Photography by Paul Buceta
If you’ve ever seen Olympic ice dancer Tessa Virtue in action, you know she makes the virtually impossible look easy. Alongside lifelong skating partner Scott Moir, the duo demonstrates elegance and grace while executing spins and lifts with unwavering precision. It’s so seamless, it can be easy to underestimate how physically strong and athletic these two have to be to do what they do every day, whether it’s in practice, competition, or performing in shows around the world.
While years of experience and practice lend themselves to her on-ice perfection, Tessa’s poise, power, and control are largely a result of her off-ice training program. To score some of these skills (and those abs) for ourselves, we turned to Tessa’s strength and conditioning coach Jaime Sochansky-Livingston, CSCS, athletic therapist and co-founder of Reconditioning HQ in Montreal, Canada. She put together this routine for STRONG that not only improves explosiveness, stability, and strength, but also focuses on goals required for Tessa’s performance such as posture, breathing, and “a gymnast’s power with a dancer’s grace.”
“For figure skating, and Tessa specifically, we kept in mind these goals when addressing her off-ice gym training program,” says Sochansky-Livingston. “There is a necessity for single-leg stance control, power, and decelerative capacity, so most exercises were given with each leg in mind.”
How to: Aim for two rounds of the following, making sure to take an ample rest period between rounds.
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SINGLE-LEG DROP SQUAT
REPS: 8-12 per side
SETUP: Begin standing on one foot with your hands together in front of your chest. Allow the opposite foot to hang directly below the pelvis, relaxed (A).
ACTION: Drop as quickly as you can into a single-leg squat position and “catch” yourself there (B). Hold for 1-2 seconds, then rise slowly back up to single-leg standing position and repeat.
STABILITY BALL SINGLE-LEG PULL-IN
REPS: 6-12 per side
SETUP: Begin in a full push-up position with hands on the floor and shins on a stability ball. Lift one knee to the chest to attain start position (A).
ACTION: Roll the ball towards you by bringing the knee towards the chest, as the opposite leg extends back to a straight position in the air (B). Return to the start position, repeat. Complete all reps, then switch legs.
STABILITY BALL ROTATING SINGLE-ARM PRESS
REPS: 6-10 per side
SETUP: Begin with your upper body supported on a stability ball with both feet on the floor, knees bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended above your chest (A).
ACTION: Bend one arm to lower the dumbbell down to the side while rotating your upper body and pressing the opposite dumbbell higher (B). Reverse the motion and rotate in the opposite direction, switching arms. Repeat for all reps.
REPS: 4-6 per side
SETUP: Begin by lying on the floor with one hand holding a kettlebell straight up to the ceiling with the leg on the same side bent. The opposite leg and arm are straight and flat on the floor (A).
ACTION: (Perform the following step-by-step) Keeping the kettlebell pressed to the ceiling, come up onto your opposite forearm (B). Press up from the elbow onto the hand so your torso is fully upright (C). Raise your hips off the floor so you are supported by your arm and opposite foot. Sweep the straight leg under your body to come into a half-kneeling position (D). Lift your hand from the floor, then come to a full standing position (E). Reverse the order of movements to return to the starting position. Complete all reps, then repeat on the other side.
SINGLE-LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT
REPS: 8-12 per side
SETUP: Stand with your weight in one leg, the opposite foot lifted and held slightly behind you. Hold dumbbells if desired (A).
ACTION: Keeping your pelvis square to your front, hinge from the hips and tip your torso forward as far as you can while keeping the rest of your body straight and pelvis square. Raise back up to the starting position and repeat (B).