NorthShore Blog

Studying the Form of Elites – Tips We Can All Use

Mike Ward
0
News, Training

Professional and elite inline skaters can travel at mind-boggling speeds for hours. Why? Sure, top-end, expensive boots, frames, wheels and bearings all help. Years of conditioning, some natural-born talent–it all goes into the recipe to make a world-class skater. Regardless, all pro/elite skaters spend hours and hours working on their skating form every week.

Skaters of all speeds and abilities can benefit by considering the elite skater form, and working on a more efficient way to transfer power from your legs to the wheels, resulting in more speed with less effort. A great way to start considering YOUR form, and ways you can improve, is by looking at those elite athletes whose coaches scrutinize their form and who practice form drills as part of their weekly training regiment.

There are many articles talking about form and drills, but this blog is just to look at some of NorthShore’s elite athletes to pick out things that THEY do to increase their efficiency in each stride.

Look at each of these skaters’ hips, knees, and shoulders. Most of their time spent skating is actually on just one foot, so balance is key. You can see the “skater pose”, most notably a tight bend at the waist, which is for several reason: when you are hunched over you can generate more power from your quads, it is more aerodynamic, you lower your center of gravity to increase your stability, and if you do go down you’re closer to the ground!

Proper skater pose means that you are bent at the waist, your knees have a slight bend, and you are balanced on one leg with a bend in your ankle. Your knee should be in front of your ankle, and your butt/hips should be behind your ankle. Then, your shoulders and knees should be vertically aligned.

Above,  you can see three vertical lines, which touch Eddy Matzger’s knees and shoulders, ankle and hips. His shoulders and knees are vertically aligned. His hips/butt are behind his ankle on the ground, and knee is in front of his ankle.

Next, let’s look at some of the Elite Women group.

 

Here are a few things to note:

  • They are matching each other’s stride. This helps with aerodynamics, and avoiding hitting the skates of who is in front and behind you!
  • Hands behind the back helps “tuck” into the skater pose, as well as improving aerodynamics.
  • Note that each skater’s back is relatively straight and not curved. This is kind of hard to tell from this angle.
  • Everyone’s head is up. This is smart for safety/visibility purposes.

  • The above photo is during the last .1 miles of the marathon race, during the final sprint. Each skater’s form is a bit different in this final sprint finish compared to the many miles beforehand. Note Julie Brandt-Glass’s (front – Elite Women’s 2019 champion) left foot. She is utilizing her outside edge to gain even more forward propulsion. This is commonly knows as the “double-push” technique, where skaters push from their outside edge, then their inside edge, all on one leg. There are many online resources for “double-push” technique.
  • Also note each skaters’ arms flailing about. This is in stark contrast to the tidy aerodynamic post during the first 20 miles of the race. Utilizing your arms generates even more momentum, although it diminishes aerodynamic efficiency.
  • It is impossible to determine with a still photo, but the cadence (number of strides per minute, for instance) greatly increases in the final sprint finish of the race. This is an easy way to increase speed, but at the expense of a lot of energy.
  • These elite skaters will remain in skater pose, hunched over their center of gravity, until the very end of the race. Again, this stance lowers your center of gravity, allows you to generate more propulsion with each stride, and enhances aerodynamics.

Many skaters find that crouching can cause back pain. This is normal, and it certainly takes time to condition your body to handle hours in a hunched position. It is worth it in the end to condition your body to take that abuse, and you will be stronger for it!