Get the latest news and updates from Red Tech Labs right here on our blog!

Treadmill Skating vs. On-Ice Skating

There is an ongoing debate in the hockey world surrounding the use of skating treadmills as a development tool for hockey players with a common paradigm being that skating on a treadmill may alter a player’s stride. Without a doubt the skating treadmill should never completely replace skating on the ice but should rather be used in conjunction with on-ice training as a TOOL to help improve your skills as a hockey player.

The game of hockey is a multifaceted and fast paced game which is rarely played in straight lines. Skills such as pivoting, turning, and accelerating should all be included in any players skill repertoire. However, if the basic skating movement patterns are not mastered (ie. proper joint loading or muscle activation), then any of the subsequent complex movement patterns will also be flawed. Hip alignment, lack of mobility and lack of strength can all account for flawed biomechanical skating movements.

As I already alluded to, nothing will ever replace specific on-ice hockey training but the skating treadmill offers players an excellent opportunity to get multiple repetitions of a skating specific skill in an individual setting. One thing I will never endorse as a Biomechanist is training on an incline while skating on the treadmill. Mechanically, this doesn’t make sense as it causes you to skate more like a runner with a narrower angle of push. Plus, at no time in a game are you skating uphill.

Going back to the original debate of treadmills being a valid training tool, researchers at McGill University have done extensive studies examining the biomechanics of skating on synthetic surfaces (ie. treadmills) vs. skating on actual ice. To give you a brief synopsis of what they discovered in their study, they found that the friction was slightly different between the two surfaces (higher on the treadmill) which possibly caused a slightly shorter glide phase on a treadmill. One plausible explanation for this is the psychological effect of having a loud machine with a surface moving rapidly underneath your feet. To the untrained treadmill user, there is a tendency to feel the need to stride more often just to “keep up”. Once this initial effect is overcome, the glide time significantly increases. Despite the friction difference, the study found that the actual mechanics of the forward stride were not significantly altered. Click here to download the full paper and read more.

Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers

Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers

Considering that there is no biomechanical difference when it comes to skating on the synthetic surface of a treadmill, another benefit of using it, for us anyway, is it allows us to collect objective, scientific data in a controlled environment. With our 3D Skating Software, we can precisely identify where exactly in a players stride they may be losing speed or power in addition to putting themselves at risk of injury by evaluating the aforementioned alignment, mobility and strength. Being able to identify these basic skating movements we can then precisely correct any flawed biomechanical patterns before leading into more complex movements.

I’m sure the validation of skating treadmills will continue to be debated for some time but with the lack of availability of ice in some communities, having a tool such as the skating treadmill seems to be a very viable option for players to continue their development.

Adam Redmond
RedTech Innovations

4 Skating Specific Exercises to Improve Your Speed

There isn’t a hockey player, coach or scout who doesn’t value skating speed. To be successful on the ice, you must be able to outskate your opponent to break wide on a defender, crash the net or backcheck to break up a potential goal.

To improve your skating speed, you must break down the mechanics of your stride into three phases: glide, push and recovery. Improving each phase will increase your stride length and—more important—your stride rate. In fact, studies show that increasing stride rate should be the primary focus for hockey players who want to increase speed.

Glide Phase
The glide phase occurs when one skate is directly under your hips and your opposite leg is in a stride. This allows for loading of the hip, knee and ankle joints so that maximum force can be generated against the ice during the push phase. Holding this position requires a great deal of core and lower-body strength, which can be improved with Single-Leg Squats.

Single-Leg Squats

  • Balance on right leg
  • Keeping weight on heel, initiate movement by driving hips back
  • Squat until thigh is near parallel to ground
  • Explode out of squat position; repeat for specified reps
  • Perform on left leg

Sets/Reps: 3×12 each leg

Push Phase
The push phase is when you perform the stride and push against the ice to propel forward. This is where your power comes from, although it generally constitutes only 10 to 15 percent of the overall stride time. This means that you generate great force in an extremely short amount of time. Typically, a hockey player’s glutes and quads are his strongest and most powerful muscles, meaning they are also the main muscles that propel him forward. Train these muscles for power and speed with Step-Ups.

Step-Ups

  • Holding dumbbells at sides, assume athletic stance six inches from knee-high box or bench
  • Place right foot flat on box or bench
  • Contract right quad and glute to explosively drive body upward
  • Drive left knee up until thigh is parallel to ground
  • Bend right knee and hip to lower left leg to ground and return to starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps; perform set with opposite leg

Sets/Reps: 3×12 each leg

Recovery Phase
The final phase of the forward stride is the recovery of the extended leg after the stride is complete, when the leg swings to the front of the body to return to the glide phase. Players should focus on a low and straight recovery, with the skate in position under their hips so that the opposite leg can begin its push phase. During recovery, the groin and hip flexor muscles are engaged. Increasing groin and hip flexor strength will allow you to recover your leg and increase speed. Improve your recovery phase with the Keiser Hip Flexor and Keiser Leg Adductions.

Keiser Hip Flexion

If Keiser machine is unavailable, use resistance band

  • Assume athletic stance balancing on one leg with strap around opposite knee and cable behind body
  • Flex hip and knee to pull knee toward hip until thigh is parallel to ground; keep foot flexed and upper body upright
  • Slowly extend hip and knee to lower to start position; repeat for specified reps
  • Perform set with opposite leg

Sets/Reps: 3×12 each leg

Keiser Hip Adduction

If Keiser machine is unavailable, use resistance band

  • Assume athletic stance balancing on one leg with strap around opposite ankle and cable to the side
  • Swing leg directly across body in front of balancing leg; keep leg straight
  • Slowly swing leg back across body to return to start position; repeat for specified reps
  • Perform set with opposite leg

Sets/Reps: 3×12 each leg

Regularly performing these exercises will produce an increase in your skating speed. In the Part 2 of this series, we will look at more skating-specific speed exercises that can be done on ice or on a skating treadmill.

 

Shaw TV

A couple of weeks ago we filmed a segment with Shaw TV on our Skating Analysis System and touched on how it is used along with the benefits every skater can get from it. Check it out for yourself and let us know what you thought!