Two-minute Guide to the Sport of Curling: This video may help understand the sport and this article!
Curling is a competitive game played on ice. It is popular in North America and it is played by athletes of all ages and levels, from youth to seniors and, casual to professional. Your team consists of 5 teammates, The Lead, The Second, The Vice/Third, The Skip, and The Fifth. At game time, 4 teammates are on the ice actively playing. Each team member is responsible for throwing two stones per end.
What the curling athlete does off-ice can directly impact their individual and team performance on the ice. In this blog, we will break down each position to provide information about curling and the benefits of having a proper off-ice strength and conditioning program.
The lead has the important job of throwing the first two stones of the game and sweeping for stones three to eight. Having a strong lead can dictate the outcome of the game in some instances. If the lead is throwing accurate stones the game can be better set up and controlled.
The lead requires upper body strength, core strength, cardiovascular endurance, and balance. Focusing on their back, hips, shoulders, elbows, and wrists is crucial. Utilizing both mobility and strength training will benefit this position.
The second will throw stones three and four, they will sweep for stones one, two, and five to eight. It is important for the second and lead to sweep together in unison. Seconds will primarily focus on throwing powerful and accurate takeouts.
The second will require upper body strength, core strength, cardiovascular endurance, and balance. Focusing on their back, hips, shoulders, elbows, and wrists is crucial. Utilizing both mobility and strength training will benefit this position.
The vice throws the fifth and sixth stones of the end, sweeps for stones one to four, and is also the captain for shots seven and eight. After the vice has thrown their stones they act as the team quarterback, calling the shots and strategizing where the next stone should be thrown. The vice needs to be able to work closely in unison with the lead, second, and skip. The vice is a “jack of all trades”, they need to be able to throw light draws and hard takeouts.
The vice, much like the other teammates, benefits from full body flexibility, balance, strength, and power. Their hips, back, knees and, ankles all need to be mobile, stable, and strong. The vice will require proficient cardiovascular conditioning as well.
The skip is the team captain, they throw the seventh and eighth stones of the end. The skip captains shots one to six, while the vice is the captain for seven and eight. The skip is the master of strategy on the ice, being able to read the ice and having a plan A, B, and C, staying agile, and looking for ways to counteract the other team’s shots. The skip is the anchor, meaning no one shoots after them. When the skip is not throwing they are located at the opposite end of the ice, calling the shots and letting their team know when to sweep.
The skip is unique, they will benefit from full body flexibility, balance, strength, and power. However, their role on the team differs in practice and play. The skip does not sweep during the game and they throw more warmup rocks before the game which can potentially lead to overuse injuries. Focusing on their back, hips, shoulders, elbows, and wrists is crucial. Utilizing both mobility and strength training will benefit this position.
The fifth is usually an extra player on the team that is placed in the game if there is an injury or sickness to one of the teammates. The fifth can also be placed in the game if the game is going favorably well for their team and the game can be decided in the third or fourth end. When the fifth comes into the game they will usually play lead or second position which means they need to be flexible in the shots they make, guard, takeout and draws need to be a strength of theirs. When the fifth is not on the ice playing they still hold a very important role in the team. They are responsible for charting differences in rocks, paying attention to the games going on the other sheets of ice, strategies, and ice conditions.
The fifth, much like the other teammates, benefits from full body flexibility, balance, strength, and power which are important for their role within the team. Your hips, back, knees, and ankles all need to be mobile, stable, and strong. The vice will still require proficient cardiovascular conditioning as well.
Curling is a team sport that requires precision, communication, focus, flexibility, mobility, strength, and conditioning. Curling is a unilateral dominant sport, meaning it is more one-sided. The throwing arm is the same, sweeping hand positioning is the same, and your push leg is the same. This can create imbalances throughout the body leading to potential injury.
Before starting any strength and conditioning program at Acumen, there is a thorough intake consisting of a Movement Screen and a Performance Test. These are used to help determine what the athlete needs to work on, goal setting, and exercise prescription. Proper periodization of the program should be implemented and an open line of communication established between the coach and the athlete.
Strength maintenance during the season will help reduce overuse injuries because the body can withstand more work/force placed upon it; which can be achieved through tempo-controlled lifting. The proper use of eccentric, isometric, and concentric-focused training programs will vary their focus depending on the athlete’s schedule. Off-season training can be more rigorous and focus on muscle growth, speed, and power development.
Curling athletes must be head-to-toe balanced, strong, and powerful. This can be achieved during in and off-season training by moving light to moderate loads with speed. We focus on powerful concentric muscle contractions using hang cleans, kettlebell swings, trap bar deadlifts, and squats.
Curling is a low-impact sport that has bursts of effort followed by extended periods of rest. Conditioning for the curling athlete should consist of a healthy mix of endurance and interval-based conditioning to keep the athlete well-rounded.
4. Prehab (Flexibility/Mobility)
The in-season movement patterns on the ice are repetitive and can cause “nuisance injuries”. During the in-season training program, a proper allotment of time should be put towards prehab movements. These prehab movements are where we address these areas daily with foam rolling, mobility, flexibility, core, and strength drills. Spending 20 minutes per session on prehab work is proactive and can reduce the risk and frequency of injury in athletes. As athletes, it is common to get comfortable playing through tweaks, strains, and sprains. However, playing through pain will lead to a reduction in power and efficiency on the ice, decreasing individual, and team performance. If a proper prehab protocol is in place during in-season training the off-season can then be dedicated to increasing strength, speed, and power and less focused on fixing imbalances.
The in-season schedule includes travel, multiple games in a day, off-ice warm-ups, and on-ice warm-ups. Therefore, an in-season strength and conditioning plan must be calculated and account for these aforementioned variables. On the other hand, off-season training should take into consideration the decreased amount of travel and on-ice practice time.
Reach out to our team of specialists to get you or your team working with us.
Curling Canada https://www.curling.ca/ History made at mixed! Curling Canada | The home of curling in Canada. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.curling.ca/
Rookie Road Curling https://www.rookieroad.com/curling/ Curling. rookieroad.com. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.rookieroad.com/curling/
Fit to Play https://fittoplay.org/sports/curling/curling/ Become a better curler. Skadefri. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://fittoplay.org/sports/curling/curling/
Interview: Sharkey, C. (n.d.). Glenn Venacne – Team Sturmay- Professional Curler. other.