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Increase Skating Speed

How Do You Increase Skating Speed?

Many coaches, instructors and players all have their own opinions. It is actually a complex question and involves multiple activities. Adjusting your stride, lengthening it, tweaking it by practicing lots of stride work? Sorry, this will not work alone. The truth of the matter is, it takes lots and lots of time and hard work. The reality is great skaters have worked extremely hard on their craft.

Targeting specific muscle groups relating to skating speed is a very effective way of increasing speed over time. At HPD we use off-ice plyometric training.

Plyometric training entails specific exercises that enable the muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible. The muscles trained in these exercises for hockey are the vastus medialis and the vastus lateralis, which are part of the quadriceps muscle group. The gluteus maximus, the muscles on the inside and outside of the hip (adductors and abductors) and many other muscles that are used for stabilization, recovery and forward and backward movement. So Plyometric or off-ice strength training that targets these specified muscle groups is just one piece to the puzzle.

From my own experience and what many players neglect in the off-season and has a major effect on maintaining speed is Anaerobic training. Players go to off-ice and on-ice trainers all summer long to increase speed. Specialized power skating instructors, off-ice strength trainers, etc… . They accomplish this goal but can only maintain that speed for 10 seconds out of a 45 second shift. They still are not effective in a game. I see this all the time, parents approach me with the question what does my son need to do to increase his speed? Most times than not the player actually has adequate speed but is completely out of what I like to call “hockey shape.” Doing the training needed to maintain that speed for a 45 second shift is not an easy task. Like stated earlier it takes lots of commitment and dedication. It is a huge part of speed in hockey and in my experience it is widely neglected among players and trainers alike. Anaerobic activity is one that does not require oxygen, but relies on the ATP-PC and anaerobic glycolysis system of energy within the body. This system is used in short bursts and enables a player to take a hard 45 second shift. My favorite way to train this system besides plyometric work is to do a hill training regimen on a treadmill combined with a heavy bag regimen. The workout usually involves 45 second repetitions followed by adequate rests to simulate a hard shift and then a break on the bench. When doing this workout compared with others in the off-season I could actually feel a difference immediately in maintaining foot speed on the ice during a shift. I currently now do this workout with many of my Junior and College players that train with me over the summer. It is probably by far the most hated regimen for my elite level athletes but the most beneficial combined with a proper on and off-ice training regimen.

Skating technique alone will not make you faster but it is definitely a piece to the puzzle. A proper 90 degree knee bend is a first and foremost emphasis for me with my younger players. Being technically sound with weight over legs will allow a strong 45 degree drive of force. Also, using your edges properly during this drive is of utmost importance. The drive starts with the back portion of your inside edge located directly under the mid-line of your body. In your set position your skates are in what we term a V-postion. Using ankle flexion to cut the ice with the back and proper portion of the inside edge is paramount. Directly after the initial push comes the mid-line of the edge push as you thrust your skate outward at 45 degrees. The last part of the edge to cut the ice is the front portion of that edge, which some refer to as a “toe flick”. Retraction is then highly important. The returning blade must travel quickly to the starting position in order for proper weight transitioning to begin again on the opposite skate. An overemphasis on stride length is a very common theme in today’s youth hockey hustle. So much so, many players spend entire summers working with specialized power skating instructors that work on specifically lengthening stride etc… . Certain body types do not condone a fluent long stride. This is just a cold hard truth pertaining to stride with a hockey player. Like stated before however proper knee bend is “MOST” important. Regardless of stride length a proper knee bend can create a powerful stride. I have played with some of the faster players in the game that have short choppy powerful strides. They push hard and retract even quicker, allowing them to stride again quicker then most.

Some will argue that this player must then take more strides and essentially work harder then the player with a longer stride. I do not believe this is the case because if it were, I would see many more kids coming back from specialized power skating instructors with dramatically changed results. The reality is they come back with their strides tweaked a bit but they look like the same skater. Simply, there body type cannot change and there stride in turn will generally look the same. Another factor in skating speed I would like to point out is weight transfer during stride. Helping with weight transfer is a proper arm swing. Proper movement of the arms helps to develop a rhythm in the skating process to create a fluid-balanced skating motion. Combine this fluid arm swing with a proper knee bend and we are beginning to move forward in the right direction. I believe in doing many power skating exercises that demand full control of all movements. Being able to control other parts of your body while taking a stride is paramount. This is extremely hard for most kids because they simply lack the proper leg strength. They must use other portions of their body to help propel their skate when making a stride. This alone creates all sorts of bad habits, bobbing up and down, torso swinging, head moving just to name a few. My power skating concentrations focus on complete control of your upper body and opposite leg (non pushing leg).

We do this by using many one legged power skating exercises to emphasize certain areas of your blade while concentrating on keeping full control of your body movements. With older more experienced players we do these same concentrations and add weight belts or vests to the regimen. In this way not only are we concentrating on technique but also strengthening the aforementioned specific skating muscle groups.

In the end, and as you can now see the question “How do I increase my son/daughters skating speed?” is a complex question involving many different facets. Combined, it realistically may take years and years of dedication to become proficient. We at HPD are willing to properly help in this area.

Nick Parillo
Head Instructor HPD

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