jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Torquing vs. twerking


I have been making steady improvement on the forward outside three turn front, but I still have those moments when I do the three-turn equivalent of the “waxel” (for those of you who don’t skate, this is an unsuccessful axel jump that takes off and then goes insanely wrong).

I have two ways of analyzing these spectacularly failed threes. I’ll write about the first here, and the next in the coming week.

I’ve been thinking about my problems on the three turn primarily as a failure to line up my body correctly over my skate, especially on the left side. Up until fairly recently, I was skating with a dropped free side and my skating hip sticking into the circle to counterbalance.

Any core rotation I could muster would just aggravate this difficult position. I was stuck, like that poor duck in the muck (from the children’s book by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Jane Chapman).

Now, I’m happy to report, I’m much more aligned. But at times I still have issues with how to twist my upper body in preparation for the three. My twist sometimes happens from the shoulders rather than from the core. If you picture a perfect three (this diagram is from The Fun of Figure Skating by Maribel Vincent Owen), the spine turns right over the hip.


On my less-than-perfect threes, my shoulders and arms turn, but the rest of me doesn’t. I think I developed this exquisitely balanced but wrong technique because of my hip misalignment and related back issues. I literally couldn’t twist through my spine and remain over my skate. Instead, I would lean forward slightly from the upper body and let my skating hip go back, like a very antiquated bow.

It may look courtly on him, but not on me!


In addition to looking very awkward on ice, this requires a lot more force to actually turn the free side around the skating side. Moreover, this force went to waste! My body would travel around my skating foot (axis) rather than right over it. Thus any energy I got on the push going in would not travel through the three turn, but be dissipated around it.

Correct three turns do not require a lot of rotational force (torque). But if you do them incorrectly, as I was doing, you wind up having to put additional force into your shoulders and arms (and free side) in order to turn. This force, moreover, doesn’t translate into power and speed coming out of the the turn; instead, the force has to be absorbed by all kinds of additional hip action just to try to pull everything together.

This extraneous hip action can be expressed in movements similar to that of twerking, in which the pelvis is rotated back and then forward. Lovely. But twerking is usually done on two feet with the knees bent and turned out (so I’ve heard). It is definitely incompatible with my three turns!


As that poor duck says, “Help! Help! Who can help?”


If you read the book, you’ll know that the duck has increasing numbers of animal allies: fish, moose, possums, and the like. If you read this blog, you’ll know that I have quite a lot of allies as well. At some point I will have to enumerate them, with illustrations: my version of One Jo Stuck. Till then we’ll just have to use our imaginations.

Help! Help! Who can help?

We can! We can!

Spluck! (That was my three turn.)

Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

2 thoughts on “Torquing vs. twerking

  1. My coach’s newest piece of advice for me is “less is better.” She doesn’t want to see any upper body movement on turns because it is wasted energy and more prone to mistakes and misalignment. Same on the 3-turns. Before you turn, you need to set your upper body up so that after the hip and lower body complete the turn, the upper body doesn’t move. It is almost like your body plays “follow the leader” where the upper body sets up and stays and then the lower body follows a short second later.


  2. Great advice from your coach–I like the “follow the leader” idea! Thanks!


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