Barrier Step Up Exercise – Part 1 (Tom Zakrajsek)

World and Olympic coach Tom Zakrajsek teaches what he calls the “barrier step up exercise” which is important for learning proper jump air position and landing movements. This kind of exercise is important because it helps skaters learn these positions and movements in an accurate way, without the risk/distraction of actually jumping.

The “barrier step up” starts with the skater standing on the landing foot toe pick facing the the barrier, with the fingertips of both hands rested gently on the barrier. The skater then steps up to the “first up” which is an h-position that has a mid-line cross of the non-axis upper leg (closed free hip) which Tom calls “the triangle.”

The skater then steps up to the “second up” by pressing down the non-axis leg and pointing the non-axis toe to stand on. The axis foot comes off the ice and flexes, thus creating the flox position. The axis leg is locked and the feet are tight.

Next, the skater moves to the “third up” position by stepping back down onto the axis/landing foot again and hitting the “the triangle” position, again on a straight skating leg. On the third up the skater turns the hips a quarter turn in the direction of rotation to simulate the need to “reverse out” of the rotation of the jump. Tom wants the movement from the second to the third up to have a “pepper grinder snap in the shoulders” to feel the counter rotation of the  hips and shoulders on the third up. The shoulders remain facing the barrier as the hips rotate.

The exercise finishes with the skater pushing away from the barrier into a landing position which is held.

An important aspect of this exercise is the rhythm. Tom says, “Nothing in figure skating happens slow unless your choreographer tells you to do something slow.” He shares a consistent timing and rhythm for the exercise with words (“first up, second up, third up, out”) before having the skater do it again even faster without word prompts.

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