By Renee Hildebrand
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The most common mistake skaters make is bending at the waist instead of the knees.
This position feels "easier" because it takes less hip strength and core stability. But the result is low back pain and limited stroking power due to the lack of knee flexion.
Coaches often tell their skaters to "get lower."
But I find that it's better to say, "Bend your knees and sit back on your skates." This gets the point across that it's all about knee bend.
How to learn?
The single most important exercise for speed skaters is squatting, on-skates and off.
Skaters should practice this position — even exaggerating it — all season long. Keep in mind that only "perfect practice makes perfect," and strive to perform your drills perfectly. If you don't, you will only get better at doing them wrong.
Quality repetition is the best way to improve specific skills. It not only strengthens muscles but teaches proper habits.
In order to benefit from muscle memory, you must repeat a skill — correctly — hundreds and hundreds of times.
Since skating is not a natural motion, like running, it is very important to train your muscles to work in the "unnatural" skating position. In this position, less oxygen reaches your muscles and lactic acid builds up. You must train your body (and mind) to adapt.
Proper body position and stability in the squat position requires strong back and stomach muscles, as well as strong hip and leg muscles. Our team uses a variety of plyometric and skate-specific off-skate exercises (e.g., medicine ball, slideboard, resistance training and core strengthening). We also do a series of rolling squat drills with smaller wheels on the front of the skates to condition specific muscles.
We know that if you aren't comfortable in the skating position, you don't know squat!
(Originally published on Sept. 1 2006)
Renee Hildebrand is one of the world's top inline speed skating coaches. Among her success stories are Joey Mantia and Brittany Bowe. Hildebrand herself was a protege of the legendary coach Virgil Dooley. Hildebrand has coached Team Florida in Ocala since the late 1980s. In 2006, she cut back on her coaching schedule to do some skating of her own ... as a roller derby jammer. In the guise of not-so-mild-mannered "Nasty Nay," she toured with a traveling team of the Tampa Bay Derby Darlings.
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