The secret to getting flat tricks down gaps & into grinds (+ exercises)
Why is it you can have a trick locked in on flat, but when you try to take it down a gap or into a grind or slide, you completely lose it? The trick just completely falls apart and you can't commit.
Well, in this video/article, I'm gunna answer that question and give you some exercises you can do, along with some skate tasks to increase your chances of getting the tricks you want down gaps, into grinds, slides, manuals, into your porridge or whatever you might want to do with them.
So why is it that tricks we have locked in on flat ground are much harder down gaps or into other tricks?
Well one big part of the answer can be found in something we do all the time when we skate; something you've seen countless times, or actually maybe haven't seen. But it is something that happens every single time you go skate.
Before I tell you the answer check the image below and see if you can figure out what it is... I'll give you a (clue, it's above the weist and it's not that one's on flat and the other's off a drop).
Alright, so the difference is this... When we skate flat, we look directly at the board, but when we skate gaps, ledges, rails or any obstacle, we look away from the board.
Ok! It's super happy fun experiment time - Get up from your chair, this will take 5 seconds so don't be a slug, get up.
Now, close your eyes and turn your head to the side. Next, without opening your eyes or moving your head, lift up a leg and try and balance on one leg.
If you found that easy, do the same with your head and eyes and jump from one leg to the other.
Chances are you struggled a bit to balance.
The 3 systems of balance and coordination
Balance and coordination rely on three main systems. Vision, the vestibular system and proprioception.
Your eyes give your brain and body information about where it is in space and how it relates to your environment.
The vestibular system is a crazy little system made up of fluid in your inner ear. As you move your head around the fluid also moves - sending signals of the position and movement of your head that then trigger changes in your body position or movement so you don't stack it.
Third, we have proprioception, which detects changes in muscle length, muscle force, joint position, and joint angle. Think of proprioception as your non-visual dectector of where your body is in space and how it's moving in space.
These three systems constantly provide your brain and body with information on how you move and whether any adjustments are needed to maintain balance, stay coordinated and do the trick you're trying.
No eyes = stack potential increase
When we take vision out of the equation - like we do every time we look away from our board to do a trick, or like we did in the experiment before - we heavily rely on the vestibular and proprioceptive systems to stay balanced and coordinate our movements.
If you found it difficult to maintain balance during the experiment or you struggle taking tricks you have on flat down gaps, or into grinds, it's possible that you'd benefit from specific exercises to train these systems.
There are two ways we're going to train these systems. The first is by doing resistance training exercises off your board, and the second is by doing different tasks when you're out skating.
The resistance training exercises
The resistance training exercises are focused on proprioception, the vestibular system and single leg stability in all 3 planes of motion. They're split up into two areas, that eventually we'll combine:
1. Vestibular progressions
2. Single leg stability progressions
Check the table below for a list of the progressions and the video above for the exercises, where I show you a bunch of different progressions for each area.
I would work through both areas at the same time and combine them when you feel comfortable. Don't move onto the next progression until you've fully dominated the previous one. It's much better to spend time building these qualities as opposed to rushing through.
You can add these exercises into whatever workout program you're doing. If you don't have a workout program or you don't know how to progress these kinds of exercises then you can check out the NBD Skate Performance program here.
It's a skate focused 12-week program designed to hit all of the different systems that we use when we skate like the ones that I've covered in this video plus a bunch more related to things like pop, resilience, strength, the ability to handle more impact from jumping down gaps, endurance and to protect you from injuries. If you want to find out more click here.
Now, on to the skate tasks!
The skate tasks
Whenever we're trying to focus on a specific "skate quality" with certain resistance training exercises, it's important to do things on our boards to increase the carryover from the exercises to our skating. At the end of the day you don't get better at skating unless you actually skate, so that's what these skate tasks are about.
When it comes down to the head turn in skating, let's say you're skating a gap, what you'll notice is that the person's looking away, but then as they actually go to land on the board, they look back at the board. This is to make sure that you're gonna actually land on it. Or if you've kicked it away, not land on top of the board and potentially injure yourself.
So, the head turn works by looking away and then as you've popped, you'll then start looking at the board, this is what you can do with these progressions.
So pick some different tricks that you want to get more comfortable with and take them through the progressions I've outlined.
I've put them in another table below but you can also check them in detail in the video above.
Just the same way as with the resistance training exercise progressions, with the skate task progressions, you want to be only progressing when you feel like they're under control. If you start looking a little bit away from your board and you feel like the trick completely falls apart again, then go back down to the previous level. Work on that one a little bit more until you feel like it's under control.
When it comes to moving up the levels, one thing you can do is - as you start to feel comfortable with a level, pop a couple tricks at that level and then go immediately into the next level, trying to carry over the same sensation from the previous level.
For example, 2 kickflips looking at the nose of the board, and then straight away looking a little bit past the board.
There's just one final thing that I want to say on speed as well. Speed is going to make all of this whole process much more difficult, so think of speed as another thing that you can progress.
I hope this has been helpful! Hit me up if you have questions and don't forget to check out the NBD program if you're looking for a training program that includes exercises like these and many more.