The Biomechanics Of Skateboarding

Skateboarding is a sport, an art form, a lifestyle, and a culture.

To a non-skater, riding a board may appear as an effortless recreational activity. However, anyone who has ever tried pushing a skateboard will know what a tedious task it is – just to make the board go.

As a form of exercise, skateboarding requires a high level of balance, coordination and overall muscle demand response due to the multiple joint movements being performed in rapid succession. Skateboarding also delivers a challenging cardiovascular workout that strengthens the heart, lungs, and vascular system, enabling oxygenated blood to be pumped and processed by the body more efficiently.  This ultimately results in an increase in energy levels and improved endurance.

Mentally, when a person is skateboarding, both hemispheres of the brain are activated to regulate balance, sharpen stimulus reactions and increase presence of mind. Correspondingly, skateboarders experience improved sleep quality, lowered stress response, improved memory, spatial orientation, focus and self-esteem, plus an overall heightened sense of competency, wellbeing and resilience.

The muscles that come into play while skateboarding are:

Core (Trunk)

Skateboarding works your core muscles by stabilizing your body and allowing you to balance on unstable surfaces, which is a critical component of skateboarding. The abdominal and extensor muscles of the back are the support muscles that help stabilize the core area. These are the muscles that connect the lower body movement to the upper body maintaining stability in the hip and lower back. The core includes your abdominal muscles, the muscular structure of your hips, and muscles that surround your spine. Your hip muscles include over 10 inner muscles that stabilize the hip joint. Spinal muscles include large muscles such as the latissimus dorsi and trapezius in addition to several inner muscles that extend the length of your spine.

The movements of the trunk are:

  • Flexion – the rectus abdominis muscles lean the chest and stomach forward.
  • Extension – the erector spinae muscles of the back support the spine when it flexes forward.
  • Rotation – the external and internal oblique abdominal muscles control the trunk rotation.

Gluteus Maximus

The gluteus maximus is among the largest muscles in your body, which extends from your hips to hamstrings. The gluteus maximus is an important stabilizing muscle for skateboarding, which allows you to maintain balance when transitioning from a crouched to upright posture. Extending, particularly hyperextending, your hips activates the gluteus maximus. Hip hyperextensions help skaters gain maximal speed when propelling forward on a flat surface.

Hip Joint

The hip joint allows for a wide range of motion providing six important movements. Many muscles cross the hip from various angles. In skating, the abduction, extension and external rotation motions are the three most important. Some of these muscles interface with the knee joint.

The six movements of the hip joint are:

  • External Rotation – muscles of the external rotation turn the leg and kneecap outward.
  • Internal Rotation – muscles of internal rotation turn the leg and kneecap inward.
  • Abduction – The abduction muscles move the leg away from the midline of the body.
  • Adduction – The adduction muscle group consist of the groin muscles that move the legs toward the midline of the body.
  • Extension – muscles move the thigh backward opposing the flexion muscles – an important movement for gaining forward speed with one foot while skateboarding.
  • Flexion – muscles move the thigh toward the chest opposing the extension muscles.

Knee Joint

The knee performs the action of extension (skating stride push-off) and flexion (returning the leg to the glide position). The quadriceps is made up of four muscles: vastus intermedius, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis and vastus medialis.

Three muscles make up the hamstring muscle group: biceps fermoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus.

The movements of the knee are:

  • Knee Extension – quadriceps muscle group are the key muscles involved in the knee extension. Skating moves such as the Ollie involve knee extension and hip flexion. Skaters accelerate upward by explosively straightening the legs, which extends the knees. The hips flex shortly after impact on the downward phase of the Ollie.
  • Knee Flexion – Hamstring muscle group are responsible for knee flexion, which allows you to bring your calves up toward the back of your thigh. Flexing your knee is important for crouching down to maintain a lower center of gravity while skating.

Lower Legs

The gastrocnemius muscles, known as the calves, assist your quadriceps extend your knees. Skateboarders rely on the gastrocnemius for plantar flextion of the ankle, which points your toes downward. Planter flexing allows you to shift your weight toward the front of your body, which helps turn the direction of a moving skateboard in that direction. The tibialis anterior muscle, which forms your shins, controls dorsal flexion. Dorsal flexion allows you to tilt your heels downward while skateboarding, which provides directional control in the opposite direction of plantar flexion.

Ankle Joint

The calf muscles (soleus and gastocnemius) and the anterior shin section (tibialis anterior) muscles contract isometrically during the push-off phase and the glide phase.

Exercises That Help You With Skateboarding

Exercises that help you with skateboarding strengthen the muscles necessary to increase your performance and advance in the sport. Skateboarding primarily works the lower body to manipulate the board as you ride and do tricks, while balance requires a strong core. Do up to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions at least twice a week to reap the benefits of strength training exercises.

Barbell Calf Raises

Barbell calf raises exercise your calf muscles, which are critical to balancing on a skateboard. Stand under the barbell with one foot in front of it and one foot behind — this is called a split stance. Hold the bar with your palms facing forward and a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Place the bar at the top of your shoulders or across the back of your shoulders. Unrack the barbell and take one step backward to get into the starting position. Raise your heels off the floor while you count to three and lean slightly forward to maintain your balance. Lower your heels for a count of three to the starting position to complete one rep.

Seated Leg Press

The leg press targets your quads, which work hard to help you balance and execute tricks that require jumping and subsequently landing. Adjust the seat so your knees bend 90 degrees when your feet are flat on the foot plate. Grasp the handles at your sides. Relax your back, neck and head against the backrest and look forward to get into the proper starting position. Extend your legs without locking your knees and return to the starting position to complete one repetition.

Stability Ball Hamstring Curl

The stability ball hamstring curl strengthens your glutes and hamstrings. These muscles help you stand on your skateboard in a crouched position for long periods of time. Working with the stability ball develops balance. Lie on the floor with your feet, ankles and lower calves atop the stability ball. Extend your arms out to the side at shoulder height with your palms flat on the floor and look at the ceiling in the starting position. Contract your abs to lift your back off the floor so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your toes. Next, bend your knees to roll the ball toward your feet so you can place the soles of your feet atop the ball. Slowly return to the starting position to complete one repetition.

Core Muscles and Balance

Strengthen your core muscles and develop your balance with the yoga half-moon pose. From a standing position, bend over from your hips toward the floor. Place your left hand on the floor, bending your knees if necessary, and your right hand on your hip. Lift your right leg behind you, gain your balance and rotate your hips and torso to face the right wall. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and reverse the movements to get back to a standing position. Repeat on the other side.