Weight Training May Help Figure Skaters Jump Higher, Says Study

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Figure skaters who do weight training two or three times a week to strengthen their shoulder muscles stand a good chance of increasing the height of their jumps, Mayo Clinic researchers say.

Dr. Anatol Podolsky and his colleagues studied 18 figure skaters for the U.S. Figure Skating Association to determine how they could learn jumps better, faster and with fewer injuries.

Using high-speed, three-dimensional filming and complex computer analyses, the researchers determined that shoulder muscles follow knee muscles in importance to determining how high a skater can jump.

The strength of the leg muscles is increased with skating, but the strength of the shoulder muscles is poorly developed in comparison, Podolsky said. That means the shoulder muscles offer the greatest potential for increasing the height of the jumps.

Off-the-ice weight training for the shoulder muscles may shorten the time it takes to perfect the jumps and it may help prevent injuries from overuse.

That idea isn't new, Podolsky said. High jumpers in track-and-field competition spend about 80 percent of their time working with weights and 20 percent developing the technique to jump over the bar, he said.

``Ten years ago no one used weights in swimming,'' Podolsky said. ``Now out-of-water weight training is common practice. This basic concept is catching on to other sports. It's something new, but it's an old idea.''

Podolsky, a senior resident in pediatric orthopedics at Mayo, is a former national and international figure-skating competitor for the Soviet Union.

The height of a figure skater's jump is critical because it determines how many revolutions a skater can make which, in turn, contributes to the scores during competition, Podolsky said.

A double-axel jump, which is 2 1/2 revolutions in the air, is required for passing the test that allows a skater to compete on the senior level in the U.S. National Championship.

Assuming skaters have the technical skills, they fall because they don't have the strength, Podolsky said.