Have you ever tried roller skating backwards? It’s not quite as scary as it sounds. Well, that’s the thrill of skating. But if you want to get it right, stick around, and I’ll show you how.
Skating backwards can seem difficult if not learnt or taught properly. It can take years of practice, and even pro-skaters can sometimes find it a bit challenging. To help, I came up with simple tips that you can use to skate backwards without breaking any sweat.
Before you decide to roller skate backwards, relinquish all control to the wheels. Yes, you heard that right! The only way you can find some sense of control while skating backwards is by not having any control all at.
Remember how it felt skating for the first time? Yes, that’s the exact feeling I want you to have when practicing this neat trick.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started, shall we.
Why you should learn how to turn and skate backwards
Do you even need to be able to roller skate backwards? Can you not just turn and go the other way? Yes and no.
Yes, you can just turn around and go the other way.
No, as you get better and when your braking improves, your speed increases. So knowing how to roller skate backwards becomes crucial and vital. This is because the momentum will make you spin like a car that suddenly brakes and spins when going very fast. Your ability to get accustomed to that motion and direction is important.
Skating backwards is also critical for getting down the stairs with skates (if you ever need to).
As a beginner or intermediate skater, you need to know how to skate forward and stop safely before you start skating backwards.
It is important for you to use a regular place. A place you have skated a few times so you know the terrain, the texture and the extent of the place where you will be skating – mostly smooth, flat surfaces. It also helps with your confidence.
You can practice most of the following methods indoors but ensure you steer clear of objects.
Warm up exercises to try before you start skating backwards
You can practice the following feet directions and positions without skates, so with bare feet or regular footwear while sitting on a chair or standing.
Do these a few times until you get familiar with the positions and directions of your feet and before doing the exercises with skates on.
If you have a skating coach or instructor, you can also send pictures or videos to them to evaluate and improve your performance.
A simple test to know and check your comfort and ease of implementing these positions is this. Check to see if your fingers, palms, wrists, hands, lips and eyes are doing funny positions while you are moving your feet.
I remember someone in my facebook group posted a video of herself skating but only from the waist down. So we asked her why in her videos, we could only see her from the waist down. She explained it was because she usually makes a funny face when skating, as she’s still learning.
She then posted a video with her face and you could see the strain in her face. It was funny but encouraging for her as we all told her that it was normal. Most of us do this while learning a new trick until we get comfortable with it.
It’s good to have someone watch you or record your face and remind you to breathe.
1. Breathing Exercise for skating
A specific breathing exercise to cause comfortable muscle memory and relaxation is to breathe in this pattern:
In through the nose (deep and long)
Out through the Mouth (short and fast)
2. Lemon Exercise for skating
Another simple exercise to practice before skating backwards is “The Lemon”. This is a series of feet positions as follows:
V, H, A, Stop and A, H, V, Stop.
Repeat over and over again till it begins to look and feel like a smooth flow.
The stop in the Lemon can happen before the skates touch each other. This will generate what is called “Lemon” – the trails of your skates leaving a lemon-y shape.
Different ways you can try to skate backwards
I have listed below different ways I used to skate backwards when I first started. You can try each of these to see which ones you prefer. Once you get the hang of it, you can then make it your own.
I would ask people to learn to transition first before learning to skate backwards but if you are confident enough to try it now, then why not. Skating is all about confidence – the more confident you are, the more relaxed you will be.
The more relaxed you are, the more you are likely to try new things and learn new tricks.
Also remember your posture, engage your core.
1. V-shape Method
You can have your feet in an A shape or an inverted V with skates on your feet. This means toes close to each other and heels further apart, with about a foot of distance between the feet. If you struggle getting into this stance in your skates, you can start by keeping one foot in this shape. Or even making a slight V from an H shape.
You will start skating backwards.
You need to remember:
A is Reverse
H is Neutral
V is Forward
You can practice all these positions wearing skates. Skating at first very slowly, and then gradually increase your speed until your body feels and knows the nuances involved.
2. Pushing off a wall method
For this, you start by facing a wall and then use your hands to push yourself back away from the wall. This is a common method and is good for those who haven’t learnt to transition yet. Or you might have but are not very comfortable doing transitions.
Once you push yourself backwards using the wall, you can either enter into the split stance to give you momentum to start moving backwards or you can soften your knees with core engaged. The split stance is when you have one foot in front of the other, about hip width apart. Then you can push your feet left to right as you move along.
You can also do the backwards edging by putting one foot in front of the other so that they are in a straight line, and pushing yourself off the wall. You’ll find yourself coasting backwards.
3. Toe stop method
This involves simply using your toe stop to push yourself backwards. This will need to be combined with one of the other methods e.g. you use your dominant feet to push yourself with the toe stop while in the split stance and keep going. Then transition, push yourself again with your toes stop, split stance, then transition, etc.
4. S-shape method
Go into the split stance with your dominant foot in front. Then step on the front two wheels of your skates on your dominant foot while sitting back into your back foot. You want to make sure that your weight is resting on the non-dominant foot. Make sure you are not resting on your toe stop.
Then using your front foot, start tracing an S-shape on the floor while using your back foot to balance. It’s important your weight is on the back foot as this is what you are using to control how far back you’re going.
You don’t want your back foot to slide all the way back and you end up losing control. Also, if you find that you are not moving, try leaning a bit more into it by moving your hips with the S, like you’re swaying to your favourite music.
5. Tracing a circle method
In my first experience with roller skates, I thought it’s easy to walk on them. But a few bruises later, I found that I was wrong. Most instructors will teach you to form a V-shape when skating. And the same case applies to skating backwards. What do I mean?
Well, forming a V-shape when skating backwards is a bit different than skating forward. You will have to make sure your heels are far apart, and your toes come close together. In this position, the only motion will be to go backwards. I’m pretty sure you will start feeling the backwards movement even before applying any push to your wheels.
You then start tracing a circle with your skates by spreading your heels and pushing the skates gently apart. You then point the heels back inward to make the V- shape again and repeat tracing the circle.
Once you are comfortable with this, you can use one foot at a time to trace the circle and alternate as you move.
Remember to keep your posture right. Soft knees, booty out, core engaged.
Tips for skating backwards
1. Learn to look back
As you progress skating backwards, you can start looking backwards over your shoulders to see where you are going.
Make sure you learn how to look back and practice until you get it right. The best way to do this is by making sure that you look and turn the top of your body (i.e. above the waist) in the direction of your back foot. E.g. assuming I’m in the split stance and my right foot is on the back, to look back I should twist my body into the right.
2. Slow is fast
The next step that I learned the hard way is that ‘slow is fast.’ When learning how to roller skate backwards, you have to take it slow.
Start by taking one step, in this case, glide at a time. Push your wheels apart, then close the gap and repeat. That should steer you backwards.
And every time, lift one leg and close the gap, then repeat the process.
More importantly, alternate the leg you will be lifting every time. That should give you a more linear movement. This process will help build on your trust. Technically speaking, moving forward is what we are all used to. Meaning, a backwards motion could potentially disorient your mind, and you will fall.
To reduce injuries and minor mishaps, take time to learn the steps.
3. Safety Measures
In my early days on roller skates, I was given a sort of disclaimer; ‘Falling is part of the sport.’ And sure enough, I’ve fallen a couple of times. But through that, I learned how to ‘fall’ safely. Part of that lesson was that safety gears are essential. Before you attempt this process, always ensure you have protective equipment such as knee pads, elbow pads, and a helmet.
Another safety precaution is making sure you learn how to look back when skating. I already covered this above so please make sure you practice this. It’s important you see where you’re going so you don’t run into other skaters or trip over something.
That brings me to the next safety point.
Ensure that your path or space is clear. That will reduce your chances of tripping on to items as you learn. More importantly, if you are unsure about skating backwards, it’s probably best if you do it in an open space.
4. Practice makes perfect
Without a doubt, you will only become better at skating backwards if you practice. The process will not be easy, but it’s worth it. As I said earlier, start slowly, and you will get there.
Besides, no one learned how to skate on the first try. We all went through the ‘rookie’ stage and learned how to become better. That said if you’d like to hone your skills correctly, practice as many times as possible.
Common mistakes you are likely to make when roller skating backwards
Giving in to fear
Let’s face it, skating backwards is one of the scariest moves you will ever pull. But fear will only lead to making significant errors. So, instead of hiding the fact that you are afraid, face it. That’s the only way you will get better at roller skating backwards.
At the beginning of your practice, it’s okay to look down. But as you advance and continue to pick up the speed, you should avoid looking down.
I know this might be a bit disorienting, but you should avoid leaning forward. Only lean forward when you are skating forward. The same case applies when skating backwards.
Not knowing how to brake
You should learn how to slow down before taking your backwards skating to the next level. Braking will help you reduce the risks of injuries when skating. As you practice roller skating backwards, also learn how to brake in the process.
How to stop or slow down when skating backwards
Remember that when skating forward, you are making a series of V, V, H positions, and then A’s to Stop. While skating backwards is a series of A, A H positions and then V’s to stop.
Backwards is just the opposite of forwards – makes sense right?
Well, there you have it! Whether you are using roller skates or inline skates, these steps should help you learn how to roller skate backwards. The most important part of skating backwards is forming a ‘V’ shape. That should kickstart the whole process.
Once you’ve learned how to apply this technique, the rest is all about confidence and practice, then you can make it your own. When you have built your confidence, you can start practicing more advanced backwards skating skills such as crossovers and swirls.
Without a doubt, to perfectly hone your backwards skating, you will need to practice as many times as possible.
Also, practicing with friends helps a lot in terms of a confidence boost. So, instead of practicing this technique alone, why don’t you call up your skating buddies and do it together?
Check out our ultimate guide on other skating tricks you should learn. I hope you enjoyed this article about how to roller skate backwards. Happy skating!