Single leg training is the most under-appreciated methodology in the sports performance industry. With just ten minutes a day, any athlete that sprints, skis, skates, jumps, and even swims can benefit from a buffet of single-leg progressive resistive exercises (PRE’s) that are guaranteed to yield increased speed, power, and endurance.
Your hockey coaches will rarely be impressed by how much weight you can squat, but they will be mesmerized by how fast you can skate. Off-ice training is meant to compliment your game and to accomplish that, you need to train like an athlete who is purposely striving to increase acceleration, maximum velocity, power, and endurance. Through this, as an added benefit, you will become stronger as a player on the ice and in the weight room.
Once your mindset is in check and your goals are clearly established, we can begin to right the ship and sail a swift course through the path of least resistance. If you truly want to play collegiate or even professional hockey, you’ll put away the one rep max and focus on the bio-mechanics of the hockey stride.
First, we need to understand the basics. Simply stated, performing any one single leg exercise utilizing solely your own body weight as resistance will represent approximately 72 percent of your own weight. For example, if you are 175 pounds and you perform a single leg squat, your resistance is 175 x .72 = 126 pounds. A common rule of thumb for lower-body strength training states that you might not progress to a higher resistance until you can achieve 90 degrees of knee flexion for six repetitions at any given weight.
I assure you, this is no easy task. At Stadium Performance we train to meet then exceed the demands of competition. Research proves that elite hockey players skate with a knee joint angle of 78 – 81 degrees over 25 – 32 shifts that average 42 seconds. Ultimately, we will require you to single leg squat the equivalent of your body weight to 90 degrees, six times each leg, in less than 42 seconds.
To summarize, that same 175-pound athlete will need to add back the 28 percent he or she originally subtracted just to mimic body weight equivalent resistance. In this case, it would be a 50-pound dumbbell. Are you ready to train like a hockey player or do you want to stay in the squat rack?
Second, and rightfully so, Newton’s second law is always in play. The acceleration of an object (you) is directly proportional to the net force applied to the object (you). In layman’s terms, this means if you lift slow, you will skate slow. If you lift fast, you will skate fast. Single-leg training needs to be done with tempo if you want to develop speed. Have you ever seen a rocket glide into space? I didn’t think so.
Like a rocket, you need to train your leg muscles to become long and strong. By achieving lower depths of knee flexion, you are essentially lengthening the action potential of the muscle group. Picture a rubber band at rest – and then pull it all the way apart as far as you can. That is action potential when you train to get long and strong. Now take the same rubber band and fold it in half. Pull it apart as far as you can. That represents the same action potential when you train to get strong only. It’s thicker all right, but it lacks power. Single-leg training allows you to get long, strong and powerful by achieving the greatest amount of unilateral action potential.
Lastly, I’ll tie this all in for you. As I said in the beginning. Although it’s really cool for your strength coach to gloat about how strong his hockey team is because of his off-season programming, your hockey coach doesn’t really care how much you squat. The coach just wants you to skate faster, longer, and more often. Speed intimidates. Speed kills. Speed wins. The key to speed on ice comes down to two things; stride frequency and force generated per foot contact. Stride frequency is achieved through a subset of two things; explosive hip flexors and decreased amount of time spent with your foot pushing off the ice. If you’re not gliding, you’re creating friction. The caveat here is that the only time you can generate force is when your foot is on the ice in the foot contact position.
This, and this specifically, is exactly where it all comes together. You have less than two-tenths of a second to generate as much action potential as possible and propel yourself forward like a rocket ship. The more distance you achieve per stride will yield faster acceleration. The more strides you achieve in a lesser time will result in earlier top-end speed, and the more shifts you can replicate that effort will result in utter dominance.
Speed always creates opportunities. What opportunity can a great training program create for you?