By Liz Miller
"Imagine yourself spinning like a top"
The A-Frame turn is one of the basic building blocks of inline skating. In fact, it's so basic that many skaters don't realize they do it (or some variation of it) every time they skate. Even top pros use the A-Frame (no doubt without thinking about it) when taking easy turns or flying around corners at speeds too high for crossovers.
Since the A-frame is such a basic move, it's worth perfecting and understanding. As a sage once said: "First learn to do the little things. Then the big things will come asking to be done."
Before we get started, here's two basic concepts to keep in mind about turning:
Before you try a rolling A-Frame turn, do this exercise to teach your body what it should feel like:
1.) Stand with your feet a few inches wider than hip-width. This position forces both skates onto the inside edges of the wheels. At this point your body resembles a block-letter capital A.
2.) Stretch both arms straight out to the sides at shoulder height, like airplane wings.
3.) Rotate your head and outstretched arms as far to one side as possible while keeping both arms level. Notice that the foot you turn away from is now behind you and feels heavier than the other. By rotating, you have "weighted" this foot.
4.) Swing your airplane arms to the opposite side. Now you should feel the weight on the other foot.
Did you notice how your entire body is involved in this turning exercise? ... Good. Now here's a couple more concepts to keep in mind:
Performing the A-Frame
Now you're ready to go.
1.) On a flat surface, skate at moderate speed until you build up enough momentum to coast for 10-15 feet.
2.) Assume the wide A-Frame stance (feet spread a little more than hip-width apart) with arms in airplane position.
3.) With your torso upright and with your knees loosely bent, rotate your head and rib cage to face a new direction (the direction of your turn). If you do this exactly as you did on the grass or carpet (see: Carpet Practice, above), a turn will naturally flow.
If you rotate to the left, your right skate will become heavy and tip onto its inside wheel edges, resulting in a left-hand turn. (It's just the opposite if you rotate to the right.)
If your A-Frame turn doesn't flow, it's likely that you are putting too much weight on your inside (non-weighted) skate (i.e.: the left skate when turning to the left.) This happens when skaters try to force or hurry their turn by shifting their weight or leaning the upper body over the inside skate. It can also happen if your A-Frame stance is too narrow. The best fix is to imagine yourself spinning like a top, where too much lean would cause you to topple.
Once you are able to flow into a wide A-Frame turn in both directions, you are ready to graduate to narrower variations. Where the top of the letter A was your helmet at the beginning, begin to lower that focus to your belly and then to your knees.
You'll find that body rotation will no longer be necessary as your feet become more educated about how the combination of pressure and edging can cause a basic turn. However, if you want to perform a sharp turn, take advantage of your new biomechanical know-how by turning your face toward the new direction.
Regardless of your current skill level, remember to let your sense of balance, center of gravity and body awareness talk to your feet so they behave the way you want. Then you will become an inline Zen master, skating smarter, not harder.
Liz Miller has specialized in teaching beginning skaters since 1993, when she published her first book, Get Rolling, the Beginner's Guide to Inline Skating. Her biomechanical observations come from years of instructing along with a lifelong passion for physical culture (dance, weight training, Alpine skiing, skating, Yoga and Pilates). She lives with her partner, Dan Kibler, in Danville, CA.