There are several notable differences in the stride pattern and muscular contributions of acceleration and max speed – both in running and skating.

I shared some of the differences in skating characteristics in previous posts that you can find by clicking on the #SpeedTraining highlight on my instagram account.

The images above are taken from a terrific research paper written by @kenclarkspeed and his colleagues exploring the relationship between acceleration and max speed at the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

The top graph shows the acceleration profiles of athletes ranging from the slowest to the fastest. Notice that the shapes of the curves are very similar, just shifted up or down for faster or slower max speeds, respectively.

When the acceleration curves are displayed as a percentage of the max speed reached, they are almost identical (bottom graph).

This was one of the key findings of the study – that max speed could very well be a primary limiting factor for acceleration.

In other words – if your goal is to improve acceleration (i.e. “first step quickness”), there is still a place in your program for maximum speed work.

In implementing max speed work, it’s important to recognize both the characteristics of max speed you’re training to improve, and the characteristics of the athlete. For example, many hockey players are not efficient runners. As a result, increasing sprinting distance or speed is likely to also increase injury risk. Running extended sprints (e.g. 40-60 yards) or extended flying sprints (e.g. 10-20 yard build, 15-20 yard flying sprint) may be effective at increasing maximum speed, but the risk isn’t worth the reward.

Two alternatives:

  • Emphasize maximum speed work on the ice, where the patterns are both more specific to the end-goal, and safer for the athlete
  • Perform max speed work on an Assault bike, where the required movement skill is low, and the athlete can focus entirely on maximizing the output.

In both cases, it’s appropriate to use similar methods as sprinting (e.g. longer duration maximum output efforts (4-6s), and flying sprints to allow players to reach and sustain max speeds).

Feel free to post any comments/questions below. If you found this helpful, please share/re-post it so others can benefit.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. For comprehensive hockey training programs to improve your speed AND repeat sprint ability, check out: Speed Training for Hockey

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First things first. I want to personally thank you for continuing to come here to read up on various aspects of hockey development and for your help in spreading the word about this site. Last week, the site hit a milestone that a year ago I would have thought was impossible: over 10,000 visits in the previous 30 days.

If you’re involved in some aspects of fitness or business, this number is probably staggeringly low. However, for a hockey-specific training and development site with an array of content ranging from basic exercises to advanced scientific theory, I’m psyched! A year ago it was less than half that and growing extremely slowly. As I’ve said in the past, this site exists because of you. As you continue to help spread the word and communicate with me about what you want to me to write about, the site will continue to evolve into a better resource for you.

Random Thought 1: After my post last week on my Soft-Tissue Stress Overflow Theory, I got an email from a parent with a few kids that we’ve trained at Endeavor that read:

Her coach is so old school and is demanding at 12 years old that they only play soccer.  Otherwise they aren’t committed to the team. Yeah we’ll, we’re on our third kid.  Nice try but we aren’t buying it.  Hopefully your article will help the parents of the first borns not to believe that stuff and feel like their kid is going to be behind other kids or not “make it” because they haven’t given up their life to a travel team.

This example doesn’t pertain to hockey, but I think we all know there are hockey coaches out there like this. With every year that passes I gain an increasing appreciation for the importance of active recovery. Playing sports certainly plays a large part in developing the personality and characteristics of our youth. Things like courage, confidence, leadership, and teamwork are all life-skills that people develop through sports that will benefit them in other aspects of life. That said, sports should be a piece of a kid’s life, not all of it. Coaches, in all sports, need to remember that there’s more to life than playing sports.

Son. It’s time you stopped messing around with those “other sports” and really started focusing on hockey.

Random Thought 2: Last week I had a meeting with the president of a local youth hockey organization about a year-round development plan I had worked on. We had a great meeting. Luckily he and the coaches within that organization recognize and appreciate the importance of training as it pertains to developing elite level hockey players. They also know that it’s not a quick fix solution, but a long-term process. Because Endeavor is a private training facility, we get a lot of the “make my kid faster yesterday” parents. I wish more understood that short-term improvements in performance can be expected, but that shouldn’t be the goal. Especially with younger athletes, performance doesn’t matter nearly as much as instilling proper training habits and reinforcing proper movement patterns.

Random Thought 3: At this meeting, the idea of testing was brought up. I still whole-heartedly believe that doing performance testing with middle school and most high school athletes is completely senseless and it amazes me that so many people disagree. It is UNARGUABLE that athletes at this age are maturing, and at different rates. We’ve all seen PeeWee, Bantam, and Midget teams with players that look like giants AND players that look like they’re too small to be on the same ice. What do you think is going to happen if you compare the test results of someone that develops early and somewhat that develops late? The early maturer wins, every time. What is this system rewarding-rapid maturation? Even if you’re only comparing testing results within an athlete to monitor individual progress, which is a much more valid and desirable approach, it’s still impossible to rule out what proportion of gains are related to training and what is the result of natural maturation. Athletes naturally get stronger and faster as they get older. We need to remove the emphasis on testing and improve the emphasis on training.

“I don’t care how good you say this Crosby kid is. His 40 time was below our team average; I can’t take him.”

Random Thought 4: Over the last year I’ve gotten some hate email about some old posts I had on the NHL combine (NHL Combine Testing Results and NHL Combine Test Results Revisited).  I should probably write an article about this, but I haven’t made the time to do it. It’s not just the NHL combine that doesn’t make sense to me; the NFL one is just as bad. Last week Stephen Paea broke the NFL combine bench press test record by pressing 225 lbs 49 times. This is an amazing feat, but what does this test even tell us? Is it a strength test? Not if he’s doing over 8 reps. Is it an endurance test? Maybe in this case. Do any of these things even matter as it pertains to on-field performance? Not likely. Check out the top performers in NFL combine tests from the last 10 years. How many of those guys are NFL stars right now? A few, but certainly not enough to justify the “if you do well on this test than we’ll pay you lots of money” approach that the NFL has taken, a direction that youth sports is mimicking. The most important test is how players perform on the ice, NOT how strong, fast, or well-conditioned they may look off the ice.

This guy doesn’t look like he’d finish near the top of the pack for waterboys in combine testing. Yet, he’s an inevitable hall of fame quarterback. Maybe there’s more to success than just strength and speed for Mr. Brady?

That’s all for today!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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