The Grapevine (Nick Perna)

International coach Nick Perna shares a skating drill he calls “The Grapevine.” The exercise gets it’s name from the off-ice grapevine agility exercise, which includes twisting and alternating foot positions. Nick explains that this is a fun exercise that all skaters can master with a little practice, and most skaters find it to be very fun. It teaches balance and on-ice agility as well as flow and edge control, which can be applied to three turns and salchow take-offs among other things.

Nick begins by demonstrating the grapevine step, which is done entirely on two feet on a large circle with the feet alternating between forward and backward skating and the body twisting back and forth to the outside of the circle.

He teaches the grapevine by breaking it into pieces and teaching the end first, which is the hardest part. This section consists of a back crossover, a separation of the feet before doing a back three turn with the rear foot (cross-under foot), into a pigeon-toed position (one foot moving forward and one foot moving backward). After mastering this into the pigeon toe position, the skater then does a three turn with the other foot and a forward crossover.

Nick offers a variety of exercises that include hockey glides and pigeon toe exercises and two foot spins in the pigeon toe position. He also talks about head movement and says, “If you don’t turn your body and head you get really stuck.” He also talks about common errors, especially when skaters turn forward with the wrong skate first.

To learn the front section, Nick has the skater do a pump into a forward cross and then a spread eagle facing outside the circle before turning backward and crossing again. When putting it all together, it may help to think rhythmically “spread eagle, cross, grapevine” over and over.

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