The Learning Process
Hosted by
San Diego Figure Skating Communications

Stabilizing the Core Body

What is a Gyroscope?
        The definition in Physics of a gyroscope is a device containing a disc rotating on an axis that can turn freely in any direction so that the disc resists the action of an applied couple and tends to maintain the same orientation in space irrespective of the movement of the surrounding structure Sometimes shortened to "gyro".

        In sports, there is a human quality (agility) that some individuals seem to naturally possess and others must acquire through extensive training and practice. This article will discuss what can be observed. For example, in figure skating the object is to convert forward or backward progress into a circular motion. The skater who can stabilize the spin so it does not travel across the ice is said to have centered the spin. It is the internal gyroscope that is our center of balance to sends signals from the fluid of middle ear to the mind if the spinning positions diverts from balanced axis and signals a shift of the center is occurring causing a wobble and loss of balance is called "traveling".

       This is the same action that is observed in spinning a coin or a child's "Top".  As the object loses its speed, the center of balance shifts resulting it spinning out of control and ultimately falling over. Toy gyroscopes can perform all sorts of interesting tricks. They can resist motion about the spin axis in very odd ways; but the most interesting effect is called precession. If you have a spinning gyroscope and you try to rotate its spin axis, the gyroscope will instead try to rotate about an axis at right angles to your force axis.

In Figure 1,  the gyroscope is spinning on its axis. In Figure 2, a force is
applied to try to rotate the spin axis. In figure 3, the gyroscope is reacting
to the input force along an axis perpendicular to the input force.
Source -

The Human Element
       One major difference between the inanimate object and a human is that fact that our mind can make adjustments that can regain/stabilize the spinning rotation.  There is a secondary observable action that is gyroscopic - a controlled exit from the spin shuts down the rotational direction and allows the skater to transition to a linear movement without being dizzy.

Recovering Balance
        An excellent ideal of angular momentium and torque can be seen in a bicycle rider change directions and maintaining or recovering their balance.

If you lean left, you turn left
A rider leaning left will produce a torque which will cause the bicycle wheel to precess counterclockwise as seen from above, turning the bicycle left.

The angulur momentum of the bicycle wheels is to the left. The torque produced by leaning is to the rear of the bicycle, as may be seen from the right-hand rule.

This gives a rearward change in the angular momentum vector, turning the bicycle left.

       This is a good visual example of the directions of the angular momenta and torques, but the gyroscopic torques of bicycle wheels are apparently quite small (see Lowell and McKell). The gyroscopically motivated descriptions like "leaning left turns it left" are more appropriate to motorcycles. With a bicycle at low speeds, the main turning influence comes from the turning of the handlebars.

        In terms of the stability of the bicycle when riding, the association with leaning and turning does hold true. The construction of a bicycle is such that a left lean does cause the front wheel to turn left, contributing a kind of self-stability to the bicycle. If you feel youself unbalanced and leaning left, then turning left does help you correct the imbalance because the centrifugal force associated with the turn does tend to push the top of the bicycle back toward the vertical.

        Part of the process of learning to ride a bicyle would then seem to be the learning of how to turn the front wheel to produce the needed centrifugal balancing force to bring you back to an upright and balanced orientation. More drastic turns are needed at low speeds to get the necessary centrifugal force which depends upon the inverse of the radius of curvature. Much more gentle turns are sufficient at higher speeds since the centrifugal force depends upon the square of the velocity.

Source - Hyperphysics Georgia State University

Training for Stability and Quick Reflexes
      The principles of stability are used to develop training programs designed to improve an athlete's control of positions both for static and dynamic balance. This includes the sudden changes in directions in football when a runner is attempting to evade an opposing team member(s) defending his goal. In some some sports the body's position is bent forward as in speed skating, while in others the body is required to demonstrate its flexibility (gymnastics) or combining ballet and ice skating (figure skating), or the ability to hit water at 35 miles per hour and produce as little splash as possible (Diving events).

      By definition, an athlete's center of gravity is the exact center of the body around which the body can rotate freely in any direction and where the weight is equal on all opposite sides. Typically this point exists at a point along the vertical mid-line of the body at approximately 55% of the athlete's height.

Core Body Stability
      To perform balance skills, skaters must have adequate strength to support the body, and they must be able to shift the weight quickly into the correct position at the right time.

      A skater must instinctively know their position in space (kinesthetic awareness) in order to perform quick turns with complete coordination, agility, and flexibility. See Fitness Components

      The goal of coaches is to develop their students core body positions as this enhances their ability to acquire and master figure skating skills. The following is a partial list of objectives coaches emphasize:
  • To maintain a perfectly balanced static position when still, the skater's center of gravity must remain over the base of support.  Core body stability is critical in centering a spin.

  • To recover any loss of balance, an athlete can expand the base of support and reposition the center of gravity over it.  In a two footed position, spreading the feet wider will help stabilized the athletes balance. This is very helpful when a man is lifting the girl overhead in a rotating lift.

  • In lifts or carries, the man must shift his body positions to compensate for the body weight of his partner in the three phases of the lift (entry, over head, and exit) in order to maintain balance and control.

  • For maximum stability in all directions, the center of gravity should be over the center of the base of support. Example: Performing a fully extended spiral position.

  • An athlete becomes more stable by lowering the center of gravity. Example: Bending the landing knee of multi-revolution jumps.

  • The greater the friction between the blade's curvature (hollow grind) and the ice surface; the greater the ability to maintain balance. Example:

  1. Ice that is freshly resurfaced allows the blade to move over the ice with less effort;
  2. ice that is cut up provides more drag (friction) and also allows deeper edges to be skated and a greater sense of security.
  • A skater can lose balance easier and more quickly when their center of gravity is closest to the edge of the base of support. Example: When the skater's weight is shifted too far backwards towards the heel of the blade or too far forward towards the toe pick.

Recommended Reading:

Core Stability Exercise Principles
By Akuthota, Venu; Ferreiro, Andrea; Moore, Tamara; Fredericson, Michael

Abstract -  Core stability is essential for proper load balance within the spine, pelvis, and kinetic chain. The core is the group of trunk muscles that surround the spine and abdominal viscera. Abdominal, gluteal, hip girdle, paraspinal, and other muscles work in concert to provide spinal stability. Core stability and its motor control have been shown to be imperative for initiation of functional limb movements, as needed in athletics.

Sports medicine practitioners use core strengthening techniques to improve performance and prevent injury. Core strengthening, often called lumbar stabilization, also has been used as a therapeutic exercise treatment regimen for low back pain conditions. This article summarizes the anatomy of the core, the progression of core strengthening, the available evidence for its theoretical construct, and its efficacy in musculoskeletal conditions.

Core Stability Exercise Principles  Core stability is essential for proper load balance within the spine, pelvis, and kinetic chain. Broad benefits of core stabilization have been achieved in collegiate basketball and track athletes.

Basic Principles Underlying Krate Techniques   All parts of the body must harmonize to provide the stability necessary to sustain the shock. Thus, balance is of prime importance. Also, the rhythm evident in the movements of athletes


Importance of Balance and Stability to Mastery of Sport Skills  The ability to control one’s physical self is a major issue for athletes. They must control their sports skills and execute them properly, despite numerous obstacles that are very physical in nature.

Body Balance   Unable and often unwilling to take time off of training, most athletes trained through their injuries.  In these situations, their bodies made compensatory movements, which not only aggravated the original injury, but also stressed other parts of the body and lead to further injuries. The bottom line was clear: injuries became chronic, and greatly impaired the athletes ability to perform their activity to their potential.

Balance Training and Proprioception Proprioception is that of the human kinesthetic senses, the related notions of muscle memory and hand-eye coordination. The kinesthetic sense is similar to proprioception, in that it is an internal mechanism, but distinct by virtue of the role of proprioception in coordinating joint motion and acceleration.

Biomechanical Principles and Applications   Examples of Rotation Principles.  Seven Principles of Biomechanical Analysis.

How Can Biomechanical Principles Help Us   Jan. 14, 2009 ... There are seven biomechanical principles that can help us analyze skating skills: ... of support and the greater the mass, the more stability increases.

Connecting Steps The Figure Skating / Ballet Relationship   Does ballet really enhance the skater's performance or on-ice technique? The “skating experts” say Changements: Same jumping principles as sautés. Pas de Bourre: For ankle stability and agile footwork.

Back Stability-2nd Edition   Establishing Stability Chapter 5. Posture Optimal Postural Alignment Postural Stability and Body Sway Basic Postural Assessment.

Core Body Strength Training  Agility, coordination and balance (stability) all come from the core of the body . ... In skating, it is important to strive for proper body ... Choose a variety of exercises and mix them up. © U.S. Figure Skating. Page 3. Overload Training Principle.

Physical and Mental Training Considerations

Sports Information

Sports Training


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Fitness Training Considerations
Kirkpatrick's Evaluating Training Programs
Skating Training Environment
Training Figure Skaters
Group Classes
Fitness Training
Personal Training Plan
Daily Training Plan
Seasonal Training
Training for Junior & Senior Athletes
Age Guidelines for Training
Developing a Plan for Training
Developing Skating Skills
Group Training Stages
Training Priorities
Strategies of Sports Training
Training Task Analysis
Value of Annual Planning
Competitive Training Strategies
Verbal and Nonverbal Communications
PDF  Core Body Training
PDF  Endurance Training Plan

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

Athlete Concerns     Collection of Related Ideas    Skating Articles    Related Topics      

Ice Skating Rink Index    Topic Index    Site Index   Home Page