The single most important exercise for skaters, especially speed skaters, is the lowly squat.
Who says so?
Lots of experts, including Renee Hildebrand, the legendary coach of both Brittany Bowe and Joey Mantia.
Why are squats so important?
Because done properly, they strengthen your quads and glutes, making it possible for you to get into the low skating position, necessary for generating power and speed.
There are several ways to do squats. (We'll cover some of these in other tips.) But here's the basic:
How To Do a Basic Squat
Stand on a flat surface.
Spread your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
Bend your knees until the back of your thighs (your hamstrings) are parallel with the floor. Your knees should be over your toes (no further) and should be pointed forward. Use a mirror to check your form.
Return to the standing position.
Repeat 10 times. Add a second set of ten squats when you can do one set comfortably and with good form.
Practice your squats three times a week with one day off between sessions.
If you don't have time in your busy schedule for a dry-land workout, squeeze in a set at your desk at work or while you're relaxing with your favorite TV show.
Squatting While Skating
You can also practice squats — sort of — while you skate by practicing this workout recommended by Peter Doucet:
Skate for one minute with a deep knee and ankle bend.
Skate easy for the next minute.
Repeat 10 times.
Skaters often think they are in the low skating position when in fact they are simply bending at the waist. Don't fall into this trap. It will give you nothing but back ache.
Instead remember Renee Hildebrand's mantra: "Bend your knees and sit back in your skates."
Robert Burnson is the editor and publisher of the Inline Planet and organizer of the National Roller Cup. He started skating when he was a kid and his father pushed him out onto the ice of the South Park skating rink in Park Ridge, IL. He switched to inline skates after he moved to Northern California in the early-1990s.