Jump Theory: How Elite Skaters Create Lift (Chris Conte)

In this important video, International coach Chris Conte describes the physical process of jumping, especially for toe jumps (although the concepts also apply to edge jumps). Chris uses imagery of a car hitting a speed bump as a way to better understand how the best and most athletic skaters create lift. In essence, Chris is arguing that big jumps are not created by more knee bend on the preparation, but rather are a result of massive and brief loading of the take-off leg followed by an acceleration or natural release. Chris says, “Think of jump take-offs as a collision.” Also, “Quickness is a more important attribute” than strength.

The vast majority of elite athletes have surprisingly minimal knee bend when jumping, relying instead on proper technique and high entry speeds to generate the brief but intense forces required for triples and quads. Proper technique typically hinges on creating a power angle (forward body lean on preparation) to ensure the skater’s center of mass remains behind the jump point on the ice, allowing the skater to use the jumping leg much a like a pole vault. Proper head anchoring is also critical to ensure the skater’s center of mass travels over the take-off point on the ice.

Chris shows a video of Yuna Kim performing a triple flip and he notes that her toe pick only stays in contact with the ice for less than 0.03 seconds. There is simply no way any athlete can deeply bend the knee and then explode upward in that amount of time. Chris ends this discussion by explaining that a small force over a very short time is better for jumping than a larger force over a longer period of time. However, it should be noted that elite athletes create massive forces over short periods of time, simply by relying on natural muscle contraction and springiness and proper power angle and loading.

(Other videos on iCoachSkating discuss how edge jumps have a similar pole vaulting motion to toe jumps. See this axel video and this loop jump video.)


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