Online Figure Skating Lesson: Axel Jump (Michelle Leigh)

Michelle Leigh discusses how she develops the axel from the waltz jump.  This video builds upon Michelle’s two waltz jump videos, waltz jump and waltz jump follow-up.  Please review those videos as they will help clarify some of the concepts in this video.

This video is packed with golden information.  Right at the start, Michelle stresses that the skater needs to have a strong edge at the end of the take-off tracing.  More than that, she wants that edge to be accompanied by strong edge pressure and a hip snap, all before the skater leaves the ice.

If you remember nothing else from this video, remember this quote from Michelle Leigh:  “It’s all about the edge.  The jump is built from the edge up.”  What Michelle means is that you can’t do an axel with a waltz jump edge (at least the way most coaches teach a waltz jump).  Yet, many coaches teach an axel as simply a waltz jump with another rotation in the air.  Very few skaters do “good” axels this way, and even fewer do double or triple axels this way.

Instead, good axels require an edge that deepens and has added pressure as the point of take-off approaches (which virtually nobody teaches for waltz jump).  All of the rotational energy for the jump needs to come from the edge or the axel becomes “spinny” and small.  Without a strong edge that creates enough rotational energy, the skater has to add rotational energy by swinging the arms and legs around.  And that makes the jump spin around the toe pick rather than jump up and fly across the ice.

You’ll notice that Michelle does advocate a waltz jump into back spin drill.  But notice that the waltz jump she demonstrates probably doesn’t look much like the waltz jump you teach to your skaters.  Again, she is doing a waltz jump with a stronger take-off edge and a hip snap.

Michelle also puts a lot of focus on head position and arm position.  This is typical of top coaches and many give their skaters a target to shoot for.  Michelle is also encouraging targeting with her focus on keeping the head on the target and the arms moving toward the target.  These mechanics are important to get a strong jump that covers distance but also has natural rotation.

Notice on Michelle’s walk-through’s that she’s doing a side-ways take-off.  This is very important for a good axel.  Michelle doesn’t mention it explicitly in the video, but the hip snap and pressure on the end of the take-off edge cause a sideways take-off.  Keeping the head, upper body, and arms going at the target creates a twist in the core that is desired and much more obvious in double and triple axels.  (But it happens so fast, most people don’t see it.)

There’s tons more info in this video including the effects of speed, stand-still versus moving, and whether to learn the axel off-ice first.  I think this is a great video with an unbelievable amount of overlooked information.  Even though this may not be what you’re used to seeing or hearing, please take this presentation seriously and try to understand what she’s saying.  Michelle is an Olympic coach who knows what she’s talking about.

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6 Responses to “Online Figure Skating Lesson: Axel Jump (Michelle Leigh)”
  1. September 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Hayley Lakeman I have watched this video several times now- SOOO much important info concerning the building of this jump- i really understand the way michelle explains the necessities of, not just an axel, but a GOOD axel. thank you!!

  2. September 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Donna B. I was one of the subscribers that watched this video MULTIPLE least 30 times. I'm happy to report that I have 3 very little skaters that are landing their axel way ahead of the curve and it's no doubt because I took Michelle's mechanics to their lessons. Really, Michelle might as well have been there coaching them as I know this clip by heart! Words cannot express the thrill I've have had when my girls landed those axels. For me it was like they just won the Olympics! Thanks Michelle!

  3. September 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Debbie Love the video. You do great explanations & break down the body positions. It is so important to be able to translate movement to words. Some coaches can do the element but can not 'teach' it. Thanks you.

  4. September 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Donna Michelle, this is a drop dead FABULOUS video! Step by step, precise and so, so clear. All I can say is please do MORE low level jump videos for this terrific and valuble site!!

  5. September 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Courtney Baga I like the explanations, but I would also like a little more information about how you get a young skater to understand that. I was a skater with a decent single and double axel, and I use a huge number of different drills to get my skaters to begin to train the correct motions, but even my skaters with good single axels are unable to truly feel and understand that edge pressure; they think of it solely in terms of the other drills we do. They also have trouble seeing it in my demonstrations. These are teenagers and pre-teens. I have yet to teach an axel to one of my younger skaters, but I have a few that are getting there, and how I am able to connect these ideas with them will definitely be a factor in how well I can teach it.

  6. September 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm Thanks Michelle I love the video, especially the hip snap, I was missing that in my progressions but I will try it with some young skaters in the next few days. I am interested in what you teach off ice for Axels as I run off ice classes teaching single Axels.

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