Pilates Exercises for Ice Skaters

Olympic figure skaters perform seemingly effortless movements, but their skills come from hours of training on and off the ice. Ice skating requires meticulous postural alignment, exceptional dynamic balance skills, strength, flexibility, coordination and core strength. Many skaters use Pilates exercise to fulfill these fitness requirements. The Vancouver 2010 Olympics site mentions Pilates as one of the off-ice speed skating training methods. And American Olympic skater Caydee Denney, who notes that female skaters should be strong but “not bulky,” recommends Pilates exercise.


Physical therapist Linda Tremain, who worked with the Olympic Ice Arena in Lake Placid, notes that boots manufactured prior to 2003 were too stiff. Newer boots are more flexible, but this flexibility offers less support. Tremain recommends the footwork series on the Pilates reformer. The series develops plantar flexion, or pointing the toes toward the floor, and dorsi flexion, or curling the toes toward the shins. Lie supine with your knees bent and your toes against the foot bar. Inhale to prepare. Exhale and straighten your legs. Inhale and return to the starting position. Perform 10 repetitions, and then place your heels on the bar and do the same movement. When you gain proficiency, perform the exercise using one leg at a time.

Jumpboard Training

Tremain also recommends Pilates jump-board training for increasing vertical jump height. This type of exercise is a staple in Olympic skater Johnny Weir’s training regimen. Lie supine with your feet on the foot-board. Extend your legs and use a powerful, push-off movement. Bend your knees and return with control. Weir suggests staying “suspended as long as possible” before returning to the starting position. Perform 20 repetitions.

The Chair

Weir also uses the Wunda Chair in his training regimen. If possible, use a chair that has dual foot pedals, as opposed to a singular platform. The chair enables you to practice the footwork series from a seated or standing position. Exercises such as the one-legged pushdown develop balance while enhancing ankle and gluteal muscle strength. Stand in an upright position with your right foot on the top of the chair and your left foot on a pedal. Bend your right knee and straighten your left. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, use your leg and gluteal muscles to press the pedal down toward the floor. Perform one set of 10 repetitions on each leg.

Front Support

California Pilates instructors Ilana Berman and Jean Sullivan believe that the Pilates front support exercise enhances skate-specific upper body strength while developing the muscles required for one-legged skating. Begin in a push-up position, with your legs and arms extended. Maintain a straight line from the top of the head to the base of your spine. Inhale to prepare. Exhale, engage your core and lift your right leg from the floor. Inhale to return, and then repeat on the other side. Perform five lifts on each leg.

About this Author

Lisa Marie Mercer has been a professional writer for nearly 10 years. She has authored “Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness,” “Breckenridge: A Guide to the Sights and Slopes of Summit County” and “101 Fitness Tips for Women.” She’s worked as a fitness professional, tour guide and ski resort employee. Her work has appeared in “Aspen Magazine,” “HerSports,” “The Professional Skier,” “Pregnancy Magazine” and “Wired.”