Jump Development Exercises Pt 7 – Building the Axel (Chris Conte)

Chris Conte continues with Part 6 of a multi-part series on jump development exercises.  In this series, Chris provides a set of warm-up exercises with a variety of drills embedded in them to develop important jumping skills associated with axis, air position, head control, and strong powerful landings.  The drills are general and apply to all multi-rotation jumps and are not focused on specific-jump take-off methods or technique.  In Part 1, Chris introduced the “snizzle” which is a combination of “snap drill” and “twizzle.”  In Part 2, he showed some basic warm-up drills including the backward jump snizzle.  In Part 3, he covered a warm-up drill and a landing drill.  In Part 4 he revisited snizzles with his demonstrator.  And in Part 5 he introduced the “hop around.”  Part 6 focused on building an inside axel from the snizzle.

In this video, Chris demonstrates how he builds the axel from the snizzle.  The beauty of using Chris’s snizzle approach to jump development is it teaches skills that are important for every jump.  Chris says, “Once my skater is proficient on the snizzle method, all I have to do is then tell them the take-off goes here and then you snizzle.”  Chris demonstrates the process in this video with the axel.

Chris shows how he teaches the axel take-off on a small circle.  Notice how he practices pushing the take-off foot out in front (see the Nick Perna wall-kick drill) to get the skater used to pressing the skating foot forward.  Chris explains the axel take-off as half of a left forward outside three turn.  He demonstrates and says, “Press, left outside three turn, hit the toe.”  Chris wants the free foot to go through with the hips open.  He spends a minute or two trying to get his demonstrator to understand this concept (to no avail).

[Editor’s note:  Nearly all skaters fully close the hips on an axel or double axel take-off and do not have a “right angle” as the free foot passes as Chris wants here.  But this concept Chris uses of opening the hips is one way to prevent the skater from cutting the free leg across the flight path and causing the jump to tilt outside the circle.  In the video, Chris explains that the demonstrator’s “double axel is actually coming a little bit across the print with the lower body and still pitching just a little bit.”  By “across the print” he means across the flight direction or print on the ice from the take-off to the landing.  By “pitching” Chris means tilting outside the circle in the air.  Some top coaches prefer to address this tendency differently because they do not want to introduce the inefficiency of opening the hips and then closing them.]

Chris works the take-off walk-through and then has the skater “walk” sideways in the jump flight direction with the upper body facing the jump direction and the lower body completely sideways.  Chris also wants a still head facing the jump direction.  Next, he shows how the “snizzle” gets added to the take-off movement.  To fully illustrate the take-off, Chris draws the take-off trace.  [Editor’s note:  For those interested in the “step on the circle” versus the “step outside the circle” debate, notice the trace that Chris draws.  He starts inside the circle and comes out to the circle, so if a skater is on the circle on the back outside edge setup, Chris advocates stepping slightly outside the circle and then jumping on the tangent to a new circle that is concentric with the original circle.  Video indicates this is what happens on nearly all good double and triple axels.]

Next Chris shows the progression of drills he uses on a circle once the take-off is pretty solid.  First is just the take-off with a step down, the snizzle rotation, and out.  This movement can be repeated by adding a back cross-over (against the natural rotation of the circle) between each walk-through.  Chris calls this walk-through without jumping a “Baby Bear.”  Next is the “Mama Bear” where the skater jumps from the take-off into the snizzle rather than just stepping.  Chris also calls this a “hop around.”  Most coaches refer to this as the waltz-jump-backspin drill, but they generally do not demand the kind of precision Chris is asking for here.  Chris does not just want a sloppy waltz jump followed by a typical backspin.  He says “up, snizzle, out.”

Chris summarizes one of the main aspects of the snizzle method.  He says, “Upper Ting from the waist up. (Ting is the demonstrator’s name.)  Lower Ting from the waist down.  What part of Ting closes on the snizzle?  Upper Ting or Lower Ting?  Lower Ting.”  He continues, “All of Ting jumps, lower Ting closes.”

The final drill is “hop around, single axel” in repeating sequence with the back crossover between.  (Chris sometimes refers to the single axel as the “Papa Bear” as it is often less intimidating to young skaters than “axel”)  Chris says, “I don’t encourage gigantic single axels at first.  I want a small controlled single axel that gets up over the axis.”


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