Six Tips to Make You a Faster Skater

To those waiting for this article, I apologize for brief interruption to talk about cycling as an off-season training tool. The weather was too good not to.  Now, back to hockey training methods 

Andy McDonald
Client Andy McDonald has near perfect technique

As I always warn my clients, my workouts are not sexy.  They will not make you feel like you’ve done a month’s worth of work in a day, nor will they make you pull a PR on a bench press.  What they will do, however, is make you a better skater and I’ve yet to have a client whom has stuck to the program tell me they haven’t seen a difference in their skating.  So, what are the keys?

1)   Build Base Strength with Squats. These are the foundation of your strength and explosive power. While front squats are usually touted as the better squat for skaters because of a greater emphasis on the quads and less pressure on the spine.  Generally, this is true.  But if you have pain with the front squat, the back squat certainly will suffice.  Make sure you follow the correct exercise prescription from either your strength and conditioning coach or a reputable personal trainer (number of sets, reps and rest period).

2)   Enhance with Reverse lunges. A true skating staple, I prefer these over deadlifts because it’s easier to get good technique and works the glutes and hamstrings without straining the back.

3) Build a Strong Core. Anyone that tells you just playing hockey and doing squats are good enough for your core is wrong.  This is a strong statement from me, but it would be irresponsible not to be so adamant. Not only does a strong core help generate power, but it prevents injuries – period.  Studies now show that shoulder, knee, wrist, and other injuries of the extremities are all related to a deficient core.  The stronger, the better.  Pilates are great for core building and there are other non-assisted gym exercises that are very good.

4)   Avoid Lateral Exercises with Weight. With hip dysfunction seemingly on the rise, I believe that too much work laterally with weights puts undue stress on the hips and can accelerate impingement.  Skating requires a lot of lateral movement — which you get enough of every day on your skates anyway.  Putting more emphasis on the first part of your stroke is far more important than working on the lateral strength. With just a few exceptions, I discourage lateral movement with weights.

5)   Skip the Plyometrics. Fatigue and stress on the musculoskeletal system is a big concern with plyometric training.  It’s still a very popular program component, despite little evidence that it benefits skaters.  In fact, studies have shown that heavy squatting translates to just as much power on the ice as plyometrics do.  Since there is very little vertical movement in skating (e.g. jumping,) there is no need for true plymometric training.

6) Do Proven Dryland Technique and Strength Exercises. This, of course, is the “special sauce” of my programs.  Dryland exercises are done specifically for technique, not for conditioning.  If your weight is precisely over your skate, you can transmit all the strength you’ve worked so hard to gain in a motion that will generate the most power on the ice.McDonald has the ideal position with his weight over his left hip as he crosses over.

As a hockey players you don’t have time on the ice to worry about your technique, so training your body to be in the most optimal position several times a week off-ice will naturally translate to the ice via what can be most easily understood as “muscle memory.”  How fast a player progresses in these exercises will be determined by how well they hold their position for about the duration of a shift.  Exercises include lateral (straightaway) work (with no weight!) and crossover exercises done with perfect technique.

Most skaters see improved positioning on the ice in just a couple of weeks.  After several weeks of perfecting these exercises, I like to take the skater on the ice to make sure they’re feeling the transfer from land to ice.  Again, I have seen a direct correlation between skaters that preform these religiously in the off-season and their level of success.  Not only do they see pure speed gains, but they also see more strength in all aspects of their skating.

That’s it!  Nothing sexy, just smart training that can be easily incorporated into any strength and conditioning program.  For more information about how to fit everything in without overtraining, be sure to check out my upcoming article on avoiding overtraining.

To learn more about my training methods, philosophy and programs, visit  Success is not just about hitting the gym every day.  It’s about an overall personalized approach to training and working smart.