops and bounds and other related movements. Also, ice dancers can benefit from upper-body plyometric (arm drills) for enhanced dynamic power to enhance on-ice lifts and arm positioning. The importance of plyometric training specific to these three disciplines, involves speed/strength enhancement of the Hip/Leg, Torso/Abdominal and Arm/Shoulder and Upper Back areas.

Example of Plyometric Drills for Singles, Pairs and Ice Dancers may include the following:

A. Singles-

  • 1. Double-Leg and Single-Leg Jumps in Place
  • 2. Double-Leg and Single-Leg Horizontal and Vertical Bounds
  • 3. Double-Leg and Single-Leg Box Jumps
  • 4. Rotational Jumps (weighted)
  • 5. Medicine Ball Rotational Drills
  • 6. Abdominal Plyometric Sit-Ups

B. Pairs-

  • 1. Same as Above (singles, 1 – 6)
  • 2. Medicine Ball Chest Pass
  • 3. Medicine Ball Throws and Catches
  • 4. Medicine Ball Push-Ups
  • 5. Drop Push-Ups

C. Ice Dance -

  • 1. Double-Leg and Single-Leg Strides
  • 2. Double-Leg and Single-Leg Hops (lateral and horizontal)
  • 3. Alternating Foreward and Backward Bounds
  • 4. Med Ball Rotational Drills
  • 5. Medicine Ball Abdominal Sit-Ups
  • 6. Med Ball Throws and Catches
  • 7. Medicine Ball Push-Ups

Finally, coaches and skaters should understand specific principles (guidelines) of off-ice plyometric training. In order to benefit from the training adaptations of plyometrics, the following guidelines are recommended for safety and proper execution of Plyometric Training:

I. Safety

  1. Training drills need to be appropriate for the age and level of the skater.
  2. A general and specific total-body strength training phase should be implemented 6-8 weeks prior to beginning jump/ Plyometric training.
  3. Proper progression (intensity) of drills from general motor-skill development to sport-specific.
  4. Proper Equipment
    • a. Footwear: skaters should wear shoes with adequate ankle/heel support (i.e. basketball or cross-training shoes).
    • b. Soft Landing Surface: mats, cushioned aerobic floor, sprung wooden floor, or soft grass should be utilized for performing drills.
    • c. Boxes: jump boxes should be durable with an adequate non-skid landing surface – Heights for skaters (Preliminary – Senior level) can range from 8″ to 35″ respectively.

II. Technique (emphasis should be placed on the following)

  1. Explosive takeoff, good knee-bend, arm-swing and appropriate vertical positioning of the trunk, back and head.
  2. Control of landing, absorbing (eccentric) the landing with a good positioning of the upper body (arms) head, back and trunk.
  3. key to success for jump/ plyometric training involves emphasizing the following:
    • a. Maximal effort on jump / drill attempts
    • b. Appropriate use of both upper body (arms) and lower body (hip / legs)
    • c. Correct posture or body positioning.
    • d. Quickness (speed) – When landing and taking-oft for another jump attempt, the skater must ‘Minimize” the amount of time spent on the ground or floor. Must be a quick rebound jump.

Cad M. Poe, M. S., C. S. C. S., served as the office strength and conditioning coach for the Colorado Springs World Arena, Colorado Spdngs, CO. Mr. Poe has been involved with strength/power training and conditioning training ofskaters beginning with his work at the United States Olympic Training Center and currently through the USFSA at the Elite and Regional Training Camp levels. For any questions regarding plyometric training for figure skaters, please contact Mr. Poe via the PSA directory.

Recommended books: Progressive Plyometrics for Kids

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The Use and Abuse of Plyometrics

by Kim Goss

When Dorothy Hamill skated at the 1976 Olympics, I recall the TV announcer’s extensive praise for her tremendous jumping power. Certainly Hamill’s flawless artistic presentation played a role in her victory but what the announcer was trying to impress upon us was how Hamill had introduced to the sport a level of athleticism that was unprecedented. Dorothy Hamill was a pioneer, an athlete who was unquestionably ahead of her time.

Nowadays, of course, the performance that won Hamill the gold medal at those Olympics would barely place a skater in our least-competitive regional competitions. Triple jumps for women and quad jumps for men have become the competitive standard-and if you don’t have at least a double Axel by your 12th birthday, you might as well forget those Olympic dreams. With such expectations forced upon our athletes, ever-growing numbers of skaters are being encouraged to participate in off-ice conditioning programs. Of all the oft-ice training options skaters have to improve their performance on-ice, the one that has sparked the greatest interest is plyometrics-and with good reason. Plyometrics is considered to be one of the best ways, if not the best way, to improve jumping ability.

Unfortunately, the manner in which this type of training is being implemented in some off-ice conditioning programs may cause more harm than good.

What are Plyometrics?

Plyometric jump training, or more appropriately the “shock method” of training, refers to activities characterized by an intense jump that is preceded by a relaxed state. Dropping off a box and landing on two feet and then immediately jumping upward is an example of a true plyometric training exercise. Skipping, hopping and most jumping exercises and medicine ball throws do not fulfill the requirements necessary to be considered true plyometric training exercises.

The person most exercise scientists regard as the father of modern-day plyometrics is Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky, a Russian scientist who developed this training method to improve athletic performance. Dr. Mel Sift, a South African exercise scientist who has worked with Verkhoshansky on several projects, told me that Verkhoshansky is appalled at most of the material being published about plyometrics in this country. He believes our coaches have, quite simply, misinterpreted the original research on this subject.

One reason for this problem in communication is that often the original material published by respected Russian scientists like Verkhoshansky is not translated accurately in the US. Sift says that the Germans, who recognized the value of Russian research, often had entire teams of linguists and scientists working full time to accurately analyze the writings of scientists like Verkhoshansky. In the US, when such material became available, often only a single individual would translate it-and then only as a part-time assignment. One example of poorly translated research is when American coaches recommend that an athlete should be able to squat 1 1/2 times bodyweight before performing plyometrics. Although this is an excellent safety guideline, Russian sports literature presents several specific types of true plyometric exercises that can be performed without possessing such an advanced level of strength. (For those interested in learning more about Verkhoshansky’s work with plyometrics, I recommend Siff and Verkhoshansky’s exercise textbook, SuperTraining.)

The Abuse of Plyometrics

The most common problems I see with U.S. coaches who prescribe plyometric exercises (or, at least, what they think are plyometric exercises) are that they underestimate the intensity level of plyometrics and don’t take into consideration the athlete’s training schedule, work and recreational activities. For example, an intense plyometric training program should not be undertaken if a skater is in a summer program that requires him or her to perform three freestyle sessions a day, five to six days a week, along with ballet and power skating.

Another problem I commonly see is that the plyometric exercises most coaches prescribe to skaters are not biomechanically specific to their skating jumps-and as such often have little carryover to skating performance. For example, all legal jumps in figure skating take oft from one leg and most require that the skater take off backwards. The majority of exercises I see prescribed in plyometric programs for skaters have the athlete jumping forward from two legs.

Plyometrics can be an extremely valuable training method if used correctly. Unfortunately, too many strength coaches do not understand what this type of training is or how to properly prescribe these exercises. And the injuries and mediocre performance improvements that result from their incompetence has often led skaters and their coaches to become skeptical about the value of all oft-ice conditioning programs.

Just as Dorothy Hamill trained hard to become the greatest in her era, the champions of tomorrow have to train harder and use every resource to their advantage. The trick is, when using a resource like plyometrics, you have to know what you’re doing!

Kim Goss was the strength coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy for eight years and is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Council on Exercise. He has served as the Senior Editor at Dayton Writers Group.

Reprinted with premission from : The Professional Skater Magazine May / June 1997 – p. 17. ©1996 by Professional Skaters Association

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