“What is the correct body position (from the waist up) for backwards skating at medium speed?” – Fernando Lospi
Fernando, this is a GREAT question and one which is confusing because when you look around at all the people skating backwards medium fast (and let’s be honest there isn’t a massive amount of them) you see many different options, styles and upper body movements going on. It’s hard to notice what really works best and what you should be aiming for.
The principles for skating backwards are very similar for skating forwards (knees bent, weight on the balls of the feet and upper body upright). With your heels lighter, you will be more easily able to steer going backwards and this is the first trick to master so that you progress safely.
Looking where you are going is essential to skating backwards at medium speed so the ability to turn your upper body and head will determine how much of the road ahead you see clearly. Aim to turn the shoulders up to a max of 90 degrees sideways and the neck can then turn the remainder, however much your flexibility will allow.
Being more upright will allow you to twist your upper body more easily, so this is the main reason why the upper body should be upright when skating backwards.
In this photo you can see a relaxed backward stance but the body position is upright with the shoulders turned less than 90 degrees. The head isn’t turned as much as it can be (I think I was talking to someone at my side). Notice the cruising Scissor position (one skate in front of the other) which allows for safely going over cracks and other surface irregularities.
The danger of leaning forwards from the waist when skating backwards is that it usually creates a straightening of the knees (as the body acts as a series of levers). In this YouTube video tutorial I explore this idea of the link between leaning forwards and knee bend (which is identical forwards and backwards), so it’s worth watching this if you don’t already know and understand how forwards lean affects knee bend.
So, whenever possible while skating backwards focus on a good knee bend and an upright upper body while you twist as much as possible to see where you are going.
However, when your speed increases to medium high and high speed there is some advantage gained by leaning the upper body VERY slightly forwards. This adds a feeling of
safety particularly if the surface isn’t perfectly smooth. But beware that your lean forwards has not affected your good deep knee bend, otherwise you are now in a less than safe option (and at high speed, and backwards)! So a tiny bit of lean is ok as long as your knees are still good.
In this photo I am going about 6 times faster than the previous picture and I’m about to pull into a backwards crossover. The body is leaning forwards slightly but this is in response to the bad surface. My support knee (my right) has a good knee bend so the lean forward has not sacrificed the knee bend.
So, how do you know if your lean forward is too much? Ask a friend to take your photo while you skate backwards (or video) and then analyse your body’s inclination and your knee bend. The lean forwards should never be lower than 45 degrees, that’s a good guide.
I hope this helps sort out your backwards skating. You are right to pay attention to the upper body. It’s not all about the feet!
Please let me know in the comments below what effect changing your upper body position had on your backwards skating. I’d really love to know.
Keep your questions coming and I’ll try and answer as many as I can.