Outside Figure 8

Your World is a series of blogs on all things figure skating by Jo Ann Schneider Farris, About.com's Figure Skating Expert. In this article, Jo Ann provides information on how to do a basic outside figure eight.


Figure skating is called figure skating because once, not all that long ago, the focus of our sport was not on jumping and spinning, but about creating designs on the ice that were done in figure eight circle patterns. Figure skaters of today still need to learn how to do a forward outside circle eight since it is part of ISI's and US Figure Skating's test structure, but also being able to do an outside figure eight is really an essential skill that all skaters should be able to do.  

Although skating on a circle on one foot may look easy, new ice skaters will find an outside figure eight quite challenging. Every time you go skating, practice edges or the outside figure eight.  You will find your skating will improve by taking the time to go "back to basics!"

Here's How:

  1. First practice doing half-circles on two feet using an arena's blue or red ice hockey line as your long axis.
  2. Next, lift up the foot that is on the outside of the curve as you continue to practice half circles across that hockey line.
  3. The right arm should be in front when a skater does the edge on the right foot and the left arm should be in back. When the the skater does the outside edge on the left foot, the left arm should be in front, and the right arm should be in back.
  4. Now, it's time to make two complete circles on the ice. Begin by going to the center of the rink and standing on the blue hockey dot that is usually on the red line in the center of an ice arena's ice sheet. This spot is your figure's "center."
  5. First push off from that center dot on two feet to the right with your right arm in front and your left arm in back. The right skate should be on the outside edge and the left skate should be on an inside edge.
  6. Lean into the circle as you glide on two feet.
  7. At the top of the circle, using a scissors type motion, change your arms so that the left arm is in front and the right arm is in back.
  8. Return to your "center," and repeat what you did to the right, but now do a circle to the left.
  9. Repeat the two foot figure eight exercise over and over again.
  10. Next, lift up the free foot and hip (the foot and hip that is on the outside of each circle) as you practice the figure eight pattern over and over again on one foot.


  • Don't expect to be able to hold an outside edge on one foot for a complete circle immediately.  Practice makes perfect. 
  • Keep your free foot close to the back of your skating foot during the the first half of each circle. 
  • After you change arms at the top of each circle, then pass your free foot in front.
  • Raise your free hip slightly as you make half-circles and/or circles on the ice.
  • Use your blade, not your toe pick, to gain momentum when you push from the "center" of your figure eight.
  • Freshly cleaned ice that has just been resurfaced by the Zamboni is not necessary.
  • Don't worry about tracing perfect circles on the ice when you first learn to do an outside circle eight.


Photo by Fred Warrander, National Film Board of Canada