Creating Speed Through Stride Length

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)

Speed - 1Speed is what everyone wants, in every sport, period. Hockey is no different. Today, I’m going to talk about four variables that can greatly impact speed on the ice, some limiting factors to look out for and some of the exercises and drills we use here at RPP to help improve on these limiting factors.

Four Key Variables to “Getting Your Stride On”

  1. Deeper Skating Stance
  2. Pushing Out, Not Up
  3. Quick Stride Leg Recovery
  4. Diagonal Arm Swing (not lateral)

These are all pretty common adjustments that players at every level can benefit from working on. So, without further ado here we go:

1. Deeper Skating Stance

When the athlete gets deeper into the skating stance, the stride leg can travel twice as far than with a more upright stance. It also lowers their center of gravity, which can go a long way when dealing with hits into the boards and winning battles in the corners. Basically, utilizing a deeper skating stance is a quick fix that can help a lot of players obtain a longer stride and help make them get quicker on the ice as well as lower their center of gravity. This requires good quad strength and core control so we like to utilize OH Split Squats to target both areas.  The Hitmen’s Chris Dressler demonstrates.

(SSB Split Squat)

2. Pushing Out, Not Up

When you’re skating the goal is to move horizontally and not vertically. You’re not skating towards the ceiling.  So when we see an initial upright posture when the skater is beginning to accelerate (in this instance the athlete usually looks like they’re getting taller), we know they need to be leaning in toward the direction they want to move and pushing the ice back and away from them.  Using single-leg work gives the hips more ROM, as well as going a little easier on the already over-taxed hip flexors. It also keeps the lower back a little more honest in regards to all things stable. Check this one out.

(Split Squat Iso Holds w/ Sl. Board)

3. Quick Stride Leg Recovery

At the end of a stride, a quick snap back on the recovery leg helps to balance out the other side of the stride (the gliding leg). The quicker the stride leg returns the sooner the next one can start. This enables the athlete to skate faster using less stride and conserving more energy. This requires good hip mobility in both legs, as well as ankle stability in the support leg.  Bowler squats train both.

(Bowler Squats)

4. Diagonal Arm Swing (not lateral)

The arm swing is meant to counterbalance the stride leg, helping to give the skater more balance while in motion. If the stride leg pushes back on roughly a 45-degree angle behind the body, the arm should “reach” out in a similar angle in the opposite direction. Excessive lateral arm swing will force the body to move more side-to-side, wasting energy and slowing the player down. In other words, don’t move like Popeye.

This requires good t-spine mobility, shoulder range of motion as well as rotational core strength/control. Once again here’s another “big bang for the buck” exercise. Univ. of Vermont’s Tyler Harmon demonstrates:

(Half Kneeling Cable Chop)

As I mentioned earlier everyone wants speed. Along with a longer stride, being able to apply more force into the stride requires strength and mobility. That’s where we come in.  At RPP, working on increasing your strength along with improving your mobility will translate to increased speed on the ice.

The RPP Skaters Program is a complete top to bottom off-season protocol for ages 13+.  It is comprised of 8-week training programs, meeting 2x per week for a total of 16 sessions in each eight week cycle.  The programs begin in March and end in September just before the start of the new high school season.