The Physics of Ice Skating
San Diego Figure Skating Communications
a non-profit educational organization
of Figure Skating
A Skater achieves a spinning rotation through a process of storing angular momentum in their arms and the free leg. The process of pulling in the arms and free leg close to the body increases the speed of the spin.
All spins start with a process that uses a torque maneuver (hook) to generate angular momentum and then pulling the arms and free leg closer to the body reduces the moment of inertia. The rotation of spin increases to conserve angular momentum.
A skater can increase rotational speed in a spin by pulling in the hands tightly to body. Rotation can be slowed or stopped by extending the hands and free leg out to check the rotational force of the spin allowing the core body to achieve stability for a controlled exit.
Jumps in figure skating requires a skater to change linear momentum into vertical momentum in a manner similar to pole vaulting. The skater accelerates to achieve speed (linear momentum) then a downward pressure is applied to an edge from the ball of the foot, or the toe of a skate inserted into the ice to achieve a pole vaulting motion in coordination with the skating edge.
Increasing the speed into a jump allows the skater theoretically to jump higher and travel a greater distance in the air before landing. Height and speed determine the elapsed time from the take-off to the landing.
Angular momentum can be carried into the jump by applying a torque just like when spinning and when the legs and arms are drawn into the body the skater spins in the air. Torque or moment of force is the rotation an object about an axis.
To land, the skater extends (opens up) their arms and free leg in the same manner as exiting a spin on the ice. If the skater fails to control the angular momentum prior to landing, the skaters may land hard on the toe on a deep arc. A wide swinging free leg can cause a loss of control, free leg touching down or immediately stepping out of the landing. Ideally the the curve of the landing edge can be on the same arc established on the take-off, allowing the skater to control the angular momentum gained in the jump.
Ice skating jumps requires lifting force that propels the skater into the air. This force can be created by pushing the entire skate blade against the ice surface by shifting the body's weight to the ball of the foot on an edge or from a poll vaulting motion from tapping the toe into the ice which requires a coordinated push against the ice from an edge and tapping motion that suddenly stops linear momentum of the body, thus launching the skater into the air.
A skater can increase rotational speed in a jump by pulling in the hands tightly to body. Rotation can be slowed or stopped by extending the hands and free leg out to check the rotational force of the jump allowing the core body to achieve stability for a controlled landing when exiting the jump.
The following are some terms with which you should be familiar prior to beginning the projectile motion and conservation of angular momentum units. After reviewing these terms you should have enough knowledge to understand the projectile motion unit, conservation of angular momentum unit, the linear kinematics unit, and the linear dynamics unit.
Moment of Inertia
|© April, 1998, Montana State
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Introduction to the Science of Jumping and Rotating
Application of Physics to Figure Skating
|Role of Physics in Skating|
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