Upgrade your off-ice training to develop Explosive Skating Speed that will take your game To The Next Level…
Would a faster first step, acceleration and top speed help your game? Of course it will! But how are you going to do that?
“I train with a trainer”
“I already have a workout plan”
“I do sprints and plyometrics”
Of course you do. You’re dedicated to improving your game and that’s why you’re here: to see if I can win your trust and actually make you faster.
I’m not going to tell you to: Train more, Lift more, Sprint more, or do more drills. Not because those things aren’t important, but because the secret to speed is hidden in the TECHNIQUE used by the fastest skaters. That is the resource that you’re missing, and that’s why you’re here.
If the following describes you, then this program won’t help, Sorry.
You do not pay attention to detail with your off-ice development
You are not motivated to improve your game
But if some of these other things describe you, then reading on could turboboost your training:
You work really hard in your training sessions, but you aren’t improving as fast as you think you should
You’ve been told that you have a weak core
You’re just starting to train off-ice for hockey
You suspect that by improving your technique, your workouts would make a bigger difference on the ice
You appreciate attention to detail
You are highly motivated to improve yourself
So, more is more? No. Not when you have faulty technique.
Speed starts with technique. We all know how important technique is for your golf swing. Would you do bench press to improve your golf swing if you had horrible swing technique? Of course not! You’d see a pro to fix your technique first, and then add strength and power through other exercises. So why would you do MORE and WORK HARDER to improve your skating speed, when you could improve your technique first.
Think Different. Everyone else is skating more, doing many drills. No one is working on the basics of technique. If you’re happy with the same results that everyone else is getting, then do the same things they’re doing. If you’re ready to stand out, then you need to find another way.
Skating is a skill that requires technique first. Once you have the foundation of excellent technique then different exercises and drills can help your skating speed. But if you don’t have good technique, it’s like building a house on a shaky foundation.
I share the secrets of developing effective skating technique in just 10-15 minutes of exercises per day. THIS CAN BE EASILY ADDED TO OR BLENDED WITH YOUR WORKOUT, or done throughout the day: it’s up to you!
If you’re tired of working so hard to only get small improvements, its time to work smarter. Working hard AND working smart is the turboboost you need to stay ahead of your competition. I’ll teach you how to work smart with this 8 Week Skating Speed Development Program, so that your hard work goes further.
Here is another Guest Article that I wrote for the West Coast Prep Camp. It outlines that 5 biggest things I would make sure to tell an athlete or parent just starting to think about off-ice training. You can find it here!
Recently, I’ve been in discussions with people that I’m teaching, and they ask me “where did you get all this from?” I tend to shake my head, confused, because I don’t really know where I “got it all from”. I can usually point to the most recent people who have influenced my thought, or those with the most radical thoughts, but after that it’s all a blur of interconnecting information. Where did I start? When I was 12, I started with Peter Twist and his book, “Complete Conditioning for Ice Hockey”. I learned about carbohydrates, and plyometrics. I learned that Pavel Bure wasn’t fast, but had great acceleration. I subsequently went to Twist’s camps and trained using his system. Then when I was 16, for some reason, I decided I needed to learn more. So I went to the Chapters and into the “Sport” Section, and bought about $160 dollars worth of books: Agility Training, Boompa’s Periodization for Sport, Michael Boyle’s Functional Training for Young Athletes and Dr. Michael Colgan’s book on training. I’d say I actually did a pretty good job. Then I did my BCRPA Personal Trainer’s certification which involved a bunch of basic physiology and anatomy learning. After that point is when things start to get blurry. I started learning more and more, faster and faster, from disparate sources. I remember a few inflection points: one where I thought sport specific training methodology was the only methodology athletes should follow, then my perspective was bombarded by a Power Lifting makes you a better athlete perspective, then another where I began to consider the concept of general movement quality. Then, finally, my degree at UBC got interesting, and I began to consider the finer points of exercise physiology and functional anatomy. The next courses that made an impact were a cellular and molecular muscular physiology course, and a neuromechanics of human movement course. Finally rounding things out, was a student directed seminar I coordinated where a number of students got together and discussed current topics in the strength and conditioning field. Having the benefit of going through that winding, and confusing road for the past 13 years allows me to see where I could have shortcuted a few things, and gotten straight to the point in a few important areas. Along my road, there were times when it took considerable amounts of time and mental effort to sort through the very different perspectives of say Sport Specific training methodology and Power Lifting for athletic performance methodology. I know now the resources that can explain the differences and points of agreement between the two perspectives. So what are those resources? Where should you start? Well, there’s no perfect route. But I’m going to list a few resources in no particular order to sift through.
1. Pavel Tsatsouline (StrongFirst) Is Pavel perfect? No. But he distills very complex training principles into simple writings that are accessible to anyone. He also covers almost all bases when it comes to training, conditioning, core training, flexibility, and mobility. I would first look at “Power to the People” or “Easy Strength”. Specific to easy strength is the idea of the Four Quadrants, which helps sort out how you should view your training, resolving the “Sport Specific vs Powerlifting” dilemma I mentioned earlier.
2. Dr. Kelly Starrett (MobilityWOD) Now, is Kelly perfect? Nope. Are a lot of people going to disagree with him? Yes. It took me a while to get my head around the fact that he was a CrossFit guy. But his website is rife with knowledge gold nuggets on human movement, “adaptation errors” and how to fix them, posture, breathing, and mobility.
3. Dr. Stuart McGill Owner of the best moustache in the field, Dr. McGill ushered in the “core training” era. However, as many trainers do, they have watered down his concepts with their own bullshit. If you want to go straight to the source, and also understand “injury mechanisms” of the lower back, this is where you should start.
4. The Basics
No specific resource here. But know your anatomy and basic physiology. Like really know it. Buy yourself a couple of textbooks and learn. Sit down with them seriously.
You should also have a good understanding of neuromechanics of human movement and neural adaptations. I suggest Enoka’s Neuromechanics of Human Movement if you’re serious. It will dive deeper into many of the concepts explored by Pavel in his works.
Breath & posture: With its Eastern connotations, this may be seen as woowoo, but I promise at having a clear understanding of breath and posture leads to a clear understanding of movement through tension and relaxation. Here are a couple of resources: breathing and posture.
Periodization: Overtraining does exist. So does under training. The idea of periodization is to walk the fine line between the two. Start with Tudor Boompa’s work, and then explore other types: cybernetic, vertical integration, etc..
Recovery: Stay away from gimmicks at the start, and focus on the principles of recovery. People get caught up the muscular components of recovery, which are important, but I suggest that you should start with learning about the autonomous nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Look up and learn about heart rate variability and the vagus nerve.
5. Charlie Francis Ben Johnson’s trainer has also received his fair share of criticism. But I like his approach to conditioning and speed development.
6. Instagram Follow: Gymnastic Bodies, Dr. Andreo Spina, Rob Blackwell, Cal_Strength, UBC Strength & Conditioning.
In between selfies, and filtered skylines, make yourself better by following some useful Instagram accounts. Many of these accounts have good learning suggest in their posts. They’ll also provide links to other resources.
7. Psychology/Mindset “Mindset” by Caroline Dweck and “Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle. Start there if you haven’t already done so. I won’t say any more.
8. Ido Portal Not because I can do any of the wild and crazy movements he teaches, but because his way of thinking is a refreshing take on humanity and what we’re actually doing in the training environment.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it’s where I would start today. If I had to start over, I would want my perspectives to be coloured by the ideas found on this list.
I used to jokingly tell people that “elite athletes can control their body temperature at will” all the time when they complained of being hot or cold. I’m pretty sure I picked it up from my uncle Ken (Founder of 4th Dimension Hockey School).
Even though I would say this jokingly, I always considered that it was a real possibility. I’d heard the urban myths of Yogis or Taoist monks meditating under waterfalls or whatever, so I figured it must be physically possible.
Enter Wim Hof: I started hearing about him on the (obviously) Tim Ferriss podcast, and then listened to him on the Ben Greenfield podcast. His idea is interesting, which is that ordinary people can tap into and control their autonomous nervous system, thus controlling their body temperature, but also hastening healing. He also claims that his method vastly improves performance.
I’ve also started taking cold showers regularly which I find invigorating in the morning, and helps me sleep at night. So I consider the possibility that his breathing technique and method could be legit. I’m sharing in case some of my readers want to find out. I’m experimenting with parts of the technique myself.
Here is yet another reference to a Tim Ferriss Concept, this one from the Four Hour Body. I continue to learn things with regards to hockey development, or my life…and I can hear one of his sayings resonating in my head from a book I read 4 years ago. “Everything popular is wrong” was ringing in my head as I realized that one of the most common skating technique cues was something that was really messing me up. Here we go…
“Bend Your Knees”
Ya, I’ll go ahead and tackle this one. I’ve taken a shot at the forward arm swing, and now I’m gonna tell you that knee bend doesn’t matter. Well actually, I’ll tell you that knee bend does matter…but more is not better.
If you go back and look at old games, you’ll very rarely see players with a deep knee bend. They may look hunched over, but that is due to hip flexion. Hip flexion is the angle between your upper leg and your torso. If you look at clips of speed skaters, you also rarely see a deep knee bend, but rather a deep level of hip flexion to allow their torso to come forward.
We got mixed up, somewhere…
The same well known power skating school that I beat up upon (but honourably leave unnamed) preaches the idea of at least a 90 degree knee bend and an upper body angle of 50 degrees. Why? I have no clue. It seems like they arbitrarily thought that both of those angles were ideal. Or maybe they did some research. Who knows, but both cues have trickled down, and many power skating coaches now use those cues.
NHL – What works? What do we see?
Let’s take a look at Toews. This guy is absolutely nowhere near the upper body angle recommended by power skating coaches. How much knee bend does he have? Not much. What he does have is hip flexion. He hinges at the hips and sticks his butt back to maintain balance.
Crosby, Ovechkin, Kane, Benn, Tavares, Datsyuk – all have different levels of knee bend depending on their bodies. But all have good hip flexion and less knee flexion than you think.
By having straighter knees, and more hip flexion, the body is in a more balance position. This allows the skater to generate force more quickly from their support leg with their hip. Meanwhile, a more flexed knee needs to travel back behind the body before being able to generate forward force from the hip. With a deep knee flexion, the leg can generate force, but with the knee extensors (quadriceps). The hips (glutes) are much more powerful than the quads at generating force.
Straighter knees allows the musculature of the lower leg to be recruited earlier. For example, researchers at the fine University of British Columbia found that soleus is recruited when the knee is in a bent position and that both the soleus and gastrocnemius are recruited in an extended knee position. So having the leg straighter has the lower leg in a more advantageous force producing situation. Also, with the knees straighter, the hips have to sit back to compensate, putting them in a more advantageous force production situation. When both knees are highly flexed, in order to extend the leg behind the body, the skater either knees other wordly flexible hip flexors (which, when tight impede hip extension), or they compensate by generating force laterally or not at all. Less knee flexion allows the legs to extend more directly behind the body.
When a skater has more hip flexion and less knee flexion, they can shift their balance by subtly moving their hips forward and back. When a skater has more knee flexion, they have to use larger ankle movements to shift their balance forward and back. The ankles, being further away from the centre of the body provide less leverage and are therefore not optimal for shifting body weight, but are instead useful for locomotion. So a larger knee bend shifts the responsibility of weight shifting to the ankles, which are not ideal for the task. Meanwhile, being in hip flexion allows the responsibility of weight shifts to originate closer to the body’s centre.
I had a teammate comment that he thought I got too low and got stuck on railroad tracks too often. He was right. I thought, because I had been told, that my strength as a skater came from my knee bend. But this knee bend actually made it more difficult for me to change direction.
Why we went wrong:
Very easy for someone without expertise to do, we confuse what we think we see with what is actually going on. We see deep levels of hip flexion from a speed skater, or a skater who looks strong, and we think its knee bend, because we don’t actually know very much about hip flexion of hip hinging. We describe what we know, and we know knee bend.
Making the adjustment
If you’re buying what I’m saying, experiment with skating with less knee bend. Make sure to compensate for less knee bend by sticking your bum further back. Make sure to also keep your ribcage down when you’re skating. Don’t eliminate knee bend, but play with a more extended position. Let your hip hinge dictate your knee bend. Pay attention to the ease with which you can generate force. If you find yourself in a position that’s easier to generate force, try that position out for a bit. Also, pay attention to how your stick handling and shooting improves or doesn’t with less knee bend, more hip hinge and a bit more forward torso angle.
If you know that you already have deep knee flexion, try sticking your butt further behind you and up, keeping your spine neutral. If you know that you don’t have knee flexion and your coaches are telling you to bend them more: politely nod, ignore them, practice the hip hinge, work on sticking your butt further behind you while skating.
If a skater cannot hip hinge correctly (flex the hips while maintaining neutral spine), this whole article will not help them. The skater who cannot hip hinge should first learn how to do so before attempting to improve any other aspect of their game.
“Bend your knees” is not an effective cue to teach an effective skating stride. It may cause a skater to emphasize knee bend over hip hinge. Hip hinge is a primary consideration for skating speed, power and balance, and knee bend is a secondary consideration.
Too deep of knee flexion leads to suboptimal force production angles
Too deep of knee flexion leads to less balance and control while skating dynamically
Learning to Hip Hinge is crucial for skaters
Applying the Hip Hinge to the skating stride will result in more speed, balance, puck control and improved shooting
Do not eliminate knee bend. Rather experiment with different levels to see what works for you. More knee bend is not better!