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How To Become A Faster Skater

Posted by AJ Lee on

Widely regarded as the fastest team sport, hockey requires speed. While a lot of coaches preach about speed with the puck, speed without it may be more important. After all, think about how often you see two players racing toward a puck compared to one skating away with it.

Yes, some players naturally skate faster than others — but you can become a faster skater. By paying attention to three key areas impacting your speed, you can start winning some of those puck chases.

Form

After we first learn to stand when wearing skates, how much time do most of us invest in becoming a better skater? Answer: Not enough.

It is always good to review the basics of proper skating technique:

  • Form a “V” with your skates and bend your knees so that you can’t see your toes.
  • Skate with one foot at a time, extending your leg and foot fully and completely transferring your body weight with each stride.
  • Bring your driving leg back to the “V” position as quickly as possible from full stride and extend the other leg.
  •  

    Finer Points:

  • The first three steps from a stand-still are crucial – the quicker your first three strides are, the quicker you can get to top speed.
  • Avoid leaning too far forward (your stride will shorten as you struggle to keep your balance).
  • Keep your head in the center of your shoulders and your body square to the direction of travel.
  • Don’t forget your arms (arms work in concert with legs to produce speed).
  •  

    Function:

    Better skaters aren’t born, they’re created on the ice and, not surprisingly, in the gym.

    Volumes can be written on hockey — and speed-specific training — but aim for the following:

  • Balance — meaning your dominant hand (and the leg that goes with it) aren’t so dominant so as to compromise form and invite injury. Balance also means taking the time to work twice as hard in the gym on muscles that don’t get worked in the game. In hockey, that means doing two pull motions (rows, pullups and the like) for every push (bench presses, etc.).
  • Strength — meaning training to failure. If you can do three sets of 12, you’re not training heavy enough. Add weight until you can do no more than five reps.
  • Explosiveness — meaning creating power — which is the speed with which you can apply your strength. Box jumps and Olympic-style lifts are explosivity favorites.
  • Beyond that, remember to work your core, perfect your squat technique and run sprints. Long runs are for conditioning, sprints are for training.

    Fit

    Your gear can help or hurt your mission to skate faster.

    Hockey pants that are too long (past the middle of your kneecap when your legs are straight) can restrict your movement. Cheaper pants without four-way stretch material (running left to right and front to back) can also bog down your stride.

    For most players, the choice comes down to traditional hockey pants — with zippers on the inside of the pant leg for players who like to put their skates on before their pants — and girdles. The latter are a form of compression gear, with built-in padding, and proponents claim enhanced freedom of movement — thus, better speed — is a benefit.

    Sharp blades and the right blade profile, or hollow, based on your weight and skating style are also essential.

    Of course, most of us find we skate better on a better — and better-fitting — skate.

    Here’s how to ensure a good fit:

  • Remember, skates run a size or two smaller than your shoe size.
  • Skates should be fitted for size, width and depth.
  • To check depth, with your skates untied and the tongue pulled out, a pencil should rest across the  innermost horizontal (or lowest vertical) eyelets without rocking over the top of your foot.
  • To check size, lean forward in a hockey stance. If you can slide more than one finger between your heel and the skate, the skate is too loose.
  • Get your skates baked (molded to your feet), preferably by the shop that sells them to you.
  • Now, Slow Down

    Pause to fully consider the Three F’s of going fast — Form, Function and Fit — and make a plan. Remember, too, that this isn’t about fast feet so much as a powerful stride. The foot you lift off the ice isn’t as important as the one pushing you forward. Keep pushing. You’ll skate better and skate faster.

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