Axel Preparation: Exercises and tips for landing an axel?

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Hello, everyone. So I'm finally reaching a major milestone in learning how to skate, learning the axel. Before I start attempting it, I was wondering if anyone had any tips on how to get an axel and could breakdown the process of actually doing one.
 

Clarice

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My first suggestion is to learn this with a coach. You do not want to set up any bad habits that will need to be unlearned later. The prep exercises will involve back spins, waltz jumps into back spins, waltz-loop combinations, perhaps bell jumps, and something called a once-around. Full disclosure: I don't do axels. I had done the prep exercises, but kept bailing on learning the jump because of work-related fear (I'm a professional musician, and couldn't risk the falls and potential injuries coming into important performances). Now I ice dance exclusively, so I'm very unlikely to ever work on axels again.
 

gkelly

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Definitely work with a coach. If possible one who can put you in a harness after some preparatory exercises, when you are almost ready to try for the full jump on your own.

The hardest part is transferring your weight from the takeoff side to the landing side while you're in the air.

Which is why the half-axel/bell jump might not be that useful because you can do that without ever really shifting your axis.

I got a beginner axel at 14, quit, and tried to get it back when I came back to skating in my 30s. It wasn't until I started private lessons again that I succeeded (for a few years; it's long gone again and now I don't jump at all any more).

@Clarice, what's the difference between that and "once-around"?
 

Clarice

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@Clarice, what's the difference between that and "once-around"?
You know what, they might be exactly the same thing. I was wondering even as I was typing it. It's been so long since I worked on the things, and different coaches call things by different names. My old freestyle coach had me do a thing that went around once and landed forward like a bunny hop. She called that a half axel. My daughter has her students do what she calls a once-around, which seems to be pretty much the same thing, except they land on two feet. I hated that forward landing. Would you describe what you call a bell jump?
 

gkelly

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Would you describe what you call a bell jump?
The same thing, landing on left toepick and right forward inside edge (counterclockwise). I.e., landing like a bunny hop. My childhood coach called it half-axel but I'd also heard it called bell jump.

I was able to do that again on my own when I started trying again at 30-something. But I was rotating around the takeoff (left) side of my body. Relearning to rotate around the landing side took coaching.

Although what really gave me the breakthrough was trying to do an axel-flying sitspin without sitting -- the jump into backspin exercise. However I was curling the takeoff edge into the circle instead of jumping out, which is why it was never more than a beginner axel and would surely earn at least < call in IJS.

romanovasrose will probably want to aim for better quality.
 

antmanb

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I'll share an exercise I got at an adult skate camp a few years ago when they were doing axel prep exercises.

It was basically doing a waltz jump landed with the leg held forwards and an immediate RBO twizzle and check out to landing position. The idea was to land in what they called the "h" position (so called because the position with the free knee up and leg hanging resembles a lower case "h") with the free hip nice and high strong knee up (to really get you over that right side), and then progress to landing in the "d" position - free leg more closed in - closer to the back spin position with ankles crossed and quicker twizzle and check out.

That was the precursor exercise to waltz jump-backspin.

I struggled to even do the twizzle with the leg in front so I didn't try any harder exercises.
 

Theoreticalgirl

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I agree with @Clarice and @antmanb—please learn this jump with a coach. Not only can they break down technique and its theoretical aspects, it's good to have someone watching your jump attempts to identify the specific errors you make.

In addition to working with your coach, I would recommend having a look at the videos on iCoachSkating.com (subscription service). A lot of the exercises mentioned here are detailed there, along with more theory, plus you have the benefit of watching something as it's being explained.

The h position exercises are great. One thing that's worth mentioning is that when doing the h, it's important to stand tall and not let the core collapse. Related to this exercise is doing a backspin, then right before your exit, jump up with the leg in the h shape, land, check out. It helps replicate the rotation of the axel, plus all that leg crossing goodness that evades a lot of skaters. I learned it at 7K, but my understanding is that it comes from Frank Carroll. (Also, it's good practice for 2Lo's.)
 

Aceon6

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FWIW, an older coach at my old rink thought that the up-then-rotate technique worked better for older/larger skaters who just wanted a decent single. He advised spending time on hurdling technique so that the jump could be as high as possible. Obviously, rotating sooner is needed for doubles and triples, but the delayed singles do look awesome!
 

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