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Author Topic: Strengthening exercises for kids  (Read 1988 times)

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Offline Query

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Strengthening exercises for kids
« on: February 22, 2015, 05:48:24 PM »
I'm instructing a couple Snowplow Sam classes, in which some 6 or 7 your old girls don't seem to be able to bend their knees much, which makes it hard to do basic skating skills, like swizzles, and in certain cases, marching (which requires you to support your weight on one leg). This isn't unique - it happens in a lot of low level classes.

AFAICT, the boots are not too stiff (stiff boots prevent ankle bends, which makes knee bends hard).

We don't normally fail Snowplow Sam students, unless they don't come. But if they are going to continue to advance, they will need to bend those knees.

So I guess they could strengthen their leg and core muscles at home.

I could suggest they do deep knee bends, or the exercise where you lean against a wall in sitting position. But is it reasonable to do that with kids that young, who are just in LTS classes? Some of these kids only skate in class, and maybe in an adjoining public session, and aren't all that athletic.

I guess I could also suggest jump rope or other jumping - but some books say excessive jumping can interfere with bone growth.

What would you suggest? Should I just ignore it?

Offline riley876

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Re: Strengthening exercises for kids
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2015, 06:17:30 PM »
I suspect it's a posture issue as much as anything.

If they've got their pelvises tilted too much down at the front, and up at the back, and backs arched in too much (lordosis), then it's very hard work to bend their knees to any angle.  Because then the quads are being asked to do all the work.   And at a very mechanically unadvantageous angle.

So, arch back outward (i.e. no hollow).   Slouch and drop hands dangling in front of knees, and skate like a monkey.   That way the hamstrings and glutes can support the bulk of the load of pulling the knees back, instead of relying solely on the weak small quads (which have terrible leverage anyway).

It's probably seemingly against "proper" upright figure skating posture and probably everything everyone ever told them about posture in general.   But you've got to work in a biomechanically viable way.

Offline nicklaszlo

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Re: Strengthening exercises for kids
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2015, 08:38:28 PM »
I think fear and the natural use of reflexes that only work off the ice are big factors in stiff knees for beginners.  I recommend pumps because they force you to bend your knees.

But it depends; are these kids in really bad physical condition? 

Homework does not seem appropriate for snowplow sam level.

Offline sarahspins

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Re: Strengthening exercises for kids
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2015, 09:50:00 PM »
How much off-ice do you routinely do with these beginner classes before getting on the ice the first time?  At my rink it's not uncommon to take 10 or even 15 minutes getting kids comfortable moving around in skates off-ice before we ever take them on the ice.  I've actually taken a class off the ice at the beginning of the 2nd and 3rd week as well when they need some review of basic posture, marching, dips, falling down, etc (I've done this with adults too, not just kid classes).  Working off-ice can be a huge confidence booster for the really timid ones and it really does translate into a huge difference on the ice.

Most of the problems you are describing can be fixed by doing enough off-ice prep before getting on the ice.  99% of the time at my rink, a child who struggles to march and stand confidently off-ice has a skate problem (almost always wearing skates that are too big, or they are simply not tied well enough).  I have seen some who simply lacked adequate muscle tone to skate - however I haven't actually seen any enrolled in classes, every single one I have encountered has been part of a birthday party lesson.

Also, I have held back plenty of students at snowplow 1 and basic 1 - for the most part these are instances where the parents want the child to skate more than the child does, and you can only get so much out of a child in that situation - at that point I feel like my job is only to make sure the child still has some fun in class, even if they won't be passing.  A couple of times I've held back a snowplow 1 skater because they just aren't moving fast enough to keep up with a typical Snowplow 2 class, even when they can do all of the skills individually.  For the most part though, children who willingly participate in class almost always pass those early levels - it's rare to have one that doesn't, and typically in those cases it will be just one skill that they struggle with, while the rest are fairly good. A 15 minute private lesson may be all the kid needs to pass, and I usually suggest this to the parents before they enroll in the next session, just in case their child can actually be moved up.

Offline Doubletoe

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Re: Strengthening exercises for kids
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2015, 03:29:01 PM »
How about some knee-bend exercises in class that can be made into a game?  Here's something off the top of my head, just by means of example: Have the first student take a few strokes, widen her stance and bend knees/lower her butt and place something (like a glove) on the ice with both hands while gliding on two feet. Then the next student has to skate up to it, widen her stance and bend her knees, then reach down and pick it up with both hands as she glides over it on two feet.  Repeat 10 times and see if everyone can pick it up and place it down without missing any.

Offline Query

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Re: Strengthening exercises for kids
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2015, 05:28:49 PM »
Slouch and drop hands dangling in front of knees, and skate like a monkey.

They are figure skating classes. The director would never go for it.

I think fear and the natural use of reflexes that only work off the ice are big factors in stiff knees for beginners.  I recommend pumps because they force you to bend your knees.

Fear is a huge issue. People's response to poor balance is typically to activate all their muscles, including stabilizing muscles, and freeze, leaving little strength left for motion, and to fight those stabilizing muscles. I try to tell them to relax, but it doesn't help all that much. I haven't actually found it helps adults much either, even if they have the intellectual understanding that it takes less strength to move than to stand perfectly still - a rather complex idea for little kids.

How much off-ice do you routinely do with these beginner classes before getting on the ice the first time?  At my rink it's not uncommon to take 10 or even 15 minutes getting kids comfortable moving around in skates off-ice before we ever take them on the ice.

I wish we had time to do that. Also to check lacing.

And I wish we had a way to make sure everyone would come every time, on time. (Our classes are free.) A fair number show up 5 or 10 minutes late, and some arrive with only a few minutes left. I reverse skill order every other class, but they can't learn what they missed. I also wish I could make them all practice outside class. It may be the parent's fault, but what can you do?

A 15 minute private lesson may be all the kid needs to pass, and I usually suggest this to the parents before they enroll in the next session, just in case their child can actually be moved up.

The end of this session is next week. I think I'll suggest this on the final "report card" form, though I'm not myself certified and insured to teach privates. I may also suggest other exercises on the same form. Maybe I'll even suggest coming early so they get the whole class, in the future, in a couple cases.

Offline PinkLaces

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Re: Strengthening exercises for kids
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2015, 01:20:46 AM »
I teach ISI Pre-Alpha classes. With kids that won't bend their knees, I often have them just stand up straight and bend their knees. I hold their hands if they are a little afraid. We do dips and extended dips that I call driving the race car. We also have a bucket of beanie babies that they throw, skate to get, and bend down to pick up. These seem to help get them more comfortable bending their knees.

Offline jlspink22

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Re: Strengthening exercises for kids
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2015, 03:34:23 PM »
I got my daughter to bend her knees using the logic that if you bend your knees you are closer to the ground if you fall.  I used to make her do dips over and over and then fall.

The one rink we went to- the coach would put out pool toys/hula hoops/beanie babies on the ice during practice (for Snowplow/B1 kids). The kids focus on chasing the toys and picking them up and guess what- bend their knees.

Offline Query

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Re: Strengthening exercises for kids
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2015, 05:03:36 PM »
The one rink we went to- the coach would put out pool toys/hula hoops/beanie babies on the ice during practice (for Snowplow/B1 kids). The kids focus on chasing the toys and picking them up and guess what- bend their knees.

We have toys like that.

Problem is, some kids get very distracted by the toys, and pay no attention to the teacher.

And some kids through beanie babies at other kids.

Offline jlspink22

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Re: Strengthening exercises for kids
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2015, 05:17:24 PM »

We have toys like that.

Problem is, some kids get very distracted by the toys, and pay no attention to the teacher.

And some kids through beanie babies at other kids.

To clarify the toys only come out after lesson is over, during the extra 30 minutes.

Offline CaraSkates

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Re: Strengthening exercises for kids
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2015, 07:51:34 PM »

How much off-ice do you routinely do with these beginner classes before getting on the ice the first time?  At my rink it's not uncommon to take 10 or even 15 minutes getting kids comfortable moving around in skates off-ice before we ever take them on the ice.  I've actually taken a class off the ice at the beginning of the 2nd and 3rd week as well when they need some review of basic posture, marching, dips, falling down, etc (I've done this with adults too, not just kid classes).  Working off-ice can be a huge confidence booster for the really timid ones and it really does translate into a huge difference on the ice.

This. I always start SS classes off the ice - for the first three weeks at a minimum (we have 6-8 week sessions). We practice marching in place, marching forwards, dips, falling down and getting up. This also gives me a chance to see who needs skates retied or a different size before we get out on the slippery ice. Also, for a brand new skater in the 5 and under age, 30mins is a long time on ice. My director really supports the starting off ice and I will even send a struggling to get up skater off the ice with a helper to review before trying again.

I also do a ton of dips - we do dips moving, standing still, etc. We touch the sky, touch our toes, etc. I have them pretend they sit in an invisible chair and eat pizza, read a book, pet a cat, etc. My SS classes are all about having fun - the goal for SS1 is to get the skater comfortable on the ice, stand up, march forward. That is a success.

Some other things I do that help the little ones get comfortable moving on the ice pretend to be different animals - monkeys, giraffe, penguin, tigers, snakes, anything they can think of. I also use a marker to draw lines, pizza (to stand on with pizza feet for swizzles!), planets (skate in outer space!), anything I can think of! I also use stuffed animals (give each kid one, have them throw it, go pick it up. Repeat.) but not every class as they can be a distraction.

I've had good luck with this for knee bend - I tell the kids that their knees are like a car's engine. You can't drive a car without turning on the engine, right?? Well, you can't skate without bending your knees! A good demo for this is to do a swizzle with straight legs and then one with deep knee bend. Then have the kids "turn on their engines" before they try it. Bonus if you make engine noises.

Snowplow Sam classes can be very rewarding but also frustrating if you don't have a good coach/student ratio. My current SS1 classes are 16 skaters with 2 coaches (me and a junior coach) and 2 helpers (young teens working towards becoming coaches).
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