This article is from the Recreational Figure Skating FAQ, by Karen Bryden with numerous contributions by others.
BASIC RULE: You don't turn a 3. You get everything into the right
position, and the 3 TURNS ITSELF. YOU are not the agent. Physics is.
Posture is a key element in 3-turns. Your body must be upright and
centered over your skating foot. Looking down during the turn spells
trouble. Your head is heavy, and if you look down or lean forward, you
are putting weight into the circle, which will pull you off balance
and into the circle.
If the 3-turn scrapes, it usually means you are forcing the turn with
How-to for forward 3-turns (turn from forward to backward):
1) A 3-turn is always done on the arc of a circle. At the beginning of
the turn, rotate the upper body so that your shoulders and chest are
parallel to the arc of the circle and facing toward the center of the
circle, and your arms are extended along the arc of the circle itself.
Your head faces the direction of motion. Your free foot is close to
the skating foot and over the tracing. Keep your legs in this position
relative to each other throughout the turn (if they are touching as
you start the turn, they should be touching in exactly the same way at
2) Remember the pre-check. And remember that the check consists of
BOTH having the forward arm forward AND having the back arm BACK. The
back arm should be rotated to the point where you can feel the pinch
between your spine and your shoulder-blade. The check isn't strong
enough if it doesn't hurt a little.
3) Remember down-up-down. It is absolutely critical. Before the 3-turn
your weight should be back on your blade (not on the tail, but at the
back of your instep. When you lift UP on the knee, your weight rocks
toward the toe. When you finish your 3, the weight rocks back again.
Step into the turn on a deeply bent knee, lift UP at the point you
want to turn, and sink down again after the turn. The UP does 2
things: It reduces the weight on your blade, making the turn possible,
and it rocks your weight from under/behind your instep to closer to
the toe, reducing the amount of the blade that is on the ice
4) Don't think about turning at all. Get your upper body into position
(rotated) and hold the lower body, complete with feet) unrotated. Your
body is like a spring, in which the upper end is twisted, but you
haven't let the lower end follow. Then release the spring by releasing
the lower body/feet/legs (while rising UP) to allow the lower body to
rotate to match the upper body. The lower body will do this ON ITS OWN
without your turning anything. If you think about turning, you will
force the turn and it will scrape. Try this: Step into a FO edge for a
3 turn. Skating knee bent. Rotate your upper body to a strong
position. Rise UP on the skating knee. Don't think about turning at
all. MAGIC! You turned anyway! AND, because you weren't thinking about
turning, the 3 was not over-rotated.
5) After the turn keep the free arm over the tracing.
Don't fall into the bad habit of looking at your tracing after the
How do ice dancers do those lightning fast three turns? Actually,
dancers' threes are supposed to be done with as little body motion as
possible. The shoulders are rotated into position and held still
through the turn. The hips rotate 180 degrees in a flash if the
shoulders are rotated adequately. The hard part isn't holding the
edges or checking the turn, but ensuring that the body posture and
foot location is perfect. If they are, then all that moves is the hips
and the skate, causing very little check to be needed and very little
recovery at all. If posture is not correct, the turn requires more
The thing to keep in mind is that the skater moves their body, and as
long as the skates are on an edge, the ice moves the skates --
therefore as you move faster on the ice, the skates just kind of
follow along. Turn your body and your skates will follow!