This is a guest post from Kevin Neeld
In my 18 years as a player and on-ice instructor and now as an off-ice specialist, I have seen countless players get cut and/or lose their competitive edge because they can’t keep up with the speed at that current level. While everyone’s speed potential is a little different, the truth is that every player can improve his/her speed if they train the right way. Below are 5 off-ice training tips to help you develop game-changing speed on the ice!
Tip # 1: Focus on Short Distances (10-15 yards)
Hockey is a game of quick bursts of speed and changes of direction. It’s more about acceleration and deceleration than max speed. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you win the race around the rink; it matters that you win the race from the front of the net to the corner. Short distance sprints will help you develop an explosive first step and powerful leg drive, two key components in improving acceleration. The body positions during these distances also more directly replicate the forward lean or “acceleration angle” that you want on the ice, meaning there’ll be better transfer.
Tip # 2: Train Quick Movement NOT Quick Feet
One of the first things every player is taught is to look at the chest of his/her opponent. This allows you to better track the player and not get mesmerized by puck movement, which will give you a better opportunity to separate the player from the puck. As a necessary byproduct of this, it means that the offender would be more dangerous if they were able to displace their trunk faster. In reality, this is just another definition of speed, but it contrasts the idea of “quick feet” being important. Many of the world’s fastest skaters don’t have quick feet. They have powerful strides. In contrast, I’ve seen a ton of players that move their feet really quickly, but don’t move very fast. When most people say they want quick feet, they really mean that they want speed (or acceleration, as noted above). It’s not just semantics; understanding the difference will affect your training. For example, many players default to using agility ladders as a means of developing quick feet, and they will. But the next time you’re around someone doing agility ladders, watch their chest as you would on the ice. It barely moves at all, and most people stare at their feet while they go through to make sure they’re placing their feet in the correct places. Quick feet, but not moving very fast and staring down-not exactly the best habits to develop! Tap dancers need quick feet. Hockey players need powerful legs. Toss your quick feet exercises in favor of some resistance training and your on-ice speed will skyrocket.
Tip # 3: Don’t Confuse Speed Work with Conditioning
Explosive; not tired. That’s what I tell all the players I work with. Most players are taught to sprint, jog back to the starting line and sprint again. Unfortunately, this practice is very counter-productive. The goal of speed training (or acceleration training) is to perform maximal efforts to improve the maximal capacity of that physical quality. It is physiologically impossible to perform at your max if you don’t give your body adequate rest. Maximal efforts deplete stores of two substrates called ATP and Phosphocreatine that help rapidly produce energy. Max efforts also put a strain on your nervous system, which is a driving force in producing speed and power. All of these things need adequate time to recover between sprints. As a general rule, you’ll want to rest about a minute between sprints of 10-15 yards. You’re breathing should be fully recovered before you start the next rep, so if you feel like you need time to catch your breath, take it! Just keep reminding yourself, the goal is to increase MAXIMAL capacity through all-out efforts. If you’re breathing heavy through your sprints, you’re officially conditioning, not speed training.
Tip # 4: Incorporate Lateral Starts
Hockey is not a linear sport. Even when players skate in a straight line, their legs are driving on a 45 degree angle to the side and their arms are swinging in a somewhat diagonal line. This is the major pitfall of simply stealing a track and field sprint program and applying it to hockey; it’s the correct preparation for the wrong sport. One way to make your speed training more hockey-specific is to incorporate lateral starts. These teach explosive leg drive in lateral/diagonal directions, very similar to what you need to do on the ice. A few examples are the side lunge(pictured below), lateral standing, lateral standing on outside leg, and lateral standing on inside leg.
Tip # 5: Progress to Transitional Patterns
Building on the ideas of multi-directional movement and explosive direction changes, you can progress your speed training to include what I call transitional speed exercises. With these, you can transition in direction and/or movement pattern. These allow you to directly replicate many of the body positions and transitional movements that can make or break your expression of speed on the ice. Here are a few of my favorites:
- 5-Yard Lateral Shuffle -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
- 5-Yard Backward Shuffle -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
- 5-Yard Lateral Back Pedal -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
- 5-Yard Forward Back Pedal -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
- 5-Yard Forward Sprint-> 5-Yard Backward Back Pedal -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
Note that all of these are still performed within 20 yards of total distance, and most are within 15. The goal with these is to focus on being explosive through the starts AND transitions.
Following these tips will help you make more progress in less time and ensure that you’re off-ice training transfers to on-ice results. If you have any questions, feel free to post them below. If you’re interested in more tips like this, I encourage you to check out the three FREE hockey training videos available at http://Ultimate-Hockey-Training.com, which cover transitional speed training for hockey, hockey conditioning, and complete off-ice hockey training.
To your success,
Kevin Neeld is the President, COO, and Director of Athletic Development of Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ and the author of Ultimate Hockey Training, the most comprehensive off-ice training resource available today. Through the creative application of innovative training and injury prevention techniques, Kevin specializes in guiding athletes to optimal health and performance. For more information on training with Kevin, visit http://KevinNeeld.com