Figure skating is more than putting on a pair of skates and gliding across the ice.
It’s much more than looking pretty and graceful to elicit the crowd's ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’.
As you progress, you'll quickly learn that there's more to it than meets the eye.
It’s commitment, grit, and learning the inner workings of every move, down to how you should use your blades on the ice.
For instance, you’ll learn your ice skate blades contain two edges with a hollow in between that can be sharpened to your preference.
Here's the 10 Best Figure Skates For Under $200 To Get You Started!
And to perform certain moves, like jumps, you'll need to use the inside and outside edges.
The ability to control these edges at will is one of the keys to elevating your jumps.
Let’s break down the importance of edges, how they help your jumps, and what you can do to gain more edge control.
What is an edge?
Figure skates contain sharp blades (not as sharp as a high-quality knife but still sharp enough to cut you) with two edges.
Think of the blade being split in two.
The inside edge is the side of the blade that faces the inside of your foot, between the legs.
The outside edge faces away from the body.
In between those edges is the hollow, a groove that’s carved into the middle of the blade.
The deeper the hollow, the sharper the edge.
This also determines the skater’s speed and the edge’s ‘bite’, which is how much the edge connects to the ice.
In other words, the deeper the edge, the faster, sharper, and cleaner your turns.
When you skate in a straight line, you’re using both edges.
Curves, turns, spins, and backward and forward movements all require leaning the blade, boot, leg, and hip to use the inside or outside edge, respectively.
In fact, the blade has 8 possible edges when you consider the skater’s feet, edges, and direction.
It must be noted that these are subtle shifts inside and outside rather than large, exaggerated movements.
Over time, as you generate speed and learn more moves, your edges get deeper as you lean more to one side or the other.
The edge also determines the skater’s control while being more efficient on the ice.
For instance, a coach will tell a skater to “hold on to their edge” to get more power or to move faster into a spin or jump.
Learning edge control is the next step in your skating journey that can take some time to master.
However, when you do get them under control, elevating your skating, including jumps, becomes easier.
Inside vs outside edges: How do you do it?
When you learn how to use edges, it can feel that you’ve been lied to with skating and edges are all you use.
Coaches will introduce the concept of edges from an early stage, especially if you get the basics covered.
In many cases, learning edges quickly and early is necessary if young skaters want to compete in tournaments or move up the ranks.
Adult figure skaters can learn edges, too if they're going to take their recreational skating up a notch.
Forward outside edges
You can skate forward using the outside edge of one of your skates.
The best way to do this on the ice is to use an imaginary line or find a hockey line on the ice to act as your center axis.
Start from one end of your imaginary axis.
The goal is to skate on one leg and create a semi-circle until you reach the other end of your line with the skate perpendicular to that line.
Start with skates in a ‘T’ position with the left leg, the long part of the T.
It should be at right angles to your line. (IF you’re using your right leg, you’ll need to turn your body in the opposite direction).
Your left arm should be extended straight ahead of you and your right arm away from you, forming an ‘L.’
Lean the left skate away from your body, bend your knees slightly, then push off with your right skate.
As you glide, you’ll be using the outside edge of your left skate.
When you make the half-circle, place the right skate down, turn your gliding foot open and push off again, switching to the other foot while switching arms.
Keep this rhythm to skate on your outside edge.
As you improve, you’ll do this faster, making curves and turns on the outside edge.
Forward inside edges
The inside edge takes on the same mechanics with some minor changes.
The right skate now comes forward with the inside edge leaning toward the axis.
The left skate will now be at right angles to this one.
Your arms do not change, meaning your body now establishes a cross pattern.
With the right skate leaning toward, push off with the left foot, bend your knee and push off with the left skate.
When you’re ready, or you begin to lose speed, put your right foot down, switch arms, and push off with the left skate.
Repeat this action, and you’ll be skating forward on the inside edge.
Backward outside edges
Now it’s time for backward inside and outside edges.
With all edges, you’ll be learning to move in a circular pattern (a lobe) with an axis as your guide.
It’s best to have your forward edges mastered before moving on to your backward edges.
The setup for backward edges starts with the gliding leg (your outside leg), perpendicular to the line.
Bring the other skate in front of you, less than shoulder width apart, turning the skate toward your outer leg, forming a ‘V’.
Turn the upper body slightly to face the direction you want to go, establishing the same arm position as the forward edges.
To skate, you’ll be leaning the outer leg away from you to establish an outside edge with the blade.
Bend both knees and push off the opposite leg away from the body, which propels you backward.
Once you start moving, keep your arms open to maintain balance.
Once you make your half circle, bring your feet and hands close to the body, switch feet, and push off again to establish a smooth skating rhythm backward on the outside edge.
Backward inside edges
Backward inside edges use similar starting positions with a few changes.
The starting position shifts the standing skate slightly into the body to establish an inside edge.
Place the opposite skate in front of you and turn it inward to form that inverted ‘V’ position.
Push away off the inside edge using the opposite to generate power by pushing that foot forward.
Shift your weight over to the gliding foot while your glide backward in the half-circle direction.
Switch your weight and foot over to continue skating. Backward inside edges can be tricky, so keep practicing.
Edge control tips
- Your ankle, hip, arm, and head positions are vital when you’re on edges. They should all be in a straight line so you don’t end up in another direction or lose your balance.
- Don’t swing your arms quickly or vigorously when switching legs. The upper body plays a big role in figure skating and swinging uncontrollably can cause falls.
- Once you take off and begin gliding, you must lean into your desired edge with the right body alignment. Over time, you can even do deep edges with a more exaggerated lean.
- Use the rink walls to practice your inside and outside edge positioning.
- Figure out which arm positioning feels natural so you can maintain your edges.
- When skating forward, try to get your weight on the middle back of the blade, switching it for backward skating. This is all about feel and comes with practice and experience.
Jumps: A crucial stage of figure skating
Once you have your edge work down, you’ll likely move on to learning the basic and advanced jumps of figure skating.
Jumps require the skater to leap off the ice, perform a revolution in the air, and land on one foot gracefully in a ‘check’ position.
There are 6 recognized jumps in competitions of all levels:
- Toe Loop
The best figure skaters master these jumps.
They can also do double, triple, and even quadruple turns in the air while performing these jumps.
Each jump has specific technical moves for it to be landed successfully.
What you’ll learn is that all jumps end with the skater landing on the inside edge or outside edge of a skate.
So learning to control your edges is a vital part of this sport.
What are edge jumps?
These 6 jumps can be split into toe jumps and edge jumps:
- Toe Jumps: These jumps use the toe pick of the opposite foot to generate the power to launch into the air. The Toe Loop, Flip, and Lutz are toe jumps.
- Edge jumps: The skater generates power by bending the knee and launching off the edge of the skate. The trailing foot cannot make contact with the ground at the point of the jump. The Loop, Salchow, and Axel are edge jumps.
The key to elevating your jumps is to have great edge control, even for the toe jumps as skaters perform jump combinations – two jumps performed back to back – and sequences that require nimble edgework.
How can you elevate your edges?
Great edge control when skating and jumping require practice.
Getting the basics right can take you a long way in your career. To get better edge control, consider the following:
Use a line in the ice
When we described how to do edges, everything started from an imaginary line.
However, if you can use an actual line in the ice, like a hockey line or curling line, you can improve your edge accuracy.
The line will also encourage you to hold your edge for as long as possible, which comes in handy later.
Consider ice dance
Is ice dancing different from figure skating?
Think of ballroom dancing, but on ice.
There is no triple axels or crazy overhead lifts.
Ice dancing is all about rhythm, grace, speed, and skating skills.
Most of the moves require you to have fantastic edge control, so it’s a terrific way to strengthen your edges for figure skating.
The work you do off the ice is as important as what you do on it.
You must schedule some time to strengthen your core and explosiveness.
Plyometric exercises are great for figure skaters.
As an ‘off-ice’ drill, you can also invest in a slideboard or synthetic ice to practice individual foot positioning.
Do Power Pulls (aka Edge Pulls)
This move constantly challenges you to change your edges while moving in a straight line along the ice.
They are typically done covering the entire length of the rink and can be performed forward and backward on two legs or one leg.
Try them on two feet first.
As you build up speed, keep your feet as close together as possible.
Then bend your knees and push into the ice while twisting your hands and upper body in the opposite direction.
Eventually, you can do this on one leg. It’s a great exercise to improve your edges.
You've got the edge
The better your edge control, the easier it will be to perform technical moves like jumps.
Edges challenge you to be precise and consistent, that’s why practice is important.
Once your edges are mastered, you can move on to jumps, taking your skating to the next level.
If you’re having difficulty improving your edges, talk to your coach about exercises you can do at home or consider extra lessons focusing on edge drills.
With patience and consistency, you’ll elevate all parts of your skating.