General Training Principles
“..An athlete is a trained individual who excels in a particular form of physical activity following a period of extensive physical and psychological training. Training is usually defined as a systematic process of repetitive, progressive exercise which also involves the learning processes and has the ultimate goal of improving the athlete’s systems and functions in order to optimize athletic performance.

The key to improvement in athletic performance is a well-organized system of training. A training program must follow the concept of periodization, be well-planned and structured and be sport-specific so as to cause the athlete’s energy systems to adapt to the particular requirements of the sport.”

Technique is critically important in figure skating. All figure skating skills are complex; the ability to perform them largely a function of the central nervous system. Strength and flexibility alone do not improve skills, they are tools that allow skaters to acquire a better neural adaptation to training. Since the central nervous system as well as the muscles fatigue with training, rest and recovery must be built into the training plan.

Training is a form of stress. It disrupts homeostasis, the body’s strong preference to remain unchanged, which causes the body to adapt in order to respond to future demands with less disruption. If the training, a form of stress, is consistently and correctly applied the body will adapt in a positive way. If the stress is applied improperly or inconsistently (or both) the body will either not adapt at all or may adapt in a negative way.

Coaches facilitate a positive adaptation by prescribing drills that adhere to the following commonly accepted Principles of Training.

1. PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD. Training is achieved by manipulating the application of the training load- a
   combination of intensity and volume. An increase in either over time produces adaptation to the specific 
   exercise activity promoting physiological improvement. Volume and intensity are mutually exclusive. Both
   are not possible simultaneously. This is one of the main reasons for periodizing training. (see

2. SPECIFICITY. Any sport, including figure skating, places specific demands on the body:
      a) A very specific pattern of joint and muscle co-ordination.
      b) A very specific adaptation of the cardiovascular system to the specific  activity. For example, bicycle
          training will not maximize performance on a treadmill or on ice, etc.
      c) Local improvements in the particular muscle trained for a specific activity do not generalize to all
          muscle fibres. Even when the same limb is used, performance in other exercises may be lower than

3. VARIABILITY. Even though figure skating is considered a closed sport- the scope of the sporting
    performance is known before the event- proficiency in a wider variety of movements than those
    contained in the performance can improve agility and general co-ordination, reduce the risk of injury and
    help form the foundation for the continuing technical and artistic development of the skater.
SPECIFICITY/VARIABILITY CONTINUUM. Both specificity and variability must be respected in
        training even though they represent opposite ends of the spectrum. Since training cannot be both
        simultaneously they must be represented sequentially in the yearly plan.

When Variability Takes Precedence:
       -beginning of a training cycle
       -following rehabilitation
       -beginning of an athletic career regardless of age

When Specificity Should Dominate:
      -advanced or experienced athletes
      -when an athlete is trying to peak


“... Not all individuals will respond to an equivalent training stimulus to the same degree or at the same
rate. We are all different genetically and training programmes need to be individualized”

5. REVERSIBILITY. De-conditioning can occur rapidly when training ceases.

Regardless of the stream in which a skater participates his training should respect these training principles. It should not be inferred that because a skater is not highly competitive  that it is not necessary for him to train properly. It is equally important that a skater with a reduced volume of training take full advantage of all available training time.


1 Bompa, Tudor: Power Training for Sports. Mosaic Press 1996 p.1
Rafoth, R. MD.