Heel Split Stance

Geplaatst op 12-05-2020

The Heel Split Stance.

`A man walking is never in balance, but always correcting for imbalance`. Quite an interesting take, once stated by the briliant mind of British antropologist Gregory Bateson (1904-1980).
Perfect balance doesn’t exist, due to the mere fact that everything is always in motion. And had Mr. Bateson still been alive today, I definitely would have tried to reach out to him, to get his perspective on balancing on roller skates.

All that said, in this picture Dutch rhythm roller skater Kees is captured, executing a perfect `Heel Split Stance`; hip thrusted forward, upperbody locked; toes pulled up all the way, resulting in maximum stretched calve muscles; arms slightly extended forward, which engages the serratus anterior muscle controling the shoulderblade (scapula), thus stabilizing the ribcage. All helping significantly to stay within the margins of balance.

This is a technique/move that appeals to the imagination of a lot of roller skaters, who aspire to do it effortlessly, clean and controlled. But it also - always immediately - catches the eye of non-skaters; often characterizing it as a spectacular move, usually accompanied with a surprised look on the face, that one doesn’t flip over backwards with harmful consequences.

Zooming in.
There are –as is always the case – many factors that contribute to reaching a respectable level of comfort, when executing this Heel Split Stance.

Three factors stand out and are absolutey key, to safe and efficient execution:

  1. Lift up the front wheels on both sides as far as possible, resulting in maximum stretched calve muscles. When the toes are not lifted in maximum position, there will always be a struggle to find and maintain proper balance.
  2. Focus on lifting AND pointing the toes OUTWARD (lateral direction) instead of moving forward . This means rotating the ankles outward (ankle exo-rotation) and will reduce the chance of flipping backwards enormously, while having more control on the lateral movement of the legs in the hipjoint.
  3. Find a comfortable heel width. In the early stages of learning this technique, there is a margin of width between the heels that is most comfortable, from where to control and improve. The direction of the toes is tended sideways ( lateral). So, when moving too small it is difficult to stay still; when moving too wide, a lot of stress is put mainly on the inner thigh muscles ( adductor muscles), to prevent the legs from splitting up. This takes a lot of energy and muscle strength, which needs to be built up slowly and carefully. The adductor muscles are prone to injury and have a tendency to stay a nuisance for a long time, once damaged or overstressed.

Preparation exercise.
Before fully engaging into the Heel Split Stance, there is a safe starting point from where one can build up confidence and get all the muscles involved, to get used to the stance. In the ¹Crazy Legs Build up and Breakdown extended snippet, A straight forward, basic double backwheel stance is displayed as a warm up exercise, later to be used in one of the Crazy Legs variations.
This basic backwheel stance is a very benificial exercise, for it allows one to gradually adapt to the necessary physical adjustments. In the forementioned snippet, the backwheel stance can be seen at the 1.22 mark. Once comfortable balance in this stage is reached, rotating the rear skate to the side - initiated from the hip - would be the next step and right there, is when the position morphs into the Heel Split Stance.

Four stages of balance.
There is of course much more on how to fully unlock this characteristic roller skate move, but these keypoints will bring any practitioner a long way. Following the classic (Soulful Fitness) structure of balance development safe and frequently, will bring this move to higher plateaus fast, efficiently and injurie-free; not only from stationary position, but – even more interesting – while ²moving around.

In short, the four stages of balance development:
Challlenge (challenge your balance), Control (control your roll), Improve (improve your move) and Improvise (flow motion).

Once the `Heel Split Stance` technique is fully under control, the fun part begins when different presets are used, to get into the split stance; more liberty can be taken with moving the upper body, changing arm positions and variations in heel width.
One of the more spectacular preset variations, is to start with a front kick (knee lift and extension of the lower leg), followed by swinging the leg back as the entire body turns 90 degrees from starting position and then end up in the Heel Split Stance. This is what we refer to in our curiculum, as the`Kickstand`. On Youtube (link https://youtu.be/Z2-7s4ThaFc ) displayed in this snippet at the 0:16 mark. Or a more ³isolated exercise, the Heel Split Swing Drill.

Roll, eat, sleep, repeat!
Now, let’s put aside for a moment, all theories and scientific research (and there’s a lot about that out there), on how many times you have to do or repeat certain things to get to mastery level (whatever that is), depending on discipline and circumstances. Frequent repetition and slightly tweaking different presets, will always eventually lead to improvement of technique and therefore confidence and comfort.
Repetition can be boring for sure. But tweaking the presets is a very effective way to avoid boredom and get more keypoints into one single drill. From there on (isolated drill), moving to constructional riffs (short personally constructed sequences) will trigger creativity, which is excellent to distract oneself from the level of difficulty.

Yes, it takes a lot of time and a lot of repetitions. But once you have it, it’s yours to keep forever.
So, drill it till you kill it!

Brian B. Kanhai - Soulful Fitness Roller Skate Training Quadsk8 / Es Quint

¹ Crazy Legs Breakdown and Build Up Tutorial : https://youtu.be/fhDy0-DwF48
² Wide Heel Ride with Marline: https://youtu.be/nVA_4iS8fwQ
³ Heel Split Swing drill with Marielle: https://youtu.be/RhCAO6nOe2U

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