I was digging through some emails that I missed earlier in the week and saw that Dr. John Berardi is offering a FREE 5-day video course on exercise and fitness nutrition. The course will dive into:

  1. How to integrate nutrition in a health, fitness, or athletic environment
  2. How exactly to assess someone’s nutrition needs
  3. How to devise a nutrition plan based on that assessment
  4. What stats to measure and how exactly to measure them
  5. How to optimize a nutrition plan based on those stats

I’ve learned a TON of incredibly valuable nutrition information from Dr. Berardi; he continues to be my “go to resource” for current dietary strategies to help alter body composition and maximize performance and recovery. It’s rare that someone of his caliber will give away such valuable information, so I strongly encourage you to sign up for the free course while it’s still available! Go to the link below for more information.

Click here >> The Essentials of Exercise and Fitness Nutrition

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Every year I get a handful of emails from colleagues asking about my experience with the Precision Nutrition Certification program. Because I’ve received several of these questions in the last week, I thought it would be an opportune time to re-post a review of my experience with the PN Certification. Check it out at the link below and feel free to post any questions you may have in the comments section. Also, they’re offering a special $200 discount to you since you’re being “referred” by a current PN certified coach, which is a pretty sweet deal. Click here to save $200! Precision Nutrition Certification

Even if you have no interest in the coaching program, I’d recommend heading over to their site and just checking out all their transformations. Berardi has really created an amazing trail of success stories!

Precision Nutrition Certification Review

A couple weeks back I posted something on facebook about taking the Precision Nutrition Certification Exam. Since then, I’ve received a handful of emails from other strength and conditioning professionals on what my thoughts on the cert were. In essence, everyone wants to know:

“Is it worth the money?”

In short, my answer is a resounding YES! In long, I couldn’t say enough good things about the book, educational videos, and accompanying material. In order to successfully provide nutrition coaching to both athlete and non-athlete populations, I felt I’d need:

  1. A detailed description of the underlying physiology that drives nutrition-based adaptations
  2. How different body types are affected by various dietary strategies
  3. What circumstances warrant supplementation, and which supplements Dr. John Berardi and Ryan Andrews (along with the rest of the PN team) have determined are safe and effective
  4. An understanding of all the steps along the dietary strategy continuum from the most basic strategies (e.g. eat more vegetables) to the most complex (e.g extremely low calorie/carbohydrate diets and macronutrient cycling)
  5. Fluid requirements
  6. A multitude of implementation strategies to account for the varying psychologies of clients
  7. The questionnaires, assessments, and tests required to successfully implement nutrition coaching

The Precision Nutrition Certification Program provided all of that and infinitely more. Essentially the program laid out EVERYTHING I would need to know to successfully implement a Nutrition Coaching Program at Endeavor in an admirably clear, step-by-step fashion. The program was clearly laid out with the student in mind. There are plenty of opportunities to reinforce newly acquired knowledge, and it even walks you through the entire coaching process, telling you exactly when you need to schedule each meeting, and what you need to go through in these meetings.

Admittedly, I’ve studied enough about nutrition to know the basics. I imagine most people have. Although I enjoyed the art of implementation that this program discussed regarding these more basic nutritiong concepts, from a “mind-expansion” aspect I was much more interested in some of the advanced strategies. A few of the highlights:

  1. Caloric and macronutrient recommendations based on body weight, body type, body composition, and goals
  2. Caloric and macronutrient cycling strategies
  3. Supplements to facilitate injury healing
  4. How to infer hormonal imbalances from skinfold testing (this was really cool)
  5. How to combat excessive cortisol environments with various supplements

In reality, the majority of this stuff probably applies to bodybuilders and figure competitors more than youth (or even elite) athletes. Simply, because most athletes nutrition is horrendous, these advanced strategies will be lost on them. With that said, it was still interesting to learn about and to keep in mind as a tool to use in the future with the appropriate clientele (e.g. an advanced athlete with specific body composition needs that has demonstrated a relatively profound mastery of basic nutritional concepts).

The Precision Nutrition Certification program isn’t the only one out there, but it’s the one I trust the most. I’ve been following Dr. Berardi’s work for a while now and enjoy his attention to staying current on research, but realistic in implementation. In other words, he understand the psychology behind nutrition as much as the physiology. Importantly, he’s not ANOTHER one of the fat nutritionists that doesn’t practice what they preach.

Look at the guns on this guy!

Dr. Berardi has been successful in implementing diet and supplementation strategies to improve the body composition and performance of a diverse clientele ranging from himself (important), to elite level athletes, to non-athletic populations.

Not interested in Nutrition Coaching?

I know not everyone reading this will be a professional that is interested in offering nutrition coaching. If this is you, Dr. Berardi hasn’t forgotten about you. I’ve always said that his Precision Nutrition book and accompanying Gourmet Nutrition is the best nutrition resource for athletic and non-athletic populations alike. No they are not free. Yes they are worth the money.

I’ve been saying for years now that everyone should own a copy of Precision Nutrition. People usually respond in one of three ways:

  1. Ignore me completely
  2. Immediately buy the book
  3. Mull it over indefinitely, and shoot me an email every time I mention it and ask “Is it REALLY worth it?

To address the latter, yes it REALLY is worth it. It’s worth it for people that want to lose fat; it’s worth it for people that want to gain muscle; it’s worth it for people that are more concerned with athletic performance; it’s worth it for people that are bored with the foods they’re eating; it was worth it for me; it is worth it for you. If you order before October 31st, you can get the entire Precision Nutrition System for $50 off ($97). I’m always amazed at how people can come face-to-face with something that has life-changing potential, but comes with a relatively small initial investment and just write it off as “too expensive”. You CAN and should afford it; you may just need to figure out how. Click the image below for more information on how you can get the PN System for $50 off!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

Several weeks ago I had an opportunity to join the Arizona Diamondbacks medical staff for a private seminar from Dr. Andreo Spina, which was a combined Functional Anatomical Palpation and Functional Range Release for the upper limb. I really enjoyed the course, as it was a terrific review of palpation anatomy and I appreciated the thought process behind the various treatment techniques he presented. In my mind, the course not only gave me some different treatment tools, but it gave me a perspective to make OTHER treatment tools better.  I’ll very likely look to host a combined course at our facility sometime in the next year.

Functional Anatomy Seminars

Bottom line, Spina is a smart dude. And whether you’re in to manual therapy or not, his understanding of tissue adaptations is something everyone in the performance industry can benefit from. He recently posted an article on stretching, or, more specifically, flexibility that I wanted to share with you. Check it out below!

Andreo Spina

Dispelling the Stretching Myths from Andreo Spina

Stretching and the pursuit of “flexibility” has long been a goal of many athletes, trainers, therapists, sports medicine practitioners, and society as a whole.  The intentions of attaining this goal have been numerous and include preventing injury, improving athletic performance, retarding the affects of aging, and developing long ‘athletic-looking’ bodies.  However as with all physical exercise activities, stretching and flexibility training has long fallen into the realm of ‘gym science,’ while the true science has failed to be recognized.  This has lead to the creation of flexibility training programs, which have been largely ineffective, misguided, and often times dangerous.

Even in the rare situations where flexibility is actually attained using such training regimens, more often than not what the individual has actually managed to acquire is what I commonly refer to as “useless range,” or “useless flexibility.”  In other words, they have managed to force their bodies to attain a range of motion in which they have absolutely no control.  The ability for say a martial artist to simply do the splits does not necessarily mean that they will be able to kick an opponent in the head … it simply means that he or she is able to do the splits!  That, in and of itself, has no real usefulness in sport, or in everyday life.  Similarly for the Powerlifting/Weightlifting athlete, simply attaining enough flexibility to reach the bottom position of a proper squat does not automatically translate into the ability to generate strength from that position.  A person’s ability to attain certain range of motion has no usefulness unless he/or she is able to control that range.  In other words, the pursuit of flexibility in the absence of strengthening the newly acquired range does nothing more than produce “useless flexibility.”  Only those who are able to maintain control of their bodies, even when in extreme ranges, are able to benefit from their new found ‘elasticity.’

This article intends to first dispel some of the myths that surround the topic of stretching and flexibility training, then introduce a new adjunctive method of training used to create useful, functional flexibility termed Functional Range Conditioning (FRC)™

Dispelling the stretching myths…

Before discussing the concepts and benefits of proper flexibility training programs, it is important to first learn the “myths” which have long been propagated throughout the fitness world on the topic.  Many of these fallacies have been entrenched into the minds of the so-called fitness or medical ‘experts,’ so dispelling such myths is not an easy task.  In order to do so, we must forget about what the “gym science” has told us, relinquish “common sense,” and trust the actual science.  Such science has been available for many years, however as it often does, science ruins perfectly wonderful theories, and thus is ignored by the masses.

Physiology of Stretching: What actually happens to our tissues when we stretch?

Historically stretching was believed to increase the range of motion of a joint through decreases in something termed “viscoelasticity,” as well as by increases in the “compliance” of muscle.  Viscoelasticity refers to the property of some materials that exhibit both “viscous” and “elastic” characteristics when undergoing deformation (a change in the shape or size of an object due to an applied force).  Human muscle is such a material that possesses the ability to exhibit both behaviors.  With a purely viscous substance, if a force is applied to it, the shape of the substance will change permanently.  Thus when the force is removed, it will not return to its original shape.  Further, the longer the force is applied to it, the greater the resultant change in shape (Molasses would be an example of a purely viscous substance).  A purely elastic material on the other hand will exhibit change in length for a given force, and will return to its original length when the force is removed.

Compliance refers to how easily a substance’s shape will be altered under a load.  A more compliant tissue will undergo length change under lesser force, whilst a stiffer tissue will require more force to create a comparable length change.

In theory, the fact that human muscle tissue acts as a vasoelastic material makes logical sense in the context of stretching.  When one stretches for a period of time the viscous component of the muscle will lead to increased ranges of motion, however the elastic component will return the muscle to a normal resting length making at least a portion of the stretch short lived.  If muscles were purely viscous, then the muscles length would remain in the stretched position permanently (i.e. ‘Gumby’).  If muscles were purely elastic, then there would be no such thing as permanent improvements in flexibility.

However, as was previously stated, science ruins perfectly wonderful theories!  What the science shows is that the immediate effect of stretching does appear to affect the viscoelastic behavior of muscles, but the duration of this effect has been shown to be short lived.1,2 Studies looking at long term stretching (over a 3-4 week period) reveal improvements in flexibility and range, however no change in viscoelasticity (in other words, their flexibility improves but with no lasting change to the muscles structure).3,4

If a person is able to increase flexibility over time in the absence of changes of the viscoelastic behavior of a muscle, then how does this improvement occur?  It would appear that the bodies’ reaction to prolonged stretching is to increase stretch tolerance.  In other words, with time, the body ‘allows’ more range to be achieved.  As with any other decision the body makes, this ‘allowance’ is the work of the central nervous system (CNS – the brain and spinal cord).  Stated simply, improvements in flexibility are the result of the nervous system allowing the tissues to stretch more, and not as a result of a change in the actual structure of the tissue.  Thus stretching could be considered a method of training the nervous system rather than muscles.

A simple experiment can further illustrate this point.  Stand next to a table that is approximately waist level.  Now abduct the leg closest to the table onto it such that your hip is at ninety degrees.  Are you able to do it?  Most healthy, moderately fit individuals should be able.  Now turn around so you’re opposite side is against the table and do the same thing.  If you were able to hold each of your legs out at 90o, then what is preventing you from being able to achieve a full split position (90+90=180o)?  In a full split, each hip is achieving the exact same range of motion, and the muscles ‘restricting’ that particular motion (the adductors) are ‘stretching’ the exact same amount as in our experiment …so why can’t they do it at the same time?  For those who need to brush up on their anatomy I will tell you that there is no muscle in the human body that crosses between hip joints.  Thus the only real ‘bridging’ tissue is your skin which is extremely flexible.  The reason for this phenomenon comes down to an unwillingness of the central nervous system to allow this position to occur due to both fear of injury, as well as fear of being unable to recover from the position once you are in it.  Thus, even though the position is well within the normal limits of the muscles length, because we are unable to control the weight of our body in the position, the nervous system does not allow it (Hence the need to develop strength in the outer ranges of motion as is discussed in part II of this article).

Aside from the obvious benefits of improving flexibility and improving range of motion, research is also suggesting that stretching may also increase a muscle’s cross-sectional area (size) via a process termed “stretch induced hypertrophy.”5-7 In fact, a recent study demonstrated that stretching regularly over a period of weeks improves results on tests of maximal voluntary contraction, jumping height and possible running speed.8 These improvements may be attributed in part to muscular hypertrophy, however the author also offers an alternative hypothesis as well—a reduction in central neuromuscular inhibition.  In other words, stretching may somehow teach the CNS to more fully activate the muscles involved in the task.  Either way, this branch of research speaks to the various benefits of regular stretching.

Does pre-exercise stretching help prevent injuries?

For many years now, sports-medicine professionals and trainers alike have promoted stretching as a way to decrease the risk of injury.  To apply “common sense” to the matter, the more elasticity, or flexibility a tissue has the harder it is for that tissue to ‘snap.’  Paraphrasing an old Chinese saying “that which does not bend, breaks.”  Although this theory makes sense to common standards, the science demonstrates that this theory does not apply to tissue injury.

Although muscles are sometimes injured when stretched beyond their capability, the majority of injuries occur within the normal range of motion of a tissue during eccentric activity (muscle lengthening under tension).  The most important variable with respect to muscle injury is therefore not the length of the muscle, but the energy absorbed by the muscle.  In other words, during physical activity, the tissues of the body are subjected to forces or “tissue insults.”  When the amount of force, or insult, into the tissue exceeds the force absorbing capabilities of that tissue it causes injury.  Stretching has been shown to temporarily decrease the tissues “threshold” for force absorption and therefore stretching before training or competition has not only been shown to not prevent injury, it may actually increase your chances! 9-13

Does stretching outside periods of exercise prevent injuries?

When attempting to answer this question, one finds that the scientific literature is scarce.  In fact, there have been only three studies that isolated the effect of stretching outside periods of exercise on injury risk.  Both of these studies suggesta clinically relevant decrease in injury risk.14-16 Strengthening on the other hand has been long known to help with injury prevention.  Surprisingly, before the creation of Functional Range Conditioning™, which is introduced in part two of this article, there has been no system of training that effectively combines the two. 

Can you have too much flexibility?

Yes!  Despite the recent upsurge in the practice of Yoga amongst athletes, extreme flexibility should not be the goal of every athlete.  Research suggests that you only need a small flexibility reserve above the demands of your particular sport.  Further flexibility may actually hinder athletic technique by ‘dispersing’ the acting forces on the body.  For example, a very flexible spine may cause a loss of force along the kinetic chain when jumping, or performing a shot put.  Increasing muscle length may also alter the length where it is able to generate the most force (usually midrange), which is not necessarily a good thing for sports that require a lot of power in a small range of motion.  Although every athlete and layperson can benefit from regular stretching, there are situations where excessive flexibility can hinder performance. 


The most important concepts to take from part I of this article are as follows:

  • Improvements in flexibility are mostly the result of a change in the function of the central nervous system and not as a result of a change in the actual structure of muscle tissue.
  • Research demonstrates that the benefits of flexibility training also includes “stretch induced hypertrophy” which refers to an increase in muscle size leading to increased strength.
  • Research studies have not found that pre-exercise stretching prevents injury.  In fact, it would theoretically increase the chance of injury by temporarily reducing the muscles ability to absorb force.
  • Research suggests that stretching between bouts of exercise likely reduces the chances of injury during exercise.
  • More important than simple flexibility is end range control/strength.  Improvements in flexibility in the absence of end range strength produces “useless flexibility” said ranges will be unattainable during functional movements.

Functional Range Conditioning (FRC)™, a method of training that combines stretching with strengthening in order to quickly improve flexibility while also creating “flexible strength.”  This concept, based on scientific principles that will be discussed at FRC™ certification seminars.  HOWEVER….further to this concept, the FRC™ system is designed to induce many more beneficial cellular adaptations with use for:


To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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  1. Magnusson SP, Simonsen EB, Aagaard P, Kjaer M.  Biomechanical responses to repeated stretches in human hamstring muscle in vivo.  Am J Sports Med 1996;24:622-628.
  2. Magnusson SP, Aagaard P, Larsson B, Kjaer M.  Passive energy absorption by human muscle-tendon unit is unaffected by increase in intramuscular temperature.  J Appl Physiol 2000;88:1215-1220.
  3. Magnusson SP, Simonsen EB, Aagaard P, Soukka A, Kjaer M.  A mechanism for altered flexibility in human skeletal muscle.  J Physiol (Lond) 1996;497:291-298.
  4. Halbertsma JPK, Goeken LNH.  Stretching exercises: effect on passive extensibility and stiffness in short hamstrings of healthy subjects.  Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1994;75:976-981.
  5. Goldspink DF, Cox VM, Smith SK, Eaves LA, Osbaldeston NJ, Lee DM, et al.  Muscle growth in response to mechanical stimuli.  Am J Physio 1995;268:E288-E297.
  6. Always SE.  Force and contractile characteristics after stretch overload in quail anterior latissimus dorsi muscle.  J Appl Physiol 1994;77:135-141.
  7. Yang S, Alnaqeeb M, Simpson H, Goldspink G.  Changes in muscle fibre type, muscle mass and IGF-I gene expression in rabbit skeletal muscle subjected to stretch.  J Anat 1997;190:613-622.
  8. Shrier I.  Does stretching improve performance?  A systematic and critical review of the literature.  Clin J Sport Med 2004;14:267-273.
  9. Thacker SB, Gilchrist J, Stroup DF, Kimsey CD.  The impact of stretching on sports injury risk: a systematic review of the literature.  Med Sci Sports Exerc 2004;36:371-378.
  10. Weldon SM, Hill RH.  The efficacy of stretching for prevention of exercise-related injury: a systematic review of the literature.  Man Ther 2003;8:141-150.
  11. Herbert RD, Gabriel M.  Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review.  Br Med J 2002;325:468.
  12. Amako M, Oda T, Masuoka K, Yokoi H, Campisi P.  Effect of static stretching on prevention of injuries for military recruits.  Mil Med 2003;168:442-446.
  13. Malliaropoulos N, Papalexandris S, Papalada A, Papacostas E.  The role of stretching in rehabilitation of hamstring injuries: 80 athletes follow-up.  Med Sci Sports Exerc 2004;36:756-759.
  14. Garrett WE Jr.  Muscle strain injuries: clinical and basic aspects.  Med Sci Sports Exerc 1990;22:436-443.
  15. Safran MR, Seaber AV, Garrett WE.  Warm-up and muscular injury prevention: an update.  Sports Med 1989;8:239-249.
  16. Shellock FG, Prentice WE.  Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries.  Sports Med 1985;2:267-278.

Slideboards have become an integral piece of equipment in our training programs at Endeavor. I’m sure I could design programs without them, but I’m glad that I don’t have to. For those of you that have read Ultimate Hockey Training, you’ll notice that we use slideboard for a lot more than simply slideboarding. Slideboards work their way into a lot of our exercise progressions and can be used for things like posterior chain, medial hip, upper body pressing, and core work.

Over the last week I’ve gotten a few emails asking about what lengths we use and if it’s necessary to get an adjustable board, so I thought I’d address that question today. At Endeavor we have 10′ UltraSlide Slideboards, which we bought (like all of our equipment) from Perform Better.

If you’re using the slideboard for all the auxiliary exercises like lateral slideboard squat, slideboard body saws, slideboard hamstring curls, etc., it really doesn’t matter what size board you have. All that matters is that it slides. You can also do these exercises on turf or carpet with Val Slides or furniture movers. If however, you want to slideboard on them, then the 10′ adjustable boards can make a huge difference in the way you’re able to program slideboard work.

Hip-Resisted Slideboarding
Slideboard Hamstring Curl Variation
Band-Resisted Lateral Slideboard Lunge
Slideboard DB Reverse Lunge
Slideboard Push-Up w/ 1-Arm Reach
Slideboard Fly
Slideboard Army Crawl

The UltraSlide adjusts to 6.5-9.5′ in 1′ increments. For the overwhelming majority of our athletes in most conditioning protocols, we’ll use the 7.5′ setting. However, we also frequently utilize the 6.5′ and 8.5′ settings frequently. The shorter setting is beneficial for younger, weaker, or less experienced athletes that simply don’t have the gusto to make it across the board with authority on each push. For our athletes that are above ~6’2″, we slide it out to the 8.5′ setting to accommodate their longer stride length. If I had to ballpark the equivalent for the shorter setting, I’d say it’s for athletes around 5’6″ or shorter, but this is really dependent upon their strength and familiarity with the motion. Those distances for athletes at those heights tends to normalize stride frequency within a reasonable margin.


Last Summer we started putting an emphasis on either keeping a steady pace or on maximizing the reps per set. Keeping a steady, intentionally slower pace within the intervals we programmed allowed us to do a few things:

  1. Spend some time cuing the movements and reinforcing proper posture
  2. Develop the aerobic system in a sport-specific pattern
  3. Develop local muscular endurance while minimizing more global fatigue

Even more recently, we’ve started programming slideboard work with the intent of maximizing alactic power. Within this paradigm, the goal is essentially to work as hard as possible within a ~6s time frame and then recover completely. This idea can be modified slightly to train alactic capacity by not allowing complete recovery between bouts, but in both cases the goal is to work as hard as possible within the work intervals. This “work as hard as possible” descriptor is slightly different than “get as many touches as possible”, and highlights another reason why I really like having adjustable slideboards. Because the focus of these intervals is to push the rate at which energy can be produced, it’s essential that the athletes are actually doing WORK during the interval. With longer board settings, the glide phase of the movement is accentuated so the amount of work in any given time frame will be less compared to that same athlete on a shorter board. When we’re using slideboards with these training goals in mind, we’ll typically shift it one setting shorter than where we’d typically have an athlete go based on the height ranges above.

In short, I think it’s important to have adjustable slideboards, as it allows you to program more specifically to the individual in a group setting or to a growing individual (e.g. all youth hockey players). UltraSlide Slideboards aren’t cheap, running in the realm of $400-$600. I think people get too caught up in the ticket price and overlook the value. Aside from the fact that hockey parents are notorious for buying their kids new $300-$600 skates every year when their kid’s feet grow, and new $200 one-piece sticks (which are unnecessary and potentially counter productive for youth players…a rant for another day), it seems inconsistent to scoff at a $500 slideboard that, in one form or another, could get regular use year-round for a player’s entire career. When we’re making equipment purchasing decisions, I always try to keep the life of the implement in mind. For example, a $50 medicine ball that we’re going to break after 2 months is an expense of $25/month, an investment we make regularly because we value this type of training.

Med Ball Graveyward

Med Ball Graveyard

A $500 slideboard that we’re going to use daily for 20 years is ~$2/month. Viewed in this light, it’s actually a better value, and given the diversity of uses, a much better investment. If you have any slideboard-related questions, please feel free to post them below!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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The other day I got an email from a hockey dad that had just downloaded and started diving into Breakaway Hockey Speed, and immediately had some questions. Based on what he told me, he has two sons that have completely different skating styles (which is something I discuss in the manual), and was hoping to get some clarification on “ideal” skating patterns.

He wrote:

Kevin, I signed up for Breakaway Hockey Speed and am reading it now.It’s awesome! It rings very true to me. You don’t look like a very old guy but the observations here would seem to have taken a lot of time or some very careful observation over a number of years.

The reason it rings true to me is that I played hockey all my life and now have two boys ages 12 and 10 who have played since they were old enough to skate. And the two have totally different skating styles.

It’s been a real nature vs. nuture observation for me – they both learned the exact same way and they both did the exact same programs. But they have two very different body types (youngest one lean and flexible, the older more dense with a more limited range of motion) and that certainly seems to have been the biggest difference in their development as hockey players and skaters.

I’ve cut out parts of the message, but his questions and my responses are below:

1) How does one determine their optimal skating depth based on their individual build and joint range of motion (ROM)? Should working on improving ROM be the priority instead of adapting to a sub-optimal situation?

Skating depth based on an individual’s build goes much deeper than muscle flexibility. The contour of the hip joint itself and the length of the femurs relative to the torso will both play a huge role where a player’s optimal body position falls. Longer femurs relative to a shorter torso (this can occur in tall and short people as it’s the ratio, not the absolute lengths that’s important) will necessitate that the player maintains more of a forward torso lean to position his or her center of gravity appropriately above their skates. This will necessitate more hip flexion range of motion, which the individual may or may not have, or will result in a spinal flexion (rounding, particularly of the lower back) which is likely to cause discomfort in this area over time. Allowing this player to skate “higher” than some arbitrary “norm” isn’t allowing them to adapt to a sub-optimal situation, it’s keeping them out of sub-optimal positions altogether. I’m sure these things could all be measured, but that’s really not necessary. You just need to have a good eye for how they move.

In reality, the “ideal” stride is almost the same for everyone: it’s the lowest depth that a player can achieve keeping their hips above their knees,  maintaining a neutral spine with their center of gravity balanced appropriately over the skates. In Ultimate Hockey Training, I’ve included some pictures of extreme situations to help illustrate how “lower” is not always better.

Far Bend Stride

In this picture, the degree of hip flexion (think torso lean) is way too far. Note that I still have a fairly neutral lumbar spine (lower back) in the picture, which is desirable. However, the angle of torso lean is such that it unloads the stride leg, so it’s not possible to produce as much propulsive force off that leg.

Deep Standing Stride

In this picture, the degree of knee flexion is way too far. This shifts the COG too far behind the lead leg, but the deep bend also makes roughly the first half of the stride very awkward, as it’s essentially just repositioning behind the COG to be able to create propulsive force.

Optimal Stride

In contrast to the firs two pictures, this one is characterized by much more mid-range hip and knee flexion angles. This allows a more optimal positioning of the COG over the front skate, while also positioning the body for a strong propulsive stride. In the picture below, I’ve put the three pictures side-by-side, with a box that encompasses the shoulders and the pelvis to provide a crude illustration of where the bodies weight is positioned. Note that the first box is shifted forward, and the second box shifted backward relative to the more optimal stride position.

Skating Stride Comparison

With all of that said, the criterion for an optimal position is relatively similar for most skaters, but the outcome will be much different based on individual structural differences. As I noted above, an individual with longer femurs and a shorter torso may look a little more like the first picture in order to keep their weight positioned appropriately. An individual suffering from femoroacetabular impingement will have limited hip flexion ROM (typically around 90 degrees, compared to 120+) and will therefore need to maintain a slightly higher skating position to minimize stress to their anterior-superior hip labrum (the most common site of tears), and their anterior hip capsule. The point here is that optimal will look different for everyone, and it’s important to identify WHAT exactly may be limiting an individual’s ability to skate at a lower depth (if they appear too high, which is the most common complaint). It could be strength, positional awareness,  or structure, all of which are trainable/coachable, but they require very different strategies to address.

Femoroacetabular Impingement

2) When you say that most skaters with shorter, choppier strides are “naturally tighter”, what does this mean exactly? Is there any point in working with a skater that fits into this category to attempt to develop the flexibility and ROM necessary to have a closer to ideal knee and hip flexion?

This is an observation I’ve noticed from my time as a player and as a strength and conditioning coach. Stiffer players tend to be faster. This is true in almost all sports. They tend to be higher force output individuals, probably because the stiffness allows them to transfer energy and reduce force better. Stiffness, by definition, means it takes more force to displace the joint through any given range of motion; it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve full ROM. Although this is sometimes the case; the key is to know what they need and ensure that every player has that plus a little “wiggle room”. The idea that more flexibility is better is drastically misguided, and stiffness gets a really bad reputation when it probably shouldn’t.

3) You wrote that about 45-degrees is an optimal stride angle. I’ve noticed that for really effortless looking skaters who have green knee bend and hip flexion it sometimes seems like they are pushing almost straight out to the side at times. I know that just doesn’t sound right and I’m sure there’s no way the mechanics can work but maybe there’s a radius / arcing motion at play that makes it look that way. Just curious if you have ever studied that?

The 45-degree angle is optimal simply because of physics; think Newton’s laws. When an individual pushes through the ice, the stride leg is creating the propulsive force and the glide leg is determining the direction the individual will move, within reason. If a players stands with both skates pointing straight ahead, and pushes straight to the side with the right skate, he/she will either: A) Shave ice with their left skate or B) Fall over. This is despite the “glide leg” being oriented straight ahead. The vector that the individual pushes at will strong bias their movement in that same direction. Just as a push straight to the side would push them straight sideways, a push straight back would push them straight forward. This latter scenario would be ideal, but given the contour of the skating blade, they wouldn’t gain any friction. 45 degrees (or some slight variation of it) maximizes the combination of the forward propulsion vector AND skate blade contact.

Andy McDonald Skating

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Kevin Neeld

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