How to bend your knees on skates
Learn to bend your knees!
Many people skate with legs that are far too straight, simply because it's
the easy option. In the end this will leave you with all kinds of negative
effects, such as severely limiting your top speed and reducing your ability to
balance. On the other hand, having both proper posture and good knee bend
will up the power you're capable of putting to the ground, it'll enable you
improve your balance, grace, and flow, and it simply looks far better.
This article is aimed mostly at speed skaters, though it's clear
that many recreational skaters also need to bend their knees more.
Just in shoes or bare feet, practice skating posture:
- Whilst standing, raise your toes off the ground and wiggle them. This
way you should have weight just in your heels and the balls of your feet,
with perhaps a slight emphasis towards the heel/rear of the foot.
- Now place your palms on your upper thighs, with completely straight
- Slowly slide your hands down the front of your thighs until the palms of
your hands cover your kneecaps. At the same time make sure your arms stay
straight and are vertical. This will mean bending your ankles, your knees,
and your hips.
- Go down a little further, until your wrists touch your kneecaps.
- Now make sure your shoulders are rounded (slouching), and your lower
back is slightly arched like an angry cat's by sucking in your tummy
muscles. Another way of feeling this is to rotate your lower pelvis
forwards and upwards.
- You should have a feeling of "bum down, chin up", with lots of knee
bend, and your arms must be vertical!
- Feel where your body weight is focused - it should be at the 2/3rds
position of your foot, measuring from the front. This slight rearward bias
is correct for normal forwards skating.
- Bill Begg calls this knees over toes, and hips over ankles.
Now get used to this on your skates, practice until you feel balanced and comfortable.
Good speed posture and knee bend
Good recreational skating knee bend
Shins too straight, bent too much at the hips.
This feels low because your head is low, but isn't.
Here the lower back is straight instead of slightly rounded
General Recreational Skating
This posture is about right for speed skating, but is perhaps a little low for
general cruising around and street skating. To modify this for rec. skating,
adopt the same approach as above, but slide your hands down your thighs until
your fingertips are touching your knees.
You'll see lots of skaters, even advanced skaters, standing around quite
straight legged. That's fine whilst relaxing and chatting to mates, but
don't do that when you're working on tricks or skating to go somewhere quickly.
It isn't always evident quite how much the good skaters do bend their knees when
working in their skills, especially when they are wearing baggy trousers.
How to improve your knee bend?
Set yourself little goals to work on, such as:
- Pick another skater of similar height, and try to skate a little lower
than they are at a training session.
- When skating up and down the Serpentine, for example, each time you pass
the Dell restaurant, go to a super low posture and skate as far as the third
boathouse in that low posture. Then come back up and skate normally again,
and skate low every time you pass that particular section. Discipline
yourself to do something like this for a few minutes every time you put on
skates. Don't try to skate fast at this point, just keep it slow and smooth,
feeling for good control and balance.
- Treat knee bend a little like the accelerator pedal of your car. Each
time you want to go fast, go low first before feeding in the power.
- Go to the gym and work on squats. Make sure you do this under
professional supervision though, as it's easy to use poor technique and
Be careful though, as although your muscles will quickly adapt to the lower
skating posture, you shouldn't do too much too quickly. Always be aware of your
body and what you know you're capable of, and only do tiny increases in exercise
volume/intensity each week. Back off at any sign of strain and allow your body
enough rest and recovery. Remember that your muscles will grow and adapt
more quickly than connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons will, so take
extra time and work towards your goals slowly and carefully.
Lastly, please remember that the best approach of all is to get advice from
your own coach or local instructor. They will be able to see what you
can't easily see yourself - your body position. Most people have at least
a little difficulty in correctly translating the feel of their own body position
to what is actually correct.