Putting it All Together: The Perfect Stride
So you’ve learned how to get started on building strength with my Six Tips to Become A Faster Skater and worked on your off-ice exercises I detailed in Eight Ways to Perfect Your Skating Technique. Now, it’s time to bring that strength and technique to work to the ice!
While I often tout my program as being a difference maker in the career of many skaters, it doesn’t happen overnight. Even some of my most experienced hockey players will do the exercises for many weeks before it all starts coming together. Usually, it’s the dryland work that takes a while to really perfect, but there is also a transition on the ice. Ideally, you have someone work with you on the ice after a few weeks of technique work, but if not there are some tips to help you get the most out of all your hard work.
So let’s look at the classic forward stride and how to make that transition from land to ice.
1. Start your next stride before you put your recovery leg down. That means, after you push out with your leg, you need to be thinking about where you’re putting that leg down as soon as you pick it up at the end of your stride.
2. The placement of your foot is the most important part of your stride because you aren’t just putting it down. Simply put, you need to drive your heel forward. This is why figure skaters often become power skating coaches…because they know this secret. Thus, you need to put your foot down where you can put your weight directly over skate (remember nose, knees, toes?) to get the most power.
3. Bend your knees (or your ankles) as deep as you can. After a few weeks of drylands, this should be a piece of cake.
4. Push from your hip/glute. As you put your foot down, you should be feeling your glutes engage and feel the push really start in your hip. If you’re starting your push off your quad, you have too much weight on your toes and won’t get an efficient stride. Again, this push from the hip is what you’ve trained for with your dryland exercises. At this point your quad muscles are simply stabilizers.
5. Drive your heel forward. As mentioned in point #2, as you put your foot down with the correct weight distribution, you should be able to drive that heel forward. In order to do this, you need to think about pushing your foot forward and getting on top of the blade (almost on the outside edge) while your weight is still largely on your glutes/hips.
6. Explode off your quad. This can also be hard to explain, but as soon as you get the foot going forward, you push off your hip and shift to your quad as you push into the ice and out to the side, not back. The majority of your power you generate is going to be in the first half of your stride.
7. Start with your weight on your heel and push through the entire length of your blade. As you shift your weight, you should be using your whole blade to push out.
8. Stay off your toe. I once had a hockey coach tell our team that you should flick your toe at the end of your stride for extra speed. There is nothing farther from the truth. You want to stay off your toe. If you get to the point where you’re on your toe, you’re losing power, technique and ultimately speed.
9. Worry about the stride, not the foot speed. The important part about you the transfer to your ice is getting the stride down. As you get more comfortable, your stride will get up to speed again. For most people, it’s only one or two times on the ice. If you’ve been following the program, it happens pretty quickly.
I hope that addresses some of the questions I received about work on the ice. Obviously, it’s much easier to work with someone on the ice, but I’ve helped many skaters virtually by watching video and breaking it down with them. Once you have the foundation, the transition is amazingly easy.
Next up….crossover strides! One of the most neglected but powerful components of the game!