Figure skating is an exciting winter sport that the mass majority of people look forward to watching every 4 years during the Olympic games.
The speed, power, skill, and technique required to perform a flawless routine is what keeps us glued to our screens.
There are mutiple jumps that a skater must perform to sway the judges their way and help propel them to the podium.
Reaching the pinnacle of competitive figure skating is not easy and it requires years of commitment and dedication to master all the fundamentals (elements)
Practice Your Axel Jump At Home With Your Own PolyGlide Synthetic Ice Panels
Then you can move on to the most advanced moves, like figure skating jumps.
The axel is undoubtedly one of the jumps you will learn on your figure skating journey but it will NOT be the first one on your list!
Are you ready for an axel?
A jump is a standard move executed in figure skating competitions where the skater must leap into the air, rotate, and land on one foot in a "checked" position.
There are several jumps named after past skaters, however, only the following six are recognized and scored in competitions:
- Toe Loop
- The Flip
When a skater performs a jump, they take off from one of the edges on the blade (called an edge jump) or they use the toe pick to help launch into the air (a toe jump.)
The type of jump is determined by this factor along with the leg they land on and the general position of the body before the jump (forward or backward facing).
The axel is mentioned last for a reason as it's a great jump that signals a huge accomplishment for any figure skater.
It was originally created by Norwegian figure skater Axel Paulsen in 1882.
It's a "forward-facing" jump (the only of its kind) and takes off using the outside edge of one foot, then lands on a backward outside edge of the other foot.
To complete the jump, the skater must rotate 1.5 times while in the air.
In most all competitions, the axel is a mandatory jump, with some events requiring a double or triple axel during the routine.
Successfully landing an axel does wonders for your final score in a competition, making it a major focus in training.
Why is the axel jump so difficult?
Landing any jump is difficult, requiring several years of training (with many, many falls) and most figure skaters will agree that landing an axel is the most difficult of all jumps.
Even some of the best skaters have a hard time executing the jump as it requires full control and use of your entire body from takeoff to landing.
You'll also need to nail the timing while performing an extra half jump which takes skill, talent and patience to develop.
Axels also require confidence as you need to jump higher, shift your gravity, and land opposite to how you started leading into the jump.
How do you do an axel?
Before you hit the axel, it’s recommended you become proficient in the other jumps first, including beginner jumps like the Waltz jump.
An axel can be broken down into four main stages:
- The Lead up: You’ll need to generate enough speed to land an axel (although beginners should start from a standing position). Start skating and turn into a forward-facing position. Move to the left outside edge if you’re taking off clockwise and switch legs counterclockwise.
- The Take off: Bend your knee and take off from the standing leg. The trailing leg should extend as far back as possible. Take off from the standing leg, swing the trailing leg, arms, and opposite shoulder as you move into the first half revolution of the jump.
- The jump: Draw in your arms and cross the legs as tight as possible to complete the necessary revolutions.
- The landing: Stick the landing by landing on your opposite foot on the outside edge of the blade. Check out by extending your arms and the leg you took off from for a safe landing.
How long does it take to learn an axel jump?
It’s difficult to say how long it will take you to learn an axel as some skaters can learn it in a few weeks, while others take 1-2 years to land it properly.
There are several factors that impact your learning curve, including age, weight, skating skill, general talent, mindset, and much more.
As we previously mentioned, it’s important to get a good grasp on all the other jumps first before attempting an axel......we can't stress that enough!
This will give you a better chance to land the jump quickly as it often involves combining multiple moves into a single, fluid motion.
7 Figure skating tips to ace your axel [and other key moves]
The axel is just one of many moves you have to combine to become a competitive skater.
Acing your axel and other figure skating moves can feel daunting but you can become a better skater by using these tips:
1. Practice, practice, practice
It goes without saying that mastering figure skating (especially jumps) requires hours of practice.
Figure skating requires repetition, balance, foresight, and dexterity, all of which you can develop over time with practice.
It's easy to read here how to ace the axel jump, but you’ll only get better at it by hitting the ice and start training.
It helps to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and the steps you need to take to get there.
Once you understand the reason why you’re learning each move, you'll be able to implement it in practice.
From there, you can schedule your set practice and recovery days and be sure not to miss them.
It’s not about what you know but how well you can apply your knowledge, and that only comes with practice! (and a lot of falling ;-)
2. Get an axel coach
Many figure skaters have coaches and teachers to help them master the basics of skating, spins, and routines.
An axel requires a combination of specific skills and you can make significant progress with extra lessons from a coach that’s known for their axels.
This could be also be virtual or in person.
The coach can look closely at your technique and help you clean it up, correct any bad habits, and give you extra homework to make you more explosive or more technical in your axels.
Additional coaching is vital when you’re moving to double axels or triple axels.
3. Get the right boots and blades
As you move up in skill, you’ll be attempting more moves that require more power, greater force, and more endurance.
You’ll need the right equipment to keep up with hitting axels, double axels, and other great moves.
Consider upgrading to higher quality boots without over-booting (where the boots are too stiff and never break in, making skating more difficult).
Riedell, Aura, and Jackson are great brands for intermediate skaters, while Edea ice skates are the gold standard for advanced skaters.
Always make sure that your skate blade is sharp with a deep hollow so you can "grip" the ice when taking off.
Ask your coach to get advise you on the best place where you can get your skates sharpened.
4. Work on individual parts of the jump
Axels combine some of the essential moves into a fluid movement and any one move can cause your jump to fail.
A skating coach can identify which moves can help you improve your axel and break it down for you so you can work on those.
For instance, Coach Michele Hong recommends skaters work on Bunny Hops, Waltz jumps, Back Scratches, and gliding on outside edges to get your axel down.
Once you ace the single, you can move on to the double or triple!
5. Work on your flexibility and balance
Axels require you to contort your body while taking off on one leg, then landing on the other.
Working on your flexibility and balance is crucial for achieving your jumps. Stretches, Pilates, single-leg exercises, and using Bosu balls can significantly improve your balance and coordination.
Make sure to have enough off-ice days for flexibility and balance drills.
6. Improve your jump height
Landing a single axel requires more height than most other jumps as you need that extra half-turn to complete it.
Improving your jump means improving your axel.
Plyometric exercises to increase your vertical jump like squat jumps, jumping jacks, broad jumps, and box jumps.
7. Study the best
You'll notice that some of the world’s best skaters can pull off double and triple axels with ease and over time, their skill levels will only continue to get better.
Figure skaters often have contemporaries and opponents they admire with mutual respect.
Like a football player that studies film, studying their technique on landing axels is one of the best ways to see where you’re doing wrong.
Use YouTube or past recordings of performances to learn different combinations and fine details to make yourself a better jumper!
If you see something that contradicts your coaching, get clarification from your coach before attempting it on your own.
8. Visualization matters
Landing your axel has a lot to do with skill but a big part of it is believing that you can land the move.
Be sure to take some time before each training session to visualize yourself doing the jump.
The fact that the jump is difficult can make you feel uneasy before trying it for the first time.
It's important to cultivate a positive mindset that wil help you ace your axel!
Adding the Axel jump to your routine is a mandatory part of your skating journey.
You’ll need it once you decide to be competitive, and learning it takes time, strength, discipline, and consistency.
You can even do off-ice axel spins to make sure you get the mechanics down.
Remember to practice these jumps from a standing position first before adding speed.
Remember that the earlier struggles you go through today are worth the success you achieve several months from now.
Keep persevering and you’ll ace your axel in no time!