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Concept of this method

Method C is about "leg-back-against-boot-cuff":

Angle the whole leg backward, which forces the bones of the lower leg to press the inside rear of the high cuff of the skate boot backward and downward -- with the force to hold the leg straight coming mainly from the hip-extensor muscles.

Key steps to make this method effective

Basic level

Purpose: To press the brake pad strongly against the ground, and transfer weight from the braking skate's wheels to the brake pad, while maintaining stable balance.

Strategy: Use pressure thru the back of the lower leg, supported by the big leg muscles. Learn stable balance thru progressive exercises.

(1) Find out if the design of your boot-wheelframe-brake configuration is a reasonable candidate for trying this method.

Typically if the skate did not come in the box with the heel-brake already attached when you first bought it, then it's not a candidate for this method.

(2a) Find a safe learning and practice environment.

(2b) Look at some videos of how this method is supposed to look when it works.

(2c) Find an experienced instructor who understands and can demonstrate this method.

(3) Balance:  Learn to roll gliding forward with the braking foot fully out in front of the non-braking foot. (a) first with all wheels of the braking skate on the ground, then (b) with only the rear wheel of braking skate (and all wheels of the non-braking skate) on the ground, then (c) with the front skate tilted back far enough so the brake pad touches -- rolling with both the rear wheel and the brake pad touching the ground (and all wheels of the non-braking skate on the ground).

Often called the "scissor" position -- several websites and books give tips and exercises for how to learn it -- see these resources.

(4) Knee backward: With the braking skate fully out in front, tilted back with its rear wheel and brake pad touching the ground, move the braking leg's knee backward and downward. Press the back of the lower leg against the inside of the back of the high cuff of the skate boot. Since the back of the boot is stiff, this presses the brake pad harder against the ground, which normally causes stronger quicker stopping.

Adjust balance to compensate for the force of the braking foot slowing down, so don't fall over forward.

More pressure thru the lower leg backward against the inside of cuff, stronger stopping (if you don't change anything else in your body position).

(5) Hip-Knee relationship: Braking leg's knee joint extended to as straight as possible.

The hip joint is connected to the knee by the upper leg bone, so if the knee goes backward, the braking leg's hip must also go backward and downward. But "sitting back" with the hip is just a necessary side-effect of the lower leg with knee move -- the hip move doesn't actually help braking. So the hip and upper leg should move backward no further than required by the lower leg with knee move. The way to do this is to keep the braking let as straight as possible thru its knee joint.

(6) Verify that the design of your boot-wheelframe-brake configuration really works for this method.

Enhanced level

Purpose: To increase maximum braking force when especially needed:  Transfer more weight off from the non-braking skate onto the brake pad, without much of that transfer going to the rear wheel of the front skate instead of the brake pad. The lower percentage of the skater's weight is supported by any wheels on the front or rear skate, then the more weight is pressing down on the brake pad, and (normally) the stronger and quicker the stopping.

Strategy: Bring more body parts (other than the braking leg's knee) forward and upward -- but not so far forward that significantly more weight goes on the braking skate's wheel instead of the brake pad (also make sure not to actually fall over forward if there's sudden unexpected additional braking friction). Learn balance more precise and more stable.

(1) Bring the shoulders forward.

Try comparing stopping with shoulders high and erect directly over the hips versus shoulders leaned forward: Can you feel the difference in the quickness of stopping?

(2) Bring the arms and hands forward and up.

Try comparing stopping with arms hanging down by hips and shoulders high and erect directly over the hips, versus hands and arms and shoulders way forward: Can you feel the difference?

Maybe not: there's such a thing as too much weight forward. Play around with finding out where bringing hands and arms and shoulders forward (and up) doesn't seem to make the stopping quicker and stronger -- or even makes the stopping weaker. No point in doing extra work which is not effective.

(3) Keep the braking leg's hip forward and up as much as possible by keeping the knee joint extended close to straight.

Try comparing stopping with knee bent less versus knee bent more versus knee straight. What's the difference?

(4) Keep focused on driving the knee backward and downward to press the lower leg strongly against the inside back of the boot cuff. This means that the hip must keep driving backward and downward.

Mental image: Try to "dig" the brake pad into the ground so strongly that the braking skate's rear wheel comes all the way up off the ground. (I'm not sure if physically raising the wheel off the ground delivers more braking force -- or if it's even possible with some skate designs. But the mental image of trying to do that might help increase braking force -- another thing to play with.

(5) Contradiction of moves: Get comfortable with getting the shoulders forward (and partly up), at the same time you're driving the knee and hip down and backward.

The apparant contradiction might not be just apparent -- there might be a real trade-off here: So play with what variations in position produce more or less stopping power. Apart from analysis of trade-offs in the objective physics, my personal experience is that it's more important to keep my conscious mental focus on pressing the lower leg to "dig" the brake pad.

Why not "keep it simple" by just focusing on one thing: getting weight forward over the brake pad? Because just bringing weight forward tends to put more of it on the braking skate's rear wheel instead of on the brake pad. It's usually easy to transfer weight forward from the non-braking skate to the braking skate. It's normally hard to transfer a substantial percentage of weight off from the braking skate's rear wheel onto the brake pad.

(6) Balance: Feel and play with the balance -- how far forward you can move more body parts -- how little weight you can leave pressing on the rear non-braking skate -- what's really effective for stronger stopping and what isn't.

(7) Quickness: Practice quicker initiation of the braking position and moves from the midst of normal skating strides.

When the unexpected happens and you really need a quick stop, it's not enough to know how to apply maximum friction thru the brake pad. Because you don't get that maximum friction power helping you until you get into position and actually start doing it. Every moment of delay before starting the actual braking takes you closer to the thing you don't want to hit.

Practice quickness. Practice from your normal skating striding speed. Then practice to get quick confident initiation of strong braking from your normal striding speed on a gentle downhill (in an environment with a safe flat run-out below the downhill). Also practice to get quick confident initiation from coasting down hills (with a safe flat run-out below) of steepness that you want to be able to handle in your skating tours.

expert "precision" level

Purpose: Precise positioning of body for maximum focus of body weight on the brake pad, minimun on the any of the wheels of the real or front skate.

This is only important for maximum stopping power -- something most skaters should rarely need. It's much more important to practice to be able execute an imperfect stopping position quickly and confidently and reliable, than to spend lots of time refining body position.

Strategy: Learn to stop with all the rear skate's wheels lifted off the ground.

(1) Expert's balance drill: Play with lifting the rear skate all the way off the ground.

Perhaps can work toward this by steps: Of course first have to be complete solid and confident rolling on one skate without any braking. For braking, could first try with feeling reduced weight on rear skate. Or play with only the rear skate's toe wheel on the ground while heel-braking. At last try lifting the skate just a little ways off the ground, so you can immediately confidently set it down again if you need to.

(2) Expert's body position tuning: Hands and arms and shoulders no further forward (or up) than necessary to just barely get all the rear skate's wheels up off the ground.

Find the upper body configuration which accomplished that and feels most controllable and comfortable.

(3) In real world stopping, it's not critical whether the rear skate is all the way off the ground or down rolling with small percentage of weight on it.

If having the rear skate on the ground helps you feel confident to "dig" the heel-brake more strongly into the ground, that's the more important thing.

If you are devoting any conscious energy to keeping your foot off the ground, then it's probably not worth it. Put your energy into digging the brake pad into the ground stronger and "deeper", and watching for the unexpected.

If you do have the the rear foot in the air, probably good to keep it close to the ground -- ready to immediately support you and initiate a recovery move in case something unexpected happens.

Equipment

Equipment is the big crux for this method.

If you don't have a cuff on your boot -- like most serious racing boots -- then you can't use this method.

Even if you do have a cuff which is high enough, there has to be some stiff structure joined with the rear of the cuff to block the cuff from moving too far backward, and to transmit the backward-downward force to rear bottom of the boot and the brake pad -- so most of this force is transmitted by the structure of the boot, not your tendons. But also padded enough so the edge of cuff doesn't gouge skin, etc.

Sometimes if there's a large vertical brake-pad-to-ground gap, you'd have to be virtually sitting on the ground in order to make the cuff apply substantial force to the brake.

Balance

The key is to angle the leg backward far enough so it applies substantial pressure on the inside rear of the boot cuff, without requiring much transmission thru tendons or muscles. How much angle depends on the boot design (and how worn is the brake pad). But usually it requires "sitting back + down" a good ways. Unless you have quadriceps muscles made of steel, that means moving the rear skate way back to get it underneath to support the weight of the "seated" upper body. So it's a very extended "scissor" position -- but at least much of the weight is focused on a skate with all its wheels on the ground. Seems to me that this is easier balance to learn than for method B.

Strength required

Takes some isometric strength in hip-extensor muscles (e.g. gluteus maximus) to hold the leg straight. Also isometric strength in the knee-extensor muscles(e.g. quadriceps) to sit back low. If perform a method C stop many times in one day, perhaps takes some "skin toughness" to not abrade the back of lower calf against the boot cuff.

Interactions with other methods

Often doesn't work as well when used simultaneous with other methods, so often used in sequence with them, as the final phase of the stop.

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more . . .

see also

back to Top | Resources | formulas | more Heel-Brake | more Stopping