Last week I got an email from a guy with a ton of hockey and teaching experience asking about skating treadmill protocols. I haven’t written much about skating treadmills. I stopped using the one at our old facility because I was working to get players to skate LESS in the off-season, especially in the first few months, in an effort to unload the skating musculature and avoid issues related to perpetual overuse. In fact, I think the only time I’ve approached the topic was here: The Truth About Skating Treadmill
If you have access to a skating treadmill, I would encourage you to view training on it within two major buckets:
Most of the time, you’ll find one or more of these areas that could be improved. As with any training pattern or exercise, it’s important players learn to skate well before they are put under increased training loads (higher inclines, higher speeds, longer durations, etc.). Naturally, they won’t perfect the skating stride in a single-session, but if they aren’t a proficient skater, the primary focus should be on improving their skating pattern. If you’re interested in more information on developing optimal skating technique, check out these posts:
Once a player demonstrates competency in their skating stride, you can focus more on training in a way that elicits very specific training adaptations. Think of the skating treadmill similar to running; you can alter your pace, duration, work:rest ratios, etc. to alter the specific adaptation you’re after. As an easy example, trotting at a steady state for 30 minutes may be an effective method to improve cardiac output, whereas sprinting for 6 seconds with full recovery may be an effective method to improve alactic power (the rate at which your body can produce energy using primarily anaerobic alactic energy systems). To be a little more specific, you can break down energy system work into 3 primary buckets:
It’s important to acknowledge that all of these systems are always working to some extent during all activity. The time references above are simply meant as a general guideline to help illustrate the dominant energy system. It’s also important to recognize that the amount of rest given after each effort will dictate the emphasized energy system. For example, 10s of all out work followed by 3 minutes of rest would emphasize alactic power. In contrast, 10s of all out work followed by 20s of rest, repeated for multiple reps would quickly transition south on the above list, eventually being a largely aerobic activity.
After reading Joel Jamieson’s book Ultimate MMA Conditioning a couple years ago, I just made an excel sheet with various training methods and their intended adaptations within specific energy systems. We do almost NO lactic work until the last 2-3 weeks of the off-season with our hockey players, as they spend their entire season exposed to significant amounts of lactate.
For most of players, their off-season energy systems work will follow a progression similar to one of these two broad scenarios:
1) Poor Fitness
2) Good Fitness
We’ll spend more time in certain phases and return to methods from previous phases depending upon time, and the training emphasis for the given day.
With all of this in mind, and recognizing that certain methods (e.g. 5 minute Lactate Threshold Intervals) don’t really lend themselves well to working with multiple athletes at one time, which is the reality of most of these situations, there are a few specific methods that I would recommend on the skating treadmill.
*This is absolutely brutal and not suitable by most athletes.
In a perfect world, the athletes would all have heart rate monitors on so you could monitor their recovery to ensure they aren’t surpassing their anaerobic threshold (AnT) in the lower level aerobic work (Options 1&2), that they’re building up to a Max HR during the 3rd aerobic option, and that they’re recovering fully during the alactic power work (typically an HR < ~130 beats per minute). This is reallyt he only way to be sure that the athletes are in fact training the energy systems you’re targeting. That said, I realize this isn’t possible for everyone and using the time intervals above will provide a pretty good guideline for most players. If the goal is to maximize recovery, err on the side of giving them more rest.
You can parlay these methods into different specific training goals. For example, alactic power work with shorter intervals can be thought of as maximum acceleration work. Longer alactic power intervals can be thought of as speed endurance. Having a larger incline will necessitate a faster stride rate, whereas flatter inclines will allow for longer stride lengths. With this in mind, higher inclines may be more appropriate for training the body position and stride pattern associated with initial accelerations from a standstill, whereas lower inclines may be better for training the body position and stride pattern associated with top-end speed. In addition to being great methods for developing the aerobic system, the first two aerobic methods are outstanding options for placing a large emphasis on teaching and refining skating technique.
Selecting which methods you use will depend on the training goals of the athlete and the amount of time you have available to help them reach their goals. You can use the phase-based progressions presented above as a guideline, but I’d also encourage you to use the long-term athletic development recommendations espoused by USA Hockey. I’d also remind you to err on the side of striving for more optimal technique over hammering higher speed work.
Hopefully this provides a framework from which you can design appropriate skating treadmill programs specific to the needs of the players you work with. If you have any questions, feel free to post them below!
To your success,
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Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.