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How To Skate Faster - Hockey And Speedskating
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There are two main aspects to improve your skating speed: technique and power. Lets talk about technique briefly. There are a few main things to focus on to improve your stride. When taking your stride, extend your leg fully, even pushing with your ankles at the end. It is easy to think of the end of your stride as a "snap". Take a long stride, focus on generating power and "snap" your foot out at the end. When you bring your leg back, retrieve your leg back under you. Make sure you keep your foot close to the ice. The higher you bring your foot back up after, the less efficient and slower you will be.  A good drill is to just start at one end of the ice and work your way down to the other end slowly, focusing on your stride. 

Now for power, which is much easier to explain just through writing. Power is essentially generated by fast twitch muscle fibres in your muscles. They are responsible for speed while slow twitch muscle fibres are used for endurance. Improving your power is usually done through working out. This is where you can really focus on specific muscle groups and transfer that power onto the ice. 

You often hear about how "powerful" someone may be or how "powerful" their stride is. This is how much explosive strength their muscles can exert over a short period of time (duration of ONE stride). This is improved through lifting weights and plyometrics. 

Lifting weights - Obviously you are using your leg muscles to skate, so we will focus on leg workouts in order to skate faster. The main muscles used while skating are your hamstrings and glutes. The best exercises to target these muscles are front squats, back squats, dead lifts, one legged squats, and glute hamstring extensions. Any other excercises that target those muscles will be beneficial as well. The most important thing when doing these exercises, is the set and rep configuration. To improve power, do 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps. During the negative phase of the lift (on the way down when you're squatting, lowering your arm on a bench press... you get the idea) take 2 seconds to go all the way down, pause at the bottom for 1 second, then EXPLODE up. In a squat for example, stand back up as quickly and as "powerful" as you can. This directly translates onto the ice and will improve your power generation in each stride. 

Plyometrics - Plyos are very helpful to increase your power. For those of you who don't know what plyometrics are, they are explosive exercises with little to no weight, such as squat jumps, vertical jumps, clap pushups etc. They force your muscles to be as powerful as possible. Some great plyometric exercises are squat jumps (far as you can jump), tuck jumps (standing, jump and bring your knees up towards your chest), box jumps (jump onto box), one legged squat jumps, diagonal one legged squat jumps and hurdle jumps. As you can see, a lot of jumping is involved. Thats because it uses almost all the muscles in your legs, and you generate as much power as your muscles can. Be sure to do every rep as hard as you can. That means jumping as high as you can, as long as you can etc. Doing 3 sets of 10 reps is usually very effective when it comes to plyometrics and improving your power. You will definitely see positive results as begin to skate faster on the ice.

While athletes like to do their weights and plyometrics sepereately, it is very effective to superset some of the exercises. A very popular one is to do your front/back squat and immediately follow it with 10 squat jumps or box jumps or tuck jumps. 

Althought you can do a lot of the plyometrics without equipment, a set of hurdles and boxes would definitely be eneficial. This will push your routine to the limit and help you be as powerful as possible. It would also be a very good idea to invest in a set of dumbbells or a rack with a barbell and plates. This will allow you to do all of your weight lifting exercises comfortablly and very effectively. 

These exercises are done by several world class speed skaters and almost every player in the NHL. Why? Because it works! You will be more powerful and FASTER on the ice!  Follow these tips and do these exercises as hard as you can and you will definintely be successfully and achieve your goals on the ice. 

Good luck and train hard!

Coach


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