Research Review: Hockey Speed

Remember last week I posted a video with some new High Intensity Interval Training combinations that you could try to improve your hockey speed and stamina on the ice.  Well, this weekend I was looking through research articles online (WOW, I wish we had that when I was in Grad School – the money I spent at the library photocopying journal articles) and I came across one that lends more support to the HIIT idea.

Here is the brief synopsis and I will give you the full reference at the end if you want to pour over the Methods, Statistical Analysis sections on your own time…

Basically, they looked at an NCAA Division 1 hockey team, the runner up at the Frozen Four the year before.  I think it was University of Miami (not the one in Florida).

They measured their body fat percentage, their Wingate Peak Power and Fatigue Index, Isokinetic force production at 120 degrees of rotation per second and finally they compared all of that to on-ice skating speed using a repeated sprint skate test.

In this test the researchers looked at the time to skate the length of the ice – goal line to goal line and back to the blue line closest to the starting point.  This is repeated 6 times with 30-seconds of rest between each interval.  So you can see that there is a lot of data to come from that – peak speed, average speed, fatigue index, etc.

Lab Tests for Hockey Speed

The Wingate Test is a 30 second all out sprint at a resistance equivalent to 10% of a player’s body weight set for the drag.  It sounds simple enough, but it is a max effort test that has left more than one of the players I train with their head buried in the nearest garbage pail for 20-30 minutes after finishing this one time 30-second sprint.

From this test you can measure the peak power output, the time to get to peak power, how much the power drops from the peak to the end of the test.  It is a great test and is used by NHL Central Scouting for their Combine with top prospects.

The Isokinetic Dynamometer is a tool some of you may have used at physio.  It is a huge apparatus that basically limits the speed of a movement and measures the amount of force produced at different angular velocities.

So, if the angular velocity were set at 180 degrees of movement per second and I could still produce quite a bit of force at that higher velocity, that suggests that I have more power – I can produce lots of force even at high speeds.

If the angular velocity were set to 20 degrees of rotation per second and I could produce a ton of force at that speed – this suggests that I am very strong.  I may not do as well at the higher speeds though if I am not powerful.

They wanted to see which (if any) of the lab measures correlated with on-ice performance.

Here’s what they found:

  • On-Ice skating times were not correlated to any of the isokinetic tests, in other words, those who produced more force during the isokinetic testing were not significantly faster on the ice than those who produced less force during that lab test.
  • The players who generated more peak power during the Wingate Test produced the fastest skating times.
  • On-ice fatigue also correlated with the fatigue index from the Wingate Test.  So those that showed greater drop in power output during the Wingate Test also showed a bigger drop off in their on-ice testing.
  • Those with the highest overall average skating speed across all 6 reps were the players with the lowest body composition (the average body fat percentage for this group was 12% +/- 4%)

So here are the big take-home messages from this research paper.   There is some transfer between high intensity sprint intervals on the bike and on the ice.  If you find yourself without access to ice, you can improve your anaerobic power using the bike.

You know from reading other articles I have written that you do not want the bike to be your primary source of off-ice conditioning, but this study did not look at agility drills or hill running, so we can only draw conclusions using their framework.

The second take home message is – don’t wear a fat jacket on the ice.  Now, I do not really want players stepping on the ice at 5% body fat – I think it makes you too lean and does not leave enough cushion for impact.  That is just my opinion.

But if you are sitting at 16% and the guy down the bench from you is sitting at 12%, he has an advantage over you when it comes to on-ice speed.  I like to send the players I train to camp between 8-12% body fat.

The researchers made this conclusion:

The use of prolonged endurance activities that hinder development of force and power production should be minimized because these types of activities have been shown to hinder development of force and power production in muscle.

So there is your geek-fix for the week – enjoy your Sunday.  Coming up later this week I am going to show you how to make delicious eggs in only 90 seconds with only one dish to wash.  Stay tuned….

Here’s the full reference for the article:

Relationship Between Body Composition, Leg Strength, Anaerobic Power, and On-Ice Skating Performance in Division I Men’s Hockey Athletes
Potteiger, Jeffrey A; Smith, Dean L; Maier, Mark L; Foster, Timothy S

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research:
July 2010 – Volume 24 – Issue 7 – pp 1755-1762


If on-ice skating speed is something that needs work, you should check out Hockey Speed Secrets.  I show you the exact on-ice drills that I use with pro players to develop their speed and stamina.  Did I mention it was less than $10?  I also give you an complete training phase that I used this past summer with one of the pro players I train, it shows you how the off-ice and on-ice components go together.

hockey speed secrets