Posted by: trish alexander | October 10, 2013

Bending in skating and in life

compassI always wish I wrote more often on this blog, but I’ve found that my I get a notion and then it simmers in my head for a while until I am ready to write it down. So, this one has simmered for long enough.

In skating when we tell students to bend their knees they bend at the waist as if bowing to the queen. Bending your knees in ice skating is also ‘knee breathing’ and conjures up the vision of knees undulating like a wave out in the ocean–you can never tell exactly where the wave starts and ends.

Bending the knees constantly is critical to skating and it must be a motion that allows the skater to move up and down gracefully. New skaters often bend their knees but they lock them in place so they skate like a robot .

Think of your knees as a series of degrees on a compass and you want the degree change to move from one number to another larger number, never resting on the same one for more than a nano-second.Knee-Bends

How much should you bend? It depends on what you are doing. For Indoor Speed skating you will have deeper knee bend more consistently than if you were Slalom skating. (Yes, there are many moves in Slalom which require deep knee bends, but not as often as in indoor track.) If you look at the picture on the right and give the straight leg a #1 designation, the slightly more bent a #2 designation, deeper a #3 designation and the deepest knee bend a #4 designation then you can see the degrees of knee bends skaters might use.

Spiral ice

Except for a Spiral, skaters should not be skating in the #1 position with a perfectly straight leg. In fact, even for spirals there is a point where you are slightly bending your knee, in fact you are doing so up to the point that you have the free leg, high up in the air and you are ready to finish the move by holding it. (A spiral is where one leg in underneath you with all your weight and the free leg is up in the air, behind you, forming a T or a Y, depending on your flexibility as depicted at right.)

Newer skaters tend to skate with a bend similar to #2, but we all should be skating with a bend much closer to #3.  Your legs should go from slightly more than #2 through and including slightly MORE than #3.  The 60% shown on the compass above is pretty close to correct.

Bending our knees or bending them more immediately improves every on skates. A lack of bending makes the move impossible. Maybe thinking of your knee as a shock absorber will help you bend more often. Maybe instead of thinking of bending your knees, think of flexing your ankles. This involves pushing your shins into the tongue of the skate and causes the knees to bend automatically. Whether you bend your knees, flex your ankles, think of it as a movement in which your whole body rises and sinks like a wave.

Life is like the need to bend our knees as a cycle. When we become afraid we lock our knees  and we become rigid. Bending with the move, allowing the knee breathing cycle to happen is just like breathing with life–it brings grace, healthier knees and the move you are working on.



  1. Very nicely written, Trish! I always accentuate to my students the importance of bent knees and I never get tired to demonstrate the benefits of it!

  2. Your leg should be in #1 position when you execute a swing.

  3. Very relevant. As a new skater myself, I’m constantly being told to bend my knees. Feels like I am but apparently not!

    • Emily, there is also a site: which is still in development, but a great option for skaters because it is designed to show you new ways to skate, new moves and is a teaching site. Thanks for reading the Blog, and for skating! I teach six different levels of students and in all of them, most student improvement can be made by quieting the upper body and bending a bit deeper into the move. Trish

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