How to Jump Higher (Michelle Leigh)

World and Olympic coach Michelle Leigh discusses how to increase jump air time, which is the same as jumping higher. Sufficient jump height is critical in order to have enough air time to finish the desired rotation prior to landing. (See a discussion of minimum air times required for the various jumps here.) The classic approach to jumping higher is to bend more deeply before the jump itself, but as we see in this video, this is not correct.

Michelle begins by first acknowledging that a prerequisite for jumping higher on the ice is off-ice strength and quickness training. Those skaters that jump high on the ice tend to be excellent athletes with plenty of quickness, and this can be trained to some extent off the ice.

The most common misconception about jumping higher is the need to bend more deeply prior to the jump. Michelle notes that some “cushiony” bend is necessary in the ankles, knees and hips. But explosive jump timing and proper jump take-off technique are not compatible with bending too much. There simply isn’t enough time during a jump take-off to fully extend from a deeply bent preparation. It’s very important that skaters get fully extended through the hips as they leave the ice, and this is generally not possible with too much knee bend. Michelle says, “Your speed and the leverage of pushing your hips up underneath in the jump is more important than going further down.”

The next point that Michelle focuses on for increasing jump height is to increase the backward lean a skater has. Some coaches refer to this as power angle, but Michelle just calls it leaning back, tipping back, or inclining. This backward lean occurs from driving the hips forward and up as the jump takes off, and Michelle also wants the free foot out in front as well. She notes that learning this requires good core strength and some courage. Michelle says, “The jump rotates (in the air) on a tilt (backward). We don’t want a jump that rotates straight up and down.” This axis angle of the jump in the air is important for smooth landings. Michelle demonstrates what the various jump take-offs look like with the proper take-off angle, with some extra discussion of the double axel.

Once a skater has the proper take-off technique, adding speed is another way to increase jump height. The added speed can increase the edge pressure and compression forces which can be used to create more lift by a skater with quickness. This is really only possible for skaters with the proper take-off lean or angle. (Note how this relates to a pole vaulting effect discussed here and here and in this Chris Conte video here.) So Michelle encourages learning proper jump technique slowly and at lower speeds, and then using more entry speed to increase jump height only after mastering the basic take-off technique. She says, “Adding speed can help a jump as long as it’s organized.” She also cautions against focusing too much on flow or jumping out rather than up. With correct technique, the flow should happen automatically and the skater should not have to focus on it. Jumps that “reach out” are hard to collect quickly into a tight rotational position, and they also tend to get the body ahead of the feet.

Michelle also discusses the idea of core and shoulder rotation as part of elite jumps. She notes that the hips and shoulders are not locked together, but they do move together in general. The shoulders can get ahead of the hips during the jump take-off movement, as long as it doesn’t destroy the jump axis and the skater is able to quickly transition to the desired efficient air position. If there is some pre-rotation of the shoulders, Michelle likes the hips to catch up “so when we take off we’re always in a square position.”


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