Many people skate with legs that are far too straight, simply because it’s the easy option. In the end this will leave you with all kinds of negative effects, such as severely limiting your top speed and reducing your ability to balance. On the other hand, having both proper posture and good knee bend will up the power you’re capable of putting to the ground, it’ll enable you improve your balance, grace, and flow, and it simply looks far better. How to bend your knees on skates is a guide to help you be the best skater you can be.

Good speed posture and knee bend

Good speed posture and knee bend

This article is aimed mostly at those wanting to skate faster, more like speedskaters, though it’s clear that many recreational skaters also need to bend their knees more.

Proper posture

Just in shoes or bare feet, practice skating posture:

  • Whilst standing, raise your toes off the ground and wiggle them. This way you should have weight just in your heels and the balls of your feet, with perhaps a slight emphasis towards the heel/rear of the foot.
  • Now place your palms on your upper thighs, with completely straight arms.
  • Slowly slide your hands down the front of your thighs until the palms of your hands cover your kneecaps.
  • At the same time make sure your arms stay straight and are vertical. This will mean bending your ankles, your knees, and your hips.
  • Go down a little further, until your wrists touch your kneecaps.
  • Now make sure your shoulders are rounded (slouching), and your lower back is slightly arched like an angry cat’s by sucking in your tummy muscles. Another way of feeling this is to rotate your lower pelvis forwards and upwards.
  • You should have a feeling of “bum down, chin up”, with lots of knee bend, and your arms must be vertical!
  • Feel where your body weight is focused – it should be at the 2/3rds position of your foot, measuring from the front. This slight rearward bias is correct for normal forwards skating.
  • Bill Begg calls this knees over toes, and hips over ankles. Alternatively, “Sitting on the white throne.”

Now get used to this on your skates, practice until you feel balanced and comfortable.

Doing it incorrectly

Incorrect posture – shins too straight, bent too much at the hips. Not enough ankle or knee bend.

Incorrect posture - here the lower back is straight instead of slightly rounded

Incorrect posture – here the lower back is straight instead of slightly rounded

General Recreational Skating

The posture shown above is about right for speed skating, but is perhaps a little low for general cruising around and street skating. To modify this for rec. skating, adopt the same approach as above, but slide your hands down your thighs until your fingertips are touching your knees.

A good recreational knee bend and posture.

A good recreational knee bend and posture.

You’ll see lots of skaters, even advanced skaters, standing around quite straight legged. That’s fine whilst relaxing and chatting to mates, but don’t do that when you’re working on tricks or skating to go somewhere quickly. It isn’t always evident quite how much the good skaters do bend their knees when working in their skills, especially when they are wearing baggy trousers.

How to improve your knee bend?

Set yourself little goals to work on, such as:

  • Pick another skater of similar height, and try to skate a little lower than they are at a training session.
  • When skating up and down the Serpentine, for example, each time you pass the Dell restaurant, go to a super low posture and skate as far as the third boathouse in that low posture. Then come back up and skate normally again, and skate low every time you pass that particular section. Discipline yourself to do something like this for a few minutes every time you put on skates. Don’t try to skate fast at this point, just keep it slow and smooth, feeling for good control and balance.
  • Treat knee bend a little like the accelerator pedal of your car. Each time you want to go fast, go low first before feeding in the power.
  • Go to the gym and work on squats. Make sure you do this under professional supervision though, as it’s easy to use poor technique and injure yourself.
  • Be prepared to accept a little suffering. Good suffering, as in exercise and the resulting training response from your body, rather than injury pain.

Be careful though, as although your muscles will quickly adapt to the lower skating posture, you shouldn’t do too much too quickly. Always be aware of your body and what you know you’re capable of, and only do tiny increases in exercise volume/intensity each week. Back off at any sign of strain and allow your body enough rest and recovery. Remember that your muscles will grow and adapt more quickly than connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons will, so take extra time and work towards your goals slowly and carefully.

Lastly, please remember that the best approach of all is to get advice from your own coach or local instructor. They will be able to see what you can’t easily see yourself – your body position. Most people have at least a little difficulty in correctly translating the feel of their own body position to what is actually correct.