This article is from the Recreational Figure Skating FAQ, by Karen Bryden with numerous contributions by others.
On a 1-foot spin, both the arms and the free leg are drawn in to the
body to increase your speed. The slower and more controlled you bring
in the leg and arms the faster and more controlled the spin will be
(and it will look better!). A 1-foot spin is done standing up straight
on the "sweet spot" of the skate, just behind the picks. Learning how
to spin is largely learning how to get into and hold this position
with no residual linear motion.
The following definitive description of a forward scratch spin,
covering the basics of one foot spins, is included (with minor
modifications) with permission from Janet Swan-Hill.
** Spinning is a matter of celestial mechanics. As you are doing your
back crossovers getting ready, you are describing a circle (a planet
orbiting the sun). You want to spin in the exact center of that circle
(where the sun is). BUT, just as you can't aim straight at the sun and
hit it, because you are moving backwards on a curve. You have to set
off on a curve that will get you to the center eventually. This means,
that when you step off for the spin, you step slightly forward (on a
strong outside edge), NOT backward, and not quite perpendicular to the
** Don't hurry. You will never center the spin if you step off and
immediately release the free side. You should describe a full
half-circle before you get to the "sun" and release the free side to
let yourself spin. Practice on a hockey line: Stand with your feet
crossed as they would be before you step into the spin, with a strong
check (skating arm/shoulder well forward, free side well back). push
off onto a forward outside edge (left for most of us), and don't let
the free side release until you have finished a half circle and gotten
back to the line. People who are already very accomplished at spinning
will often not look as if they have "waited" to spin. Don't copy them.
They already have the kinesthetic memory of the spin completely
ingrained, and can telescope everything into less of an apparent
sequence of events. they can also compensate for an unorthodox or
"off" approach. Beginners don't do very well at compensating.
** When you step into the spin, keep your shoulders level. Sweep the
skating arm around from its strong check to a neutral position,
imagining that you are sweeping across the top of a high table, trying
to clear it off. If you go in with your skating arm angled downward,
your spin will travel badly. And remember that your arm is not an
isolated body part. Think of the arms/shoulders/upper torso as a
(hinged) unit. As you sweep the arm across, you are also moving the
shoulders and upper torso, with the aim of getting them into "neutral"
position (faced forward, shoulders and hips facing straight ahead,
arms extended (at first) to the side, or rather, slightly in front of
the body, but equally in front)
** When you are doing your backward crossovers getting ready to step
into the spin, imagine that you have a tail. Before you step into the
spin, your left foot is underslung -- behind and outside the skating
foot, and your hips are angled so that your "tail" is pointing outside
the circle instead of backward
** Spend some time practicing stepping into the spin without pushing
with the toepick of the soon-to-be-free foot. If you step off from a
toe pick or a backward scrape, you will lose most of your momentum and
"jar" your position, making it more difficult to keep balance.
** Imagine that someone has inserted a broomstick so that it runs up
your left leg and side and ending at your left shoulder. Imagine
yourself spinning forward around the broomstick. Lift your free hip
slightly. This will move the center of gravity directly over the
skating foot ... and whatever spin you do, whatever position you
eventually assume, you will always need the center of gravity over the
skating foot. For instance, in a layback, the hips are thrust forward
to act as a counter to the weight of the upper body. The arms are also
used to adjust the location of the center of gravity.
** When you release the free side and allow the free foot to come
forward, bring the free leg as close to directly in front as you can.
Ideally the thigh should be parallel to the ice with the foot turned
out (work toward this as a goal ... it's a little scary). Fast spins
are caused by the momentum carried into the spin by the free leg
swinging around. The longer you spin with your free foot extended
(especially if you have it extended to the side) the more likely it
will be to pull you off the center or gravity and therefore the center
of the spin. BUT, DON'T bring the free foot in quickly, and do
anything jerkily, because it will disturb your position, and pull you
off a centered spin. BUT NOTE: if you are going to bend your free leg
to cross it in front for a scratch spin, it will need to be at least
slightly to the side instead of directly in front.
** Don't forget the down-up-down. This is critical, and beginners
rarely remember it. (Many aren't told): As you are getting ready to
step into the spin, your skating leg should be deeply bent DOWN (the
other leg is slung under and outside the skating foot). Rise UP on the
skating knee, then as you step into the pre-spin edge, sink DOWN on
the new skating knee. As you reach the center, and release the free
side, rise UP again, but don't jerk. Each time you rise up, you reduce
weight on the blade, which is why the UP as you center the spin is
critical. But in order to have an UP, you have to have had a DOWN.
Another advantage to this little litany is that it puts a cadence to
the spin entry.
** Don't look down. Keep your eyes level and don't focus on anything.
When you are "winding up", look out ahead at the hand that is in
front. This does two things: It makes you keep the check, and it keeps
you from looking to the side or down. It also tends to keep the
"sweep" of the left arm horizontal, even though by the time you
"sweep", you aren't looking at that hand any more.
** If you are spinning on your pick, THINK about the part of your foot
just behind the ball of your foot. Just thinking about it is usually
enough to make you unconsciously adjust where your weight is. It you
actually try to shift your weight, you will more than likely overdo it
and find yourself on the back of your blade (which is dangerous).
Spinning with your toepick grazing the ice is OK -- that's essentially
the definition of a scratch spin -- but you don't want to be too much
on the pick, because it slows you down, and it is inherently
precariously balanced. It also digs a hole in the ice.
** Problems with centering spins can be caused by lots of things,
usually during the spin entry. Don't step too wide. When you are going
into a spin, you will be transferring your weight from the right foot
(for counterclockwise spinners) to directly over the spinning (left)
foot. If your step into the spin (which is a Choctaw, by the way) is
too wide, your body weight has to bridge the distance between your
feet and end up directly over the left foot ... and it usually won't
make it. Instead, your center of gravity will be somewhere to the
right of the skating foot, which will make it impossible to center the
spin ... if you don't fall out of the spin completely.
** Traveling refers to linear motion across the ice during the spin.
Traveling is the result of not having your upper body above your
center of gravity. There are 3 places in a spin from which you can
1) right after the 3-turn. If you never get the center to begin with,
it can be difficult to pull it in later. Work on stopping your linear
momentum and bringing you right leg around into a spinning motion.
2) while you're spinning and before you bring your arms and legs in.
Dropping your leg or leaving it too far out to one side or the other
can cause you to travel. Make sure the leg is kept high, thigh
parallel to the ice.
3) when you bring the legs and arms in too fast. People often do this
if they feel themselves losing control of the spin.
** The exit position for a spin is the same as that for a jump. If you
are spinning on your left foot, bring the right foot down to touch the
ice and put your weight on it. When the right foot touches the ice,
bend both knees, and simultaneously push yourself backward with the
inside edge of your left foot (as if you were doing a left foot back
scull) to push yourself onto a RBO edge. Extend the left foot (which
is now your free foot) backward and slightly outside so that the edge
doesn't curl too much, and keep your arms in "neutral" (i.e., don't
let your left arm and shoulder rotate around toward the back).
** Remember, a spin is just a 3-turn that you set free.