Skating treadmills have become big business, hailed as the cure for slow hockey players. A look at the research shows that hockey players tend to increase their stride frequency on a skating treadmill compared to on-ice training, probably because of the increased friction of the skating treadmill surface. That makes sense. The take home is that for any given skating speed, you’ll have to turn your feet over quicker on a treadmill than on ice.

Random tangent: Growing up, I remember hearing lots of coaches emphasize the importance of lengthening your skating stride. I don’t disagree with this coaching cue at all, but thought it is necessary to present that research on different stride types has shown that those utilizing short/choppy strides, on average, were just as fast as those using longer strides. Obviously, for any given speed, utilizing shorter strides will require a higher stride frequency, but some people are just wired that way. With more experienced hockey players, I’m less likely to try to change their stride type than I am improve their edges and overall athleticism.

I’ve learned to be skeptical about cure-all solutions. The skating treadmill is a tool, with specific uses. If you’re considering paying to use a skating treadmill, consider the following things:

  1. Do you have a good forward skating stride?
  2. Are you comfortable on both your inside and outside edges moving forward and backward?
  3. Can you quickly change directions while skating forward AND backward?
  4. Can you quickly pivot between forward and backward skating?
  5. Have you done anything to improve the strength/power of your legs and hips?

Truthfully answering these questions is extremely important. Here’s why:

The skating treadmill is an EXCELLENT tool to help hockey players perfect their forward skating stride and to get a ton of medium and high speed repetitions in to reinforce the new movement pattern. Unfortunately, I suspect that most people just throw their hockey players on the treadmill and don’t do much to coach the QUALITY of the movement. If used properly, I think the skating treadmill can be effectively used to improve skating stride and forward skating speed.

Unfortunately, the skating treadmill will do very little for most of the aspects of skating used commonly in games. Consider questions 2, 3, and 4. You won’t be on your outside edges or transitioning from forward to backward skating on a treadmill.

Once you perfect your skating stride, the key to speed is to drastically improve your muscular size and power. This can be done at the same time as skating treadmill training, but it’s important not to overlook. Most elite level hockey players have legs the size of tree trunks. This not only implies lower body strength and power, but means that a large percentage of their body weight will be in their lower body,  lowering their center of mass, improving their stability, and making them harder to knock off the puck. See how these all go hand in hand?

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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First things first.  The other day I mentioned I would be providing a high frequency training template.  I will be, but instead of posting it, I’ll be sending it out in an upcoming newsletter.  If you haven’t yet, grab a free copy of “Strong Hockey Core Training” and sign-up for my newsletter.  Even if you already invested in my Off-Ice Performance Training Course, it’s still worth signing up for the newsletter to get updated information and other freebies.  Sign-up window in the upper right corner of this site.

Moving on…

On Saturday I got back to New York after a 7-day cruise through the Caribbean with Emily.  It was probably the most fun week of my life.  Up to this point, my foreign travel has consisted of hockey trips to Canada, and one  accidental journey through part of Mexico during a cross-country drive with my brother.  We spent one day each in: St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados.

If you know me at all, you know I’m exceptionally boring.  On an average week, I’m busy with something kinesiology or training related for about 14 hours a day, about 4-6 of which is spent reading.  I get about 7-8 hours of sleep, and spend the last 2 hours eating the same foods (pepper, onion, and cheddar cheese omelettes, ground turkey, spinach, broccoli, and smoothies).  Some would call me a workaholic.  I wouldn’t disagree.  I just happen to enjoy my work, so I don’t mind putting the time in.  

Having said all that, Emily made it clear that no constructive work would be done at anytime on this cruise, which was an ultimatum I agreed to without hesitation.  I needed a break.  It was time to relax and branch out.  It was a week of firsts.  Last week, for the first time ever, I:

  1. Have been on a cruise ship 
  2. Been outside North America
  3. Ate snails
  4. Ordered Shrimp, three times I might add
  5. Ate Wahoo…it’s a type of fish
  6. Ordered three desserts and ate all of them
  7. Enjoyed a bowl of Strawberry Bisque
  8. Eaten Cream of Asparagus Soup
  9. Rode a jetski
  10. Ordered a Mojito with an unaltered self-perception of manliness
  11. Feared for my life (Emily, driving the jetski at full speed through choppy waves straight toward the shoreline, turns her head and says “I can’t see anything.  I’m going to close my eyes. Let me know if I hit anything!”  She later added, “I had NO idea what I was doing” haha)
  12. Spontaneously slow danced in the middle of a hallway
  13. Saw SEVERAL senior citizens ripping their clothes off to win a cruise-hosted contest
  14. Saw several men provocatively dancing together to with the same contest
  15. Got a tan!  Due to my Irish, German, and English heritage, my skin tone usually varies between eggshell white and translucent.  In fact, I’m so pale, the people at the “Bodies” exhibit asked if I would be part of their tour, as it is indeed rare that you can see the muscles right through the skin in a life human.
  16. Stood up in the open back of a jeep while speeding through poorly paved roads in a rain forest
  17. Saw a banana plantation (it was cool to see where they come from since I’m single-handedly keeping the banana industry afloat by eating 5-6 a day).
  18. Snorkled above a ship wreck and with sea turtles
  19. Tasted banana ketchup
  20. Went a week without checking my email or voicemail once.  Nor did I send a text message.  First week without outside communication in as long as I can remember.
  21. Been to a cigar lounge
  22. Saw a towel animal (On different days, our room was inhabited by a towel elephant, monkey, and what Emily described as a “Sexy Antelope”)
  23. And lastly, interacted with such a diverse population.  I made friends with two bartenders from China and a small island off the coast of Africa, a piano player from England, a waiter from the Philippines, and a couple with the wife from Russia and husband from Albania.  I learned more about foreign culture in one week than I have in 18 years of school.  

It was a great break from reality.  I’m already looking forward to my next escape 🙂

Hockey Training Take Home: Take a break every now and then.  You’ll feel well-rested and rejuvenated, allowing you to get back to training hard and making progress.

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Want to get stronger?

I often get questions that start out something like:

“What’s the best way to…?”

The truth is, there is not right answer to this question. The best way to achieve any training goal depends very much on your training history, current training level, and injury history, among other things.

One programming approach to drastically improving strength is high-frequency training. The nervous system adapts to the demands we place on ourselves, such that specific movement patterns are strengthened the more we perform them.

Following this logic, the more we lift specific movements the stronger we’ll get, right? Sort of.

The answer is yes, IF we intelligently alter the intensity and speed of the exercises to allow for recovery. The body is in a continuous state of remodeling, meaning it is constantly breaking down and rebuilding. This goes for bone, muscles, connective tissue (e.g. ligaments and tendons), etc.

High frequency training, or training specific movement patterns 3+ times/week can be a very effective strategy in improving strength quickly. Stay tuned. In the next couple days I’m going to post the program I’ve been using for the last three weeks.

Keep training smart.

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Overtraining is becoming a popular topic in ice hockey, and in youth sports in general, and for good reason. With the overemphasis on year-round sports participation (notably the crazy hockey parents that think it’s a good idea to have their kids ONLY play hockey year-round), we’re starting to see kids suffer symptoms of overtraining.

When I started to look into overtraining, something became clear to me:

There is no difference between OVERtraining and UNDERrecovery.

It’s a game of balancing stress with recovery. Stress, positive or negative, takes a toll on the body. I always joke that I can elicit overtraining symptoms in college students within 24 hours. How? I’ll tell you, but you have to promise not to use this on anyone…Give them three exams, have their significant other break up with them, make a 15 page paper due in two days, and then have their neighbors throw a party, not only in their apartment, but also in all the campus libraries.

Boom! Overtraining symptoms.

And that’s without ANY training! You want to avoid overtraining-focus on recovery. For more information, don’t forget to check out Eric Cressey’s E-book: The Art of The Deload.

Keep training smart.

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I stumbled across this video today.  CLASSIC hockey-the PATRICK division finals.  Remember that name?  Kevin Stevens used to be my favorite hockey player.  Why?? I don’t know. Probably because his name is Kevin and he was on the first line of the Penguins in NHL ’94 for Sega (still the only video game I play…what the hell is a rockband?).  Unfortunately, Kevin only makes it through the first 30 seconds of this one.  The fact that this is a Game 7 highlight shows evidence that the Islanders did, in fact, stumble across victories occasionally in the past.  Enjoy!

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