Double Axel Development – Part 1 (Tom Zakrajsek)

World and Olympic coach Tom Zakrajsek begins a series of videos discussing some of the drills and exercises he uses when developing a double or triple axel. There are a ton of insights about the axel (and double and triple) in these videos, and he guides us through the process of making the jump more and more efficient. At the beginning of the video, Tom notes that competitive skaters will typically begin the double axel at the pre-Juvenile or Juvenile level.

Tom has his skaters begin double axel development with what he calls a “progression exercise” since the skater will progress quickly if they practice the exercise. The exercise shown here is a “progression of three turns” around one of the hockey circles and consists of the skater simulating repeating double axel take-offs with three turns and forward steps/pushes.

On the forward step (axel take-off edge) Tom has the skater “kick” their own non-axis butt-cheek with the heel of the free/axis foot. He equates this position to the leg and foot position of a good layback spin, with the free hip open and the free foot inside the tracing made by the skating foot. He explains that this position is required to prevent the free foot from being pulled outside the take-off edge by inertial forces, which then usually causes the free leg to cut back across and into the circle as the skater pivots up into the jump (causing axis problems). Tom also shows that the path the free foot takes is extremely close to the heel of the skating foot and does not swing around. He calls this “kicking the can.” To finish the lower body movement, “The free leg goes up and over the horse.” Tom summaries the sequence as, “Kick your butt, kick the can, but don’t kick the horse.”

For the upper body and arms, Tom explains that on really good double and triple axels the arms don’t go straight through. Instead he wants a very specific movement and positioning to maximize efficiency. He wants the non-axis arm to pass close to the non-axis hip and perform a simple “uppercut” movement, and he wants the axis arm to pass close to the axis hip and begin in an upward motion but then “start to convert” meaning start to convert into rotation as it comes slightly across in front of the body. Tom explains that these arm movements are important to get both maximum jump height and “the necessary torque to spin right off the toe.”

For each repetition of this exercise, Tom wants the skater to perform 3 simulated jumps followed by holding a landing position. He explains that this progression exercise is “the next important part of the development of the double axel” after properly learning a double loop. The tempo and rhythm are important, and the hockey circle is also helpful since it provides the skater with awareness of the jump direction. The skater should jump “straight through” and not into the circle.

Tom finishes this discussion with more detail on the desired arm movement. Basically he explains how the skater gets to the “left over right” arm/hand position he prefers for the air position (non-axis hand/arm over axis hand/arm). He prefers this arm position as it keeps the non-axis hand/arm on top and allows it to very quickly punch into the circle on the jump landing.


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