Spins: Welcome to the technical figure skating spin page. You'll find AVI clips of all the common spins here. Great spinning is the most difficult part of figure skating. It's also the most beautiful and unique part of skating that has no equal in art or sport. Spinning takes more energy than jumping and doesn't win competitions, so most elite skaters don't want to waste time on it. It's my hope that someday great spinning will make a comeback. It's also my hope that someday Katerina Witt will ask me to cook her breakfast, but that's not likely to happen either.


It is well worth the effort to put in the time nescessary to learn how to spin well. As a skater myself, the greatest joy I feel on the ice is when I can manage a long, fast, centered spin. It's exhilerating. And it's good excercise. Two great reasons to work on it. The third reason is "spin face". Spin face is the goofy orgasmic look most skaters get on their faces when they spin fast. The stress and concentration when spinning is so great most people forget how to hold a normal facial expression.

The holy grail of spinning is the blur spin. A blur spin is so fast you can see the front and back of the skater at the same time. It's the eigth man made wonder of the world. And, unfortuneately, like most of the other wonders the blur spin is also extinct. As far as I know there is nobody who can still do a blur spin. Ronnie Robertson was one of the best spinners of all time and the best known blur spinner. There is a web page that describes how to do a blur spin written by Tim Waxman who studied under a guy who could do it. If you want to learn how to do one, that is the only resource I know of.

The most important aspect of a good spin is the ability to center the spin. Centering a spin constitently is the hardest thing in figure skating. When a spin is centered, most of the other elements fall into place. For example, most people focus on spinning fast and end up traveling across the ice out of control. If the spin is centered it will go fast on it's own. That's why the skater shouldn't think about speed. It's counter productive. The skater should work on centering above all other things.

Scratch Spin

sspin2.avi (870 kb) Scott Davis doing a very fast scratch spin. This is about as fast as anybody these days can spin. At the peak of the spin Scott is rotating at about 5 times per second. That's 300 rpm. Yes, you do get dizzy.

pspin.avi (580 kb) Paul Wylie doing a very good scratch spin. Note the similarities to the Davis spin. Also note that Paul travels a couple of feet before catching his center and pulling in. It's important to center the spin before pulling in. Otherwise pulling in will cause the spin to travel even more. It will also cause the spin to be more out of control.

scratch1.avi (870 kb) Dorothy Hamill doing a good scratch spin. This clip is bigger than the other two so you might be able to see more.

There are two basic entrances to the scratch spin. The more common way is to go into it from back clockwise crossovers. The skater briefly holds a deep right inside edge with the left leg crossed behind before stepping onto a left forward outside edge. The skater does a left forward outside three turn bringing the right leg up and around into the spinning position. The less common way is to appoach the spin straight on from a left forward inside edge. The skater steps onto a right forward inside edge bringing shoulders around clockwise. The skater does a right inside three turn allowing the upper body to get into a twisted position. Stepping onto a left forward outside edge, the skater uses the torque created from the right inside three turn to carry through a left foward outside three turn bringing the right leg up and around into the spinning position.

One common misconception about the scratch spin a lot of beginners make is they think they're supposed to be spinning on an outside edge. Besides being wrong, it prevents the skater from being able to spin at all. The scratch spin turns on a left forward inside edge.

Finding the balance point on a spin is something that takes a lot of patience and perseverance. It's not something that is going to quickly happen. It takes a lot of practice, but it will gradually come around. Most coaches recommend starting out working on two foot spins. Two foot spins are safer and the beginner won't feel like they're going to fall over.

I like to recommend working on pivots for both the scratch spin and the back spin. Pivots are safe and they help you find your balance point, unlike the two foot spin. Don't worry so much about the spin as about doing a good pivot. Another thing you can do off the ice is "sock spinning" on the kitchen floor. Try and do a one foot spin in your socks on a slick tile or lanolium floor. The balance point is remarkably similar to the ice. But be careful because it's harder to stay balanced than on the ice and you might end up sprawled in your refridgerator. Also note that you will find yourself spinning on the inside part of your right foot which is analogous to spinning on an inside edge.

Ok, let's assume you've finally found your balance point on a one foot spin. The next thing you want to do is find your center. Don't be discouraged if it takes a long time. Unlike jumping, when you get to this point you can practice spinning all day without hurting yourself. I cannot recall ever falling down on a scratch spin and I've been doing it since the early 1970s.

Initially it seemed to me like centering a spin was a voodoo art. After countless zillions of hours of practice and patience I finally figured out a few simple things that makes centering a spin possible. Perhaps the most suprising revelation was you don't spin with your shoulders and arms sticking straight out to the side, nor do you bring the arms straight in. The left shoulder is noticeably pressing forwards and the right shoulder is pressed slightly back.

One of the two most common reasons for traveling is pulling the left shoulder back during the spin. This causes the spin to travel in the direction you're pulling the shoulder. When the arms are pulled in the shoulders should stay in their positions. There is a strong tendency to pull the left shoulder back and the right shoulder forwards as the arms are pulled in. You feel like you want to pull your arms in in the direction you're rotating. You have to fight this tendency.

Unless you think about not doing it, you probably will automatically pull your shoulders around. There is a pressure to pull your shoulders around and the natural reaction is to relieve that pressure. There should always be tension in your body during a spin. Part of that tension is in your arms and shoulders and it is a result of holding your position and not giving in to the pressure. Besides helping to center your spin, this tension is also where all the power in spinning comes from. Once you give up the tension, the spin is going to fizzle.

The other most common reason for traveling is holding the free leg out to the side with an open hip. The free leg is supposed to be held high and in front with a closed hip. Most skaters leave it hanging out to the side. This will cause the spin to travel in the opposite direction the leg is hanging. You can very clearly see the high leg in front in all of the clips. Like the shoulders, there should be a tension is your free leg. The tendency is to open the hip to relieve the pressure. This will cause the spin to travel. You have to fight it. The higher the free leg is held up in front, the more power in the spin. Unfortunately the higher the leg, the more pressure to open the hip. When the leg is held as high as in the example clips the pressure to open up is tremendous. It takes a lot of leg muscle to hold it there and pull it in without giving up the tension.

Back Spin

bckspin2.avi (650 kb) Elvis Stojko doing a basic scratch spin.

(880 kb) Todd Eldredge doing a great combination camel, sit, back spin. All three spins are fantastic. Todd is one of the best spinners in the world. Note that Todd is a clockwise spinner which is opposite of my descriptions.

stars1.avi (595 kb) Nancy Kerrigan doing several stars followed by a butterfly into a back sit spin and finishing with a back scratch spin.

The back spin is just like the scratch spin except the skater is spinning on a back outside edge on the right leg. Most of the same advice for the scratch spin applies to the back spin. In particular, the shoulder and arm positions are the same even though the spin is on a different leg. The free leg usually isn't as high in the back spin.

For the beginner I like to recommend working on back pivots as preperation for the back spin. It's easier to get used to the "snap" doing it this way than the other common learning method, the right forward inside three turn. If you have problems with both these methods, the third way of working on it is to do a scratch spin. Instead of pulling in, put the right foot down and push off with the left foot in a motion that is basically the same as the back pivot. Unfortuneatly you'll rarely see somebody enter a backspin this way in a program. You usually see a back spin tagged on as either part of a combination spin or at the end of a special move like a butterfly. Which is what you see in the examples.

One line of coaching philosophy teaches the back spin as a learning tool for multirotation jumping. The backspin is used to teach the loop jump, which in turn is used to teach rotation in the air. A loop jump is nothing more than a back spin off the ground. I've seen Angela Nikodenov do a back spin and right in the middle of it hop up and pull in to a double loop. If you can do that then, A) you've got the concept down, and B) you're really good.

Sit Spin

sit1.avi (920 kb) Todd Eldredge doing a sit spin, back sit spin combination. Both spins are fast and well centered. Note that he doesn't go down into the sit position until after he's done at least one rotation. It's easier to center the spin standing up than in the sitting position. And if you try to center a traveling spin while sitting you'll lose more momentum.

combo1.avi (880 kb) Todd Eldredge doing another combination. This one is a camel spin, sit spin, back spin combination. All three spins are fantastic. Note the straight leg position on the sit spin with the heel turned out.

sit2.avi (770 kb) Ryan Jahnke doing a good sit spin. This clip is bigger than the other two and shows a counter clockwise spinner. Notice his straight free leg with the knees a couple inches apart.

In a sit spin the skater drops down into a sitting position with the right leg sticking straight out in front of the body and parallel to the ice. A good sit spin is so far down the skater is almost sitting on their spinning foot. Dick Button likes the skater to keep a straight back for stylistic reasons, but it doesn't do anything for the spin technically. For one thing you can't go all the way down and keep a perfectly straight back. I prefer going all the way down.

For the beginner the two hardest parts of doing a sit spin are usually going down more than a few inches and centering. Beginners have a tendency to spin on an outside edge which makes spinning impossible. I recommend working on shoot-the-ducks on the left leg for a couple reasons. First it's easier than spinning and helps you get used to going all the way down. Second, it's great excercise for your leg and it helps you find your balance while in a sitting position. See how many times you can go up and down on the same leg. As for spinning on an outside edge, try and remember the same tips I gave for the scratch spin regarding shoulder positions.

When you go down into the sitting position, bring the free leg in from the side as opposed to having it in front and plopping straight down. This helps to prevent traveling and gives the spin more speed. Although many skaters do it this way, I don't like sit spins where the toe on the right leg is sticking straight up. The foot should be turned out. If you're flexible enough grab the heel of your right boot with your left hand and the instep with your right hand and turn your right foot out. Besides looking neat, this will help pull the spin into a center if you're traveling while in the sitting position.

There is a technique controversy over the right leg position. Some coaches teach the skater to keep the knees together with the right leg bent around the left knee. As far as I can tell there is no advantage to this method and several disadvantages. First, if the spin is traveling there is nothing you can do to bring it under control. Second, it doesn't look very good and can sometimes lead the skater into doing sit spins that are corkscrewy. In the worst case the skater is doing loops instead of spinning on a clean edge.

I like to recommend spinning with the free leg sticking straight out and the knees a few inches apart. If the spin is still traveling you can use some of this knee room to pull it in.

Back Sit Spin

butter2.avi (680 kb) Shepherd Clark doing a back sit spin with a butterfly entrance. Not the usual way of doing it, but it looks good..

sit1.avi (920 kb) Todd Eldredge doing a sit spin, back sit spin combination. Both spins have great speed, position, and center.

axsit1.avi (580 kb) John Baldwin doing a flying reverse sit spin, also known as an axel sit spin. He basically jumps into a back sit spin position from a normal spin entrance.

stars1.avi (595 kb) Nancy Kerrigan doing several stars followed by a butterfly into a back sit spin and finishing with a back scratch spin.

Camel Spin

combo7.avi (3 Mb) Gary Beacom performing a loooong camel spin, cross foot spin combination. This clip shows that a spin doesn't have to be fast to be great. This spin is approximately 30 seconds with no extra pushes or steps! A slow, controlled spin can be more effective than a fast one if choreographed properly.

camel1.avi (870 kb) Maria Butraskya doing a camel spin, back camel spin combination. She has a pretty position on both spins. The position on the back camel is particularly unusual and effective.

combo1.avi (880 kb) Todd Eldredge showing why he's one of the best spinners in the world. This is a camel spin, sit spin, back spin combination. All three spins are fast, centered, and well positioned.

The camel spin position is like an arabesque in ballet. The skater spins with the right leg sticking out directly behind the body and parallel to the ice. This spin has the potential of being fast, although you don't see that many fast camel spins. The momentum from having the leg sticking so far out makes the spin run by itself as long as it's on a clean edge and centered.

The only general advice I have for the camel spin is to not rush it. Hold off on the three turn as long as possible. It should feel like you're popping straight up and into the spin off the three turn. Some coaches call this "hooking" the three turn entrance. The momentum and power in the spin comes from this hook. Slow and weak spins usually miss the hook.

Layback Spin

layback1.avi (920 kb) Tonia Kwiatkowski doing a good layback spin. Tonia has one of the best laybacks in the world.

layback2.avi (940 kb) Dorothy Hamill doing a classic layback. She has a beautiful position. I made this clip larger than the other spin clips because it's a great model.

The layback spin is one of the most beautiful moves in figure skating. It requires a very supple back which makes it impossible for most men to do, although there are a few notable exceptions. A good layback has the right leg in an 'attitude' position which is up and away from the body. All too many skaters have terrible leg positions. Both the clips above show excellent leg positions.

There is a lot of room for interpretation in the way the skater holds the upper body. The Dorothy Hamill clip shows the classic position, which is still one of the best. Most skaters focus completely on the upper body and forget about holding a good leg position. If you want to stand out, make your layback a complete package.

Cross Foot Spin

combo7.avi (3 Mb) Gary Beacom performing a loooong camel spin, cross foot spin combination. This clip shows that a spin doesn't have to be fast to be great. This spin is approximately 30 seconds with no extra pushes or steps! It will take you awhile to download, but it's worth it.

combo3.avi (880 kb) Jere Michael performing a flying camel, sit spin with-leg-tucked-behind, back cross foot spin combination. This is an extrordinary spin. You have to have your bones surgically removed to be able to get into this position.

Not too many people do cross foot spins. It's too bad, because a good cross foot spin is visually pleasing.

Specialty Spins

combo8.avi (370 kb) Denise Bielman doing the famous spin named after her. She is the only person who does it well. Not recommended for the average skater unless you don't mind spending some time in the hospital.

bspin1.avi (912 kb) Gary Beacom doing a, uhm, I'm not really sure what this is, but I like it. Whatever it is it doesn't look easy.

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