For years, inline skating, or rollerblading, was dismissed as a good training for ice hockey. The argument from coaches was often that the mechanics of the push was too different, that there is a lack of “feel” that ice provides, and that you can “cheat” technique on inlines. Some coaches have simply dismissed it as not similar enough, and believe that inline skating will only lead to bad habits.
However, this misperception has changed over the past years as we see more and more Olympic speed skaters, a heavily technical discipline, coming from the inline speed skating world. In fact, two of the most decorated U.S. female speed skaters of all time, Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma began their careers as inline speed skaters.
Given the temporary closure of ice arenas and the uncertainty of being able to get quality skating in, hockey players are turning to inlines as the next best thing. Even with “shelter-in-place,” some local governments are allowing for outdoor exercise. Those that haven’t been, are now loosening up regulations and outdoor exercise is being encouraged. How, then, can rollerblading best be performed to help your hockey?
First, find a park, road or somewhere else safe where you can just skate without obstacles. There is no better way to perfect your stride than by doing it over and over. However, you want to make sure you are practicing the optimal stride. For example, if you tend to skate off your toe on the ice, make sure you are paying attention and push more from the center of your foot. It is true, if you practice bad habits off the ice, you are only going to make them worse on the ice. You can train with any pair of inline skates, so you don’t need to spend money if you don’t have to. Good technique and power can be trained on any pair of rollerblades.
Practice the hip drive
Body mechanics are probably the most underestimated part of skating. While edge work, arm swing and basic strait-away stride are often the focus on power skating, posture, knee bend and hip mechanics are often ignored. In previous posts, I’ve referred to a “knee-drive,” since being able to drive your knee forward is easier to conceptualize than driving from your hip, which takes a lot of instruction and explanation. If you’re unable to work with a skating coach off-ice that understands these mechanics, the main focus on your stride should be driving your knee forward with each step, not simply placing your foot down under you. The roll you get on inlines actually is actually quite helpful in helping you master that push forward.
Pay attention to foot placement
Foot placement is also an underestimated part of the skating skating strideand extends beyond more than just placing your recovery foot as close to center as possible. This is hard to describe as well, but if you’ve ever watched a figure skater taking their fist few steps when they get on the ice, their legs may look awkward to you. That’s because they’re putting their foot down, driving forward and getting on that outside edge all at the same time. It may not look pretty, but it’s the key to getting their weight over that foot and generating the most power they can in their stride.
Work on knee bend
It’s a simple concept, but if you’ve ever stayed out a bit too long on a shift you understand how hard it is to maintain your knee bend. Watch a video of yourself and you’ll noticed that even if you’re still bent over at the end of a long shift, you probably have very little knee bend when you get to the bench. By being able to skate stride after stride with a 90 degree knee bend, you’ll not only build endurance, but you’ll be making what we call the neuromuscular connections that will lead to the most powerful position feeling the most natural to you. I know that’s a lot of scientific talk, but it’s what has worked for us speed skaters and is proven to make anyone a more efficient and stronger skater.
Focus on the “load” part of the stride.
Those of you who have worked with me know I like to describe the recovery part of the stride the “load and explode.” Most of your power is going to come from the isometric “load” when you place your foot down, and the initial push up out of that position. The lateral push to the side while important, isn’t where the bulk of your power is generated. As I’ve described before, you are simply moving forward too fast to get good push off of your toe. It’s a lot like olympic weight lifting: The power you generate comes from loading weight on your lower body.
Contact me if you’re interested in learning more. I have resumed one-on-one, in person sessions for those in the Denver area and am still holding remote analysis and training sessions for those outside the metro area.