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Heel-Brake | more Stopping
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
Key steps to make this method effective
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
(1) Find out if the design of your
boot-wheelframe-brake configuration is a reasonable candidate for trying
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
(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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
back to Top |
| formulas | more
Heel-Brake | more Stopping
back to Top |
| formulas | more
Heel-Brake | more Stopping