Article Details


How To Train Without a Facility

Carol Rossignol, 8/19/2010

May/June 2007

How To Train Without a Facility




Key Words:

MHR – Maximum Heart Rate

Cardio – Pertaining to aerobic or anaerobic activity

Muscular Strength – How much weight can be moved one-time?

Muscular Endurance – How much weight can be moved continuously?





Who Needs Off-Ice Training?

All levels of skaters, whether you are just starting in figure skating or you have been involved in the sport for years and are skating at the national or international level.  This is for YOU!


In watching a competition, do you ever wonder how all disciplines of skating have come so far in such a short period of time?  We all know how the sport has evolved in the last few years by adding many new required moves and elements.  The programs are packed with difficult jumps, spin combinations, footwork, and lifts just to name a few.  Some of the elements, included in the programs, are spectacular, and some are just plain scary!  It is very difficult for the athletes to perform these elements with proper technique over and over again in practice and competitions, if they are not in top physical condition.  Are you or is your skater ready physically to meet the demands of the new requirements?  


Keep in mind: you need to be in the best possible “shape” to maximize your training each and every day!


Do you need to get into better shape so you can do these elements with strength, power and ease?  But where do you start if you don’t have the advantage of a gym or a trainer at your rink, and what can you do that will be specific for your skating discipline so you are not wasting your time?


All the disciplines of figure skating, whether freestyle, pairs, dance or synchronized skating, need off-ice training.  And while some of the training will be the same for all the disciplines, each discipline’s requirements are slightly different so the off-ice training will be slightly different in order to be sport and discipline specific.


What Does Your Skating Discipline Demand?

Explosive power & strength in the lower body, core strength & balance, and cardio endurance are need for all disciplines.  However; pairs, dance and synchronized skating also need upper body strength for elements such as lifts and strength to enable the skaters to maintain their skating space if they are skating together.


Pick Your Place

Often time skaters are told to workout to become more fit for their sport, however, I have heard them say they aren’t able to workout because they cannot get to a gym or they don’t have any type of equipment at home.  There are plenty of excuses, but there are also plenty of places to workout if you just use a bit of ingenuity. 


First of all skaters are always talking about being stuck in a cold ice arena for such long hours, so get outside, enjoy fresh air and workout at the same time.  Your neighborhood, local park or high school should have places where you can jog/run, run stairs, bike or jump rope.  Or you can even do a combination of several of these modes (activities) of exercise.  If you happen to live in an area of the country where the winters are harsh, then you will need to workout at home or perhaps you can find an available room at the rink where you skate or at least jump rope.  Look for an area in your rink that is clean of debris, dry and has little traffic.  If you are planning on doing some of these activities at your ice arena, you will want to get permission from the rink management to use the space before you start your program.


Cardio Workout 

When starting your workout, be sure to warm-up for 8-10 minutes and then workout for 20-30 minutes within your training zone (70-85%MHR) if you are doing an aerobic workout.  If you are doing sprint training your heart rate needs to be 85-95%MHR and workout in short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by short periods of time of low intensity exercise (70%MHR).

(For more information on Cardio training please refer to The PSA Coach’s Guide to Figure Skating Sports Sciences and Medicine.)

Agility training can be included in this workout by adding a hopscotch type of activity, running grapevines, slides right and left with a quick change of direction, or running up and down one step.  At the end of your workout you will want to include a cool down and stretching.

Remember that a great way to get motivated is to workout with a partner or play your favorite music. 


Body Weight Exercises 

The following are upper body weight exercises that can be performed at home with little or no equipment.  Most of these exercises are appropriate for all ages since the resistance used is the skater’s own body weight.  These exercises should be performed 3 to 5 times per week for best results.  Be sure to use correct technique when performing all exercises, and remember to perform enough repetitions to fatigue your muscles.






Target muscles – Chest, shoulders, arms & core

            Lie on the floor, face down, legs together with hands on the floor under the shoulders, and fingers pointed forward.  Keep your back and legs straight while pushing up to a front leaning rest position.  Return to the starting position and repeat.  You are working against gravity, so be sure to keep your abdominal (stomach) muscles pulled in tightly and do not let your back sag at your waist.      



            Target muscles – Mid to upper back & shoulders

            Lie face down on the floor with your arms extended straight beyond your head.  Keep your head on the floor while you raise your extended arms.  Hold the position briefly, then touch your shoulders, extend your arms beyond your head, and lower to the floor.  Repeat. This exercise needs to be performed slowly.




            Target muscles – Back of shoulders & upper back

Lie face down with your arms extended to your sides, elbows almost straight

1.   Thumbs pointed to the ceiling, lift your arms up as high as comfortably possible, repeat to finish set.

2.   Thumbs pointed toward the floor, lift you arms up as high as comfortably possible, repeat to finish set.

3.   Arms extended forward overhead.



ARM RAISES (Lateral, Front, Back)

            Target muscles – Front, top & back of shoulders

Front & Lateral Raise, stand with your feet hip width apart, abs held tight, arms at your sides. 

1.   Raise your arms to shoulder height in the front of your body & lower to starting position, repeat to finish set.

2.   Raise your arms to shoulder height at the sides of you body & lower to starting position, repeat to finish set.

Back Raise, stand with your feet hip width apart, abs held tight and bend at you hips so your upper body is at a 45 degree angle maintaining neutral spine.

Your arms will be hanging beneath your shoulders, raise your arms to shoulder height, lower and repeat to completion of the set.

     Small dumbbells can be held in each had to add some resistance.  If you do not have dumbbells, you can substitute soup cans.

Exercises for the Lower Body and Core Body will be covered in Part II.     


The keys to reaping the benefits of your workout:

     Frequency – the number of workouts per week

     Intensity – how hard you workout, measured by heart  rate response or volume of weight lifted

     Duration – length of time of the workout

     Mode – type of activity performed


“Practice Makes Permanent” – only – “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”

Make a commitment to your reaching your goals, be focused and disciplined in your workouts.  Don’t be afraid to Work Hard and learn to “Enjoy the Process”.


Part II of this article will be published in the July-August issue of PS Magazine and will cover Body Weight exercises for the lower body and the core.


Original article published for Synchronize Skating Magazine – September 2006





Debbie Pitsos has taught exercise for 30 years.  Debbie directed the Off-Ice Training Program at Detroit Skating Club for sixteen years.  She continues to train skaters privately and teach classes and train figure skaters in conditioning, strength training, jump technique, plyometrics, and flexibility.   She holds a RD rating with the PSA.