Using Your Core Muscles in Skating
By Susan Ellis
As with many sports, power in skating starts from the core muscles. To put pressure in to the ice through
the blade the pressure starts by engaging your abdominal muscles, which then activates the hips and
glutes, then delivers power through the quads and hams, then the lower leg, and finally the foot.
Using the abs allows for greater stability and more time to build pressure before you push the pressure
through hips and glutes.
Notice in the photo to the right the athlete has her shoulders down and rounded, her entire back is round,
and her hips (butt) are tucked under her. You can see that she has her mid abdominal muscles sucked
up slightly towards her spine. As she recovers her leg under her the scoop in the mid belly rises even
higher and her shoulders and hips round even more.
In this video of Meng Wang you can see how she takes the time to fully contract all of her abdominal
muscles to gather her shoulders towards her hips and her hips towards her shoulders to activate the core
muscles to start her push. And she continues to bring her hips under her during the push, in contrast to
the other skaters whose hips actually move backward during the push.
I will divide the abdominal muscles in to 3 segments to better understand how to activate each
to build pressure.
The upper abs are activated by pulling the muscles under the rib cage up towards the shoulders
and in towards the spine. This rounds the upper back and keeps the shoulders down. This is
especially important when fighting encountering centrifugal force on the corner.
The mid abs are activated by sucking the muscles around the belly button in towards the spine.
This keeps the middle back round.
The lower abs are activated by pulling your pelvis up towards your chin, as in a pelvic tilt. It is
the activation of the lower abs which engage the muscles around the hip and glutes. Without
activating the lower abs, basically all you power comes from your outer quads, resulting in a
substantial loss in potential power and results in early fatiguing of the quads. .
The following skating specific exercises teach you how to actively recruit each one of the segments of the abdominal wall and are great to use as specific warm up exercises.
This drill activates mainly the mid abdominal muscles, although each segment is continually working. Assume your basic position with your feet pointing straight ahead and about shoulder width apart. Your shoulders are down and
rounded so that your sternum is facing the floor. Your butt is tucked under you so that your butt
bones are facing the floor. Knees should be over top of toes. Make sure your mid abdominals are
raised up hard towards your spine and keep them pushing up through the exercise. Your partner
waits until you give the go ahead that you are ready and then starts applying pressure on to the
highest part of your back by laying across your back with their forearms and pushing down. Your job
is not to so much push up with your legs but to prevent your partner pushing you down. It is your mid
abs that should be resisting being pushed down and not your legs. The more pressure they apply,
the more you will have to resist using your mid abs. Skaters can really take a lot of weight if this is
done properly. ie: full body weight. Now try it not engaging your abs and see how easily you are
This one is for the upper abs. Your partner positions himself with his feet raised in a lying leg press
position. You then take your basic position with your feet close to his butt and your shoulders over
his feet. Engage all of your ab muscles making sure the ones under your rib cage are sucked up to
your spine and your shoulders are rounded. Your partner then applies pressure pushing directly up
(NOT BACK). You will really have to keep your rib cage muscles sucked in and engaged to prevent
your shoulders being pried open. It is best to do this with someone bracing your butt behind you or
do it against a wall so you don’t get pushed backwards.
A variation of the ab push up is the ab pull open. Your partner stands
behind you and braces your butt while trying to pry your chest up.
This covers all sections of the abs but is particularly intense on the lower abs as your feet are pulled
out and your legs straighten. Tie a strap around both feet. Start with your legs straight and your
feet about 2 inches off the floor. Your partner pulls on the strap to provide resistance while you
bring your knees in toward your chest keeping your feet low. Pull all the way in. You then try to
prevent your partner from pulling your legs back out to a straightened position. Note as your knees
pass the perpendicular position on the way back out how much you are having to work your lower
This exercise requires all of your abdominal muscles to be engaged in basic position, so make
sure to start with you upper abs under your rib cage, your mid abs sucked in to your spine, and your
lower abs pulling up toward your chin (not too much initially or it will throw you too far back on your
heels). Make sure your shoulders are down and rounded and your butt cheeks are facing the floor.
Tie a strap around your ankle (you may want to put some padding around your ankle) and start in a
finish of push position with your leg straight out to the side, toe pointing straight ahead. Now lift
your foot slightly off the floor and go through your recovery, bringing your thigh to the back as in a
normal recovery with your toe pointing down. Then pull your foot in right beside your other foot so
it is about 2 inches off the ground, foot parallel to the floor, and hold that position. Make sure not to
change your position on your support leg as you go through your recovery. Try it first with no
resistance so you get a feel for maintaining position on the other leg and for the recovery. Then
have your partner apply light resistance through the motion, increasing the resistance once you
start to pull your thigh in towards your support leg from the perpendicular recovery position. You will find that the more resistance there is, the more you have to engage your abs so you are not pulled over. You will also feel it on the outside of the balancing hip and thigh, and on the adductor on the pulling leg, as well as an increase of pressure in to the floor. A true test of your lower abs is to see how much resistance you can take when your feet are side by side (but not touching the floor). The more the resistance, the more you will have to pull in your lower abs. Notice in the video, it takes a long time for Mary to get her feet side by side and this only happens when she really pulls in her lower abs. This is the point where your partner can apply the most resistance.
Thanks to Mary Grace, Chris Karow, Maria Karow, Sammy Holmes and Shannon Holmes for helping create the video for this tip.