By: Gabriella DeBono

Photo Credit: Figure Skater Fitness Magazine

We’ve been talking a lot about muscle memory and jumping on our social media platforms lately, but what exactly is “muscle memory”? For starters, muscle memory has less to do with your muscles than the idea suggests. Although being able to produce power, maintain your rotating position, and stick your landings is important, when it comes to the coordination required to complete two, three, or four revolutions in the air it’s your brain that’s calling the shots.

Mind Over Muscle

Your brain is the control centre of your entire body and is divided into different regions that are responsible for different tasks. When these regions interact, like during jumps and spins, neural pathways are created.

Note: For simplicity’s sake, we’ll be talking about neural pathways in the context of movement.

Neural pathways are connections between brain regions that help send signals down your spinal cord to deliver messages to your muscles– telling them what to do and in what order to fire. When you learn new skills, you are creating new connections and physically changing the make-up of your brain! Mastering a new jump or spin takes time because in order for new neural pathways to be created and strengthened, they have to be used.

Visualization and Off-ice training

A balance between sport specific off-ice training and visualization is essential for creating good technical habits and strong neural pathways that will benefit your skating. For example: doing exercises that mimic the take-off of a jump will strengthen that specific pathway in your brain– translating to improved take-off skills on the ice. Seeing or feeling yourself perform specific skills is another way you can improve on-ice muscle coordination and keep your neural connections firing!

For more information on neural pathways and visualization you can visit the following websites:

https://medium.com/oxford-university/the-amazing-phenomenon-of-muscle-memory-fb1cc4c4726

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/attention-training/201612/improving-physical-movement-visualization

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What Flexafit founder Signe Ronka says about her attempt at a triple salchow and muscle memory:

12 years after finishing my competitive career, it’s a nice feeling to know that these jumps are still in muscle memory.

I can’t stress enough the important of off ice training. Every day I work on my own exercises that I teach the skaters with our program. I can really say I felt the difference on the ice today with speed, power, quick rotation and height.

Keep up your training skaters and take every day seriously. Know that your off ice training is the backbone to your on ice success!

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