Facts: The fastest sprinters are rarely the fastest skaters. The fastest skaters on the ice aren’t always the fastest accelerators. However, the fastest accelerators are typically the best play-makers. The best play-makers usually get more time on ice and more time on ice typically yields more scoring chances. The more scoring chances a player has, the greater percentage of grade A scoring chances will exist. And, finally, the more grade A scoring chances that exists will ultimately lead to more in-game points scored. In a simplified statement; increase your acceleration and you will increase your scoring ability.
If you’re wondering why your summer strength training hasn’t paid off this winter, you’re not alone. Strength training and performance training yield different results. Strength training is done to increase power, strength, and size. Performance training has a specific performance metric in mind. Acceleration, top-end speed, durability, muscular endurance, and agility are all sport specific metrics that can be acquired, improved upon, and carried over to the ice for enhanced performance. With a diligent, open-minded self-assessment of yourself and your weakness, proper programming can be prescribed to yield your optimal results.
To highlight an example that will relate directly to every hockey player on earth, let’s discuss acceleration. As an expression of power, acceleration is the product of the amount of force produced per foot contact multiplied by the rate of turnover. Common thought and training philosophies would suggest that maximum distance covered per stride alone will generate maximum acceleration. It is the uncommon stance however that speaks the loudest truth. A skater’s ability to rapidly accelerate is determined by the maximum distance covered while minimizing drive-phase contact time on ice.
Through increased force development, decreased drive-phase ice contact, and increased rate of turnover, skater acceleration will increase, and maximum velocity will be achieved. Think of velocity as skating from the goal line to the center line. Acceleration is the rate of increase from the goal line to the blue line then from the blue line to the center line.
To ensure max force production during off-season performance training, skaters will need to perform 3-6 reps of heavy lower body pushing or sprinting exercises. Anything less will ill-prepare the central nervous system for increased muscular tension and energy demands. Anything more will place excessive, injury producing stress on the involved energy and muscular systems. Additionally, to quantify the repeatability quotient and results, it is imperative to measure speed (m/s) and the continuum of timed deviations for each repetition.
For some strength coaches, a piece of paper and a stop watch will do the trick. At Stadium Performance, we use an advanced approach to recording power, acceleration, and maximum speed by using the HiTrainer Treadmill. In the instance that you are unable to take advantage of a HiTrainer, I would suggest trying to replicate max force development with a Keiser Runner, a weighted prowler, or resistance band running.
For the sake of discussion and to illustrate the best possible opportunity to increase your on-ice acceleration, I would highly advise seeking out any training experience that provides an opportunity to benefit from the HiTrainer data. Specifically, it is crucial that you pay attention to maximum power produced on your right leg versus your left. With this kind of information, we can progressively program performance protocols to address a skater’s biggest weakness as well as highlight their greatest strengths.
One of the most undervalued and overlooked metrics in performance training is the repeat-ability quotient. This is acceleration and speed data used to depict whether athletes are maintaining, increasing, or losing speed as distance and repetition increases. With these metrics digitally provided to us by the HiTrainer, we can create a blueprint training protocol that is customized to each athlete’s weaknesses.
During my time working with USA Women’s National Hockey team, I was able to participate in long duration round table discussions with some of the nation’s most dynamic exercise science minds. It did not take me long to understand what performance metrics USA hockey attaches the most value and predictive validity to. When you have forty of the best women’s hockey players in the country battling for twenty-two (Gold Medal winning) Olympic roster spots, every hundredth of a second counts. Utilizing a small battery of speed and acceleration focused tests, USA hockey can rank current players and with a documented proof of historical progress, predict performance metrics moving forward.
With faith, I can tell you that acceleration is more important than speed. Repeatability is more important that acceleration. And accelerative repeatability is the key ingredient to getting open, possessing the puck, and scoring goals. Skating fast is an asset. Accelerating fast is a weapon.