Get Rolling Logo

Inline Skating Newsletter Article

Technique: Mastering Swizzles

By Liz Miller

Forward swizzles are one of the best stroke-technique enhancers around because they reinforce the heel pressure and side-directed push that result in efficient and powerful skating. Backward swizzles are the gateway to inline hockey and artistic expertise.

Before you learn linked forward or backward swizzles, you need to understand the dynamics of using your center edges, the inside surface of your skate wheels. You may have already learned the A-Frame turn, which is the result of pressing against one skate's inside edges to round a corner.

Linked Forward Swizzles

Here is a systematic approach to learning forward swizzles.

  1. Heels out. Your first goal is just one well-executed forward swizzle push and glide so you can feel the power of correct skating propulsion. Starting from the V-Stance:
    • Heel wheels should be in contact with each other; stack most of your weight on your heels and push both knees forward into the space between the V.
    • Push your heels simultaneously out to the side to achieve forward movement.
    • Coast to a stop on straight legs.
    • Regroup your skates back under you and repeat.

  2. Steering. Learn the steering feeling standing in place, not rolling. Be sure to try it on both sides.
    • Stand with your skates several inches wider than shoulder width (called the A-Frame Stance).
    • Shift all of your weight over the left skate and assume a Ready Position above it. Now your right skate extends out to the side, tipped well onto its inside wheel edges.
    • Sweep the extended leg forward and steer the toe toward your midline.
    • Reverse and sweep it back, steering the heel wheel toward your midline behind.
    • Continue sweeping front to back with a loose ankle and tipped skate.
    • Swap sides and repeat.

  3. V StanceLinked Swizzles.
    • Starting from the V-Stance, perform the heels-out push to gain some forward momentum.
    • Immediately steer both toes into an A-Stance.
    • As both skates return to hip width, rotate your barely weighted toes outward and start a new heel push directly to the sides.
    • Repeat until you can start a second and then more swizzles from the narrow part of the stance.

  4. Sit between your heels. Pushing the heels out straightens your legs, so you must re-bend your knees before each push.
    • Just as you begin each new V-stance push from the narrowest part of your swizzle, drop your hips to re-bend your knees.
    • As your upper body drops down, as long as the weight is properly over your back wheels, your skates tip onto their inside edges.
    • The combined hip drop and heels-out push makes your skates "squirt" with extra momentum out to the sides. This creates the power part of your swizzles.
    • Try to build a rhythmic flow that does half of the work for you.
  • Troubleshooting Tips: At first you may be using your inner thighs to pull your legs back in. While that's a great toning exercise, try to gain a rhythmic "frog-kick" motion to take advantage of the momentum as you press the inside wheel edges and then steer your skates inward.
  • Stay on your inside edges so the skates will naturally arc back inward.
  • Become more assertive as you practice and then listen for the sound of your heel wheels as they scrub the pavement. That's the sound of power!

The Football Drill

Swizzles require symmetrical pressure against both skates' inside edges. The best way to feel this is by learning the Football Drill (aka Tic Toc, Drawing a Lemon). The Football drill is simply rolling back and forth to scribe a football shape with your wheels, and all you need is a square yard (about a meter) of pavement to practice it. By mastering this simple move, you integrate the stance, footwork and edging that results in basic forward and backward skating.

During the drill, keep your hands on your hips to keep them out of the action. Your head must remain directly over your hips and your torso upright, not leaning to keep your weight perfectly centered between your skates at all times. Your job is to keep that upper body posture while moving no matter what your skates are doing below.

1. Forward movement

Assume a V-Stance. Imagine your back wheels are planted across a line (see diagram below). Keeping your knees pressed together, bend them so they move slightly forward, tipping your skates onto their inside wheel edges.

To swizzle forward, push with equal pressure against both back wheels out along the line, without leaning forward. Push to the side and push with your heels. Your skates will eventually turn the corner and begin to return to center as long as they remain tipped inward and your torso stays centered and upright. That's when you lightly "kiss" the toe wheels as they meet in front of you. Rolling on their inside edges will make the skates turn in an arc so you won't do the splits!

  • Troubleshooting Tips: If your toes don't meet, you are leaning forward, placing too much weight on your toes. Lift the toes inside your skates to make them light enough to steer inward. If your skates never turn the corner, they are not tipped onto the inside wheel edges: relax your ankles more inward.

Football diagram2. Backward movement

As soon as you can accomplish one "toe kiss," it's time to try the reverse push. Start with the A-Stance (toe wheels touching, heels out). Imagine your toe wheels are across a line (see diagram). This time, your heels will be light because your toes will do the work.

To swizzle backward, push with equal pressure against both toe wheels out along the line--to the side, not back. Pushing back will topple you forward because your feet will get out from under you. Once you can accomplish this, your heel wheels meet in a "kiss."

3. Draw the Football

At the moment of a "kiss"—whether it's your front or back wheels—immediately push them to the side to reverse directions for the opposite kiss. You are now seeking a rhythmic back-and-forth rocking movement. It will come as you gradually ease into the subtle foot work going on under that centered, still upper body. Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss for a minute or two to gain the full benefits of the football drill. And by the way, this is a fun way to wait for a light to turn green, too!

Linked Backward Swizzles

Just before the heels kiss, you can turn the toe-heavy part of the football drill into backward swizzles. As your skates steer inward to hip-width, rotate the relatively light heels back outward and start a new side-directed toe push. Remember to occasionally look over your shoulder to check your path!

Once you can push both skates symmetrically, try carving one toe-push at a time. With proper weight shift, this turns into real backward skating. Now you're on your way to joining a hockey team!

  • Troubleshooting Tips: Don't push back, push to the side (left foot toward 9 o'clock and right foot toward 3 o'clock). Otherwise, you'll find your torso tipping forward--Yikes!

Good luck and here's a big kiss from me to you!

Other March 2007 Stories

bulletred picture Balance Lunges integrate a variety of key skating and fitness components in a single off-skates exercise. They’re a great warmup too!

bulletred picture What Level Beginner are You? - Identify your own learning potential before you risk looking like a geek!

bulletred picture Know Your Stances - Posture and foot positioning are everything when it comes to learning the basics.

bulletred picture Fair Weather Skaters - The Great EsSkate attracted hundreds of avid rollers for a weekend of fun and sun in Miami. See Liz's photos.

bulletred picture National Skate For Health Day - On May 12, instructors across the US will show newbies how skating is aerobic, low-impact, and fun.

 bulletred picture Get Rolling Skate School - My 2007 learning opportunities range from Bay Area lessons to a mini camp and tour in Florida.

bulletred picture Ojai Valley Trail, South - Enjoy fantastic vistas skating the converted rail-trail next to the Ventura River.

bulletred picture Skater Crossing - Online destinations where skaters congregate and find information.