Monday, April 11, 2011

Improve Foot Speed Off- Ice

Power and Foot Speed make skaters dynamic.  As a kid I went to a number of Laura Stamm clinics and camps, and her system has become the backbone of what I teach to my students.  Dave Andreychuk is the prime of example of the Stamm foundation, "It's not how fast your feet are moving, but rather how much ice you are pushing".  Yet, to be a DYNAMIC hockey player, and dynamic skater, the truth lies somewhere in between.  You need BOTH powerful strides, and quick feet.
Most players think that this can be accomplished strictly when they are skating, but the reality is that strength and power, as well as, foot speed are traits that are transplanted onto the ice, from off-ice development.
Here are some pointers for players who are already good skaters, but want to train off the ice to become dynamic skaters.

1) Speed Training with Ankle Weights-  People lift weights to get stronger and run to get faster. Training with ankle weights can combine both of those concepts. By using these weights in your speed workouts, you will become faster without having to alter the drills you are comfortable with.  Wearing the weights when going through different speed drills forces your body to work harder than normal because you are carrying extra weight. Thus, when you finish your training, your speed will have improved because of the added weight you were carrying. By wearing the weights around your ankle, instead of elsewhere, such as a weighted vest, you are ensuring that your legs get the added workload.  In addition, Ankle weights are simple to use, and inexpensive.  Most use Velcro to keep the weight in place. Once attached, the weights will be effective in any speed training that you do. Running while wearing them will improve your long-distance speed as well as your foot speed through sprint drills. The key to successful use is commitment, they will not be effective if used sparingly, and while effective, ankle weights do have their downside. The workouts can be strenuous on different areas of the leg, and can cause pain if used for too long The knees are an especially delicate area for these workouts.   My recommendation is to use these for long distance runs not exceeding 35minutes, and to use them on smooth surfaces.  Start off with very light weight and gradually build up.  I even use these on-ice with my private lesson students.

2) Sand or Beach Training- My recommendation is to do this at off-peak beach hours so that you don't annoy sunbathers.  Beach training (either running for distance, up hills, change of directions, using ladders, or doing plyometric exercises) adds an amazing amount of resistance to basic cardio exercises, and has been the foundation for the Junior Program I coach with's tremendous success.  Performing the exercises in the below video will challenge you to go beyond what you as an athlete think you can handle, and utilizes stability and balance muscles that you probably didn't even know you had.

3) Plyometrics- Simply put the combination of speed and strength is power.  Throughout this century and no doubt long before, jumping, bounding and hopping exercises have been used in various ways to enhance athletic performance. In recent years, this distinct method of training for power or explosiveness has been termed plyometrics. Whatever the origins of the word the term is used to describe the method of training that seeks to enhance the explosive reaction of the individual through powerful muscular contractions because of rapid muscle contractions.  My first encounter with plyometrics was an a kid when I attended several summer hockey schools, and we performed bounding, leaping, or explosive muscle movements that were designed to improve your leg strength and skating ability.  I've incorporated many of these movements and added others to use with the teams I coach.  If practiced twice a week for the length of an entire season, a team's overall speed will increase at least 10%.  Your players will be better conditioned and better athletes as well.  Below is a chart with some basic movements you can perform to enhance your speed.  Just pick a field or track and give it a try...


4) Treadmill Workouts (Hill Training)- Treadmills have always been boring to me, but when used as a devise to make hills, they can be an amazing way to increase your speed.  Hill training is great for athletes engaged in sports that involve running, because hill training enhances running economy, and functional strength. However, outdoor hill workouts can be problematic under windy and wet conditions - or for athletes who live in flat regions of the country. Fortunately you can carry out your 'hill training' indoors on a treadmill - and often get a better workout than would be the case outside!  Although most athletes recognize that treadmills can simulate hills and that it is possible to get a great workout on a treadmill, they are often stumped by two key questions: how fast should the treadmill speed be set? How much of an inclination should be utilized?   For starters, try a hill speed and incline that you can sustain for 2 to 3 minutes.  Although that is longer than the average shift in a hockey game, it will build up for strength, and be a good indicator for which you can build a program around.  Challenge yourself each week to slightly increase both the speed and incline, and also combine the incline with interval training, so that you develop the long distance cardiovascular fitness that can sustain you for the 60 minutes of a hockey game.  Before you know it, you will have dramatic success.

We all know some players are born faster than others... but that is NO excuse for not becoming as fast as you can become!

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