speed skaters, who, like the Homeric gods, "stride with winged feet over the sea transmuted into solid ground."
The racing posture of all the best skaters is practically the same. The back is kept straight and horizontal, the arms folded across the back except when spurting; then they are swung from side to side, keeping time to the stroke. Thighs are flexed to a right angle, while the knees are kept in half flexion or almost straight (Figs. 1 and 3). In a recent championship race five of the best amateurs in the world were strung out in line, and their rhythmical swing and stride were as if one brain was moving the whole combination. The crouching position, while it does not Fig. 3.—Diagram. interfere with respiration, diminishes resistance to the wind—an important advantage—and also gives the best position for using the powerful muscles of the loins and back.
The stroke of all the best men is practically the same, and differs from that of ordinary skating both in its direction and in the way it is taken. Its direction is more forward and backward than one from the ordinary short skate, and with the long, flat blade the stroke is given by the whole of the foot flat. Any lifting of the heel in striking out is impossible on account of the length of skate-blade. This has an important bearing on muscular development, as will be seen later.
The muscles most used in speed skating will be seen by the accompanying diagram, in which muscles are represented by the heavy black lines. A stroke is made by extending the knee and hip joints, and the erector spinæ muscles (S) are brought into strong action in straightening the back on the pelvis, which is thereby made firm enough to resist the action of the muscles of the lower limb. The powerful gluteal muscles (G), which in landing keep the body in the upright position, contract strongly.