Sk8Strong Monthly Newsletters > Nov. newsletter and Breakdown of Layback Spin
Nov. newsletter and Breakdown of Layback Spin

Nov 1, 2009

Sk8Strong is providing you with a sample spin skill analysis this month, the "Breakdown of the Layback Spin". The full collection of skill analyses is available to Sk8Strong members, and individual skill analyses are available in our catalog. Before you get to your skill analysis, we have several updates for you!

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Breakdown of the Layback Spin
Lauren Downes MSPT

Lower Extremities/Spine: Flexibility: The layback spin is a skating element that requires significant flexibility to create an appealing position. When a skater enters a spin, there is a certain amount of knee, hip, and ankle bend that is needed. The more a skater bends, the more force will be generated to create momentum in a spin. The ankle must have sufficient dorsiflexion (lifting of the toes and foot) to bend the skating boot. Flexibility at this joint is achieved by stretching the gastroc (calf) muscle. At the hip joint, flexibility of the gluteals and hamstrings allow the trunk to bend forward without rounding of the spine. As the freeleg comes around, the adductors (inner thigh muscles), piriformis (hip rotator) and iliopsoas (hip flexor) need flexibility to allow the hip joint to rotate freely in its socket. Greater flexibility of the hip allows for a wider arc of movement of the freeleg, creating more spinning momentum. To achieve the correct arc of the spine, the skater needs to balance the weight of the leg going behind the body and the head and upper spine leaning back by shifting the hips forward. Flexibility of the iliopsoas is necessary to allow the hips to shift anteriorly. Because of the attachment of the iliopsoas to the lower joints of the spine, greater flexibility will take pressure off of the spine and reduce spinal compression during the spin. On the freeleg side, a skater needs sufficient flexibility from the iliopsoas and the adductor (inner thigh) muscles, and enough joint mobility in the hip to turn the hip outward. The joint mobility is controlled by the joint capsule, and most skaters are born with a certain position of the hip. Improvements can be made in the amount of joint rotation, yet the hip ligaments will only allow a certain degree of motion to occur. A skater must also have sufficient joint mobility throughout the spine. Ideally, a skater should have equal extension from each spinal segment, yet all spines are not created equal! Some skaters have limitations in certain segments, whether it be from the lumbar (lower) or thoracic (middle) spine. When looking at a skater’s spine during a layback spin, look for a symmetrical rounding of the spine. If there is a ‘straight’ section, a skater’s spine is most likely not meant to bend that way at those segments. The extension shouldn’t be forced, as it could cause inflammation in the spinal segments. If a skater lacks spinal extension, it is important to work on the iliopsoas and adductor flexibility to compensate for this problem. Also look for other positions (side layback) that may better fit the skater’s body type.

Lower Extremities/Spine: Strength: Power and strength of the lower extremities are necessary for momentum and endurance of a spin. Upon entrance to the spin, the gluts,
quads, and hip stabilizers on the spinning leg are active to create power. As the freeleg comes around, its adductor and psoas muscles are the primary force resisting the centrifugal force of the spin. The stronger these muscles are, there is better force production against the air, causing a faster spin. When the skater rises from the knee before entering the layback position, the quads and gluts further activate to extend the
hip and knee. As the freeleg extends, the gluts and hip abductors and rotators are active to maintain the freeleg position in a turned out position. Weakness will result in a dropped freeleg. The abdominals must be strong to control the movement of the core, as this is the ‘control center’ of the body during the spin. Strong abdominals also help to square the pelvis if necessary and prevent excessive lateral movement during a side-bend position. In a ‘haircutter’ variation of the layback, the hamstrings contract to flex the knee to allow for thee grab of the blade. Weakness may result in a hamstring muscle cramp. Once in position, the upper extremity strength is the primary focus.

Upper Extremities: Strength and Flexibility: Strength and flexibility deficits don’t really play a big part in a layback spin, unless you are doing a ‘haircutter’. For this variation, the biceps activate to pull the blade toward the head. Also indirectly important is strength in the rotator cuff of the shoulder. Reaching for the blade puts the shoulder at an odd angle, and can stress the rotator cuff, which stabilizes the shoulder joint. If the rotator cuff is weak, it may develop tendonitis if this spin is practiced excessively.


Muscles to stretch: Psoas, adductors, abdominals
Muscles to strengthen: gluts, hamstrings, hip abductors, hip rotators, abdominals
Joints to mobilize: hip and spine