‘I’m an Ice Skater, and These Are My Go-To Balance Exercises’

Getty Images/Tom Werner
Okay. I still cannot get enough of Nathan Chen’s mind-blowing free skate or the duo Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue’s insane ice dancing skills. Talk about talent, not to mention some otherworldly balance. This year's Beijing Olympics left me in awe and a bit spellbound by what it takes to land a quadruple jump. So I caught up with two champion-level figure skaters, Lindsey Klein and Becky Koenig, for some tips on how the rest of us can incorporate ice skating balance exercises into our own (off-ice) workouts.

“When ice skating, you are on a pretty thin blade and in order to hold your center of gravity, it requires practicing your balance both off and on the ice,” says Klein, a former team USA figure skater who's now a registered dietitian nutritionist. Despite her busy day job, she still finds time to continue to pursue her life-long love of skating and incorporates ice skating balance exercises regularly.

Experts In This Article
  • Becky Koenig, Becky Koenig is an 11-time national champion in synchronized skating and a figure skating coach.
  • Lindsey Klein, RD, registered dietitian, nutritionist, mindfulness enthusiast, and former team USA figure skater

No matter what type of workout you’re doing, Klein says that maintaining a strong core will help you with overall balance. “Before any exercises, start by engaging your core,” she says. According to Harvard Medical School, a strong core is key to overall balance because it leads to more effective movements at the hips, knees, and ankles. Add a sheet of ice and skating on a thin blade to the mix, and that effective coordination becomes essential.

1. Single-leg dumbbell press

To work her core, Klein opts for this single leg dumbbell exercise: "Standing on your right leg, keep your left knee in a tabletop position while making sure to engage your core, and do a bicep curl to a shoulder press on your right arm” Klein says. Start with 10 reps on each leg, then switch sides, aiming for three sets total.

2. Cossack squats

Koenig, a figure skating coach in the Jackson Hole region and an 11-time national champion in synchronized skating, says that in addition to core stability, balance is also about leg strength. Koenig teaches skaters of all ages and abilities, and balance is a key first step. “In skating, there is a lot of engaging in up and down movements that require changing momentum from one leg to the other, while keeping your core tight,” she says.

She recommends strengthening the legs with deep squats, like cossack squats. With your feet planted wide apart, lowering down on one leg with the other flexed straight out, this move targets your adductors, quads, glutes, and hip flexors. Try three sets of 15 reps on each leg.

3. Side lunge with a glider

Klein's go-to exercise to increase lower-body strength is a side lunge using a glider or towel. With your right foot on a glider or towel, move into a squat with your left leg and slowly move your right leg out to the side. Then as you stand up, bring your right leg back underneath you.

This move does double duty: It strengthens your core and focuses your weight on the leg in a squat position. For sets on this tough move, listen to your body and meet it where it's at! Try a single set of 15 reps on each leg and add another if it feels doable.

See how it's done starting at about minute 6:30 in this video:

While attempting these exercises on the ice might not be in my own future, taking a page from the pros' handbook can hopefully make anyone's balance a little bit stronger.

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