How hockey players skate faster.

In a minute I am going to give you a short video today giving you three exercises to help hockey players skate faster.  They are simple exercises, you can do them all at home.  Before I send you along, I am wondering what you think of the lockout in the NHL?  Any guesses at how long it will go?  I am an optimist by nature, so I think it will be a fairly short lockout – like 2-4 weeks and that they will be up and running by the end of October – fingers crossed!

My guess is that like most disputes, this one is not really about the money.  After all the league is making good money and the players are not really underpaid.  So I imagine it is like a hockey game – no one want to tie for the Stanley Cup, someone wants to win it outright.  That is my impression anyway.

3 Ways Hockey Players Can Skate Faster

There are three things that make hockey players skate faster.

  1. Range of Motion
  2. Force applied to the ice
  3. Turn over

Let’s look at each one in sequence and let me give you an exercise that will help for each area.

Range of Motion

This one is pretty simple to grasp; imagine if I tied your skate laces together and then offered to race you the length of the ice.  Would you ever accept this challenge?  Probably not, although some of you still might have a chance.

So see, you already know how important range of motion is to your skating.  If you cannot get a full push, there is no way you can maximize your speed.  Yet lots of you go around with your hips tied up and a shorter stride than you need.

So let’s fix that right now.  Now remember, there are lots of muscles that can make your hips tight and today I am only going to share the one that I think is key for most players, but nothing beats a comprehensive stretching program.

The stretch I have chosen for you today is the rectus femoris stretch.  It is basically a hip flexor stretch with your foot on the wall.  This targets a muscle that crosses the hip and the knee and if it is tight (which it is in a lot of you) it can seriously limit your stride length AND increase the overload on your lower back – neither one is cool.

I show you exactly how to do the stretch in the video below – hold it for 30 seconds on each side and do it at least once per day (I would love it if you did it twice per day).

Force Applied To The Ice

You probably have a good understanding of this one as well, the more force you can apply to the ice, the faster you will skate.  This is why so many of you spend hours in the gym during the off-season doing your squats and deadlifts.  When you are stronger, you have the potential to be faster (I will explain why I say ‘potential’ to be faster in the next section).

Although I am not an advocate of ‘sport specific’ training in the sense that I think you should wear your skates and shoulder pads when you do squats, I do think that some of your exercises should mirror similar lines of force application.

When you skate, you are not pushing straight into the ice, you are pushing on a diagonal vector, down and out.

The exercise I have selected for you, the Squat Lateral, lets you use a similar force vector.  Not to say that front squats, deadlifts, split squats, etc are not key exercises for helping hockey players skate faster, I just wanted to give you one that was a little more specific.

I also like how you get a good lengthening under tension of the opposite adductors (groins).  In my experience, adding this type of muscle action can really reduce your incidence of groin strain.

I show you exactly how to do it in the video below.  Start with three sets of eight reps to each side.  Lower into the squat to a count of 3 seconds.  The first two times you use the exercise, do it with just bodyweight and then you can add some dumbbells.

Turn Over

If we have the same stride length and apply the same amount of force to the ice, but you can take 110 strides in a minute and I can only take 97, can you see how you are going to go further than me?

If we lined up on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa (in the winter of course when there is ice) and skated for one minute as described above – you would already be enjoying your delicious Beaver Tail (I know it might sound kinda dirty, but it is a Canadian treat – like a flattened, hunk of deep fried dough sprinkled with sugar…okay, so this article isn’t about nutrition), while I was a good 40 meters away.

Now the drill I have chosen to give you for this one is not one of those exercises aimed at forcing you to increase your stride rate.  I am not going to send you racing to your local skating treadmill, nor suggest that you hurtle yourself down a hill with skates on.

What I want to focus on is your transitional balance, so you can quickly find your balance point, which sets you up to apply your next powerful stride.

If you have poor transitional balance as you stride from one skate to the other, two things will happen, it will either take you longer to set up for a stride or, more often than not, you will just stride anyway before you are stable over the pushing leg.  So you might keep up your turn over, but be pushing with very little force.

You see this in kids who are skating like mad, their legs are going every which way at lightning speeds, but their body is just inching forward on the ice at a turtles pace.  It is slow AND exhausting.

Once again, I show you how to do the Lateral Hop and Stick in the video.   Do 8 to each side and make sure you are getting a full, powerful push.

Hope that helps you tear up the ice gang – have a great day.