March 2006

You’ve heard it before, “Speed Kills”

Ask anyone on ice and they’ll tell you that the fastest players make the biggest impact, but ask those same players what the ingredients of speed are and the response will likely be the same look you see in the faces of the deer spotted on the side of the road on the way to those 5am hockey practices…a blank stare.

You don’t need a chemistry degree to figure out the how to be fast, in fact the recipe for speed is just 3 ingredients.

TECHNIQUE is the method of execution and the foundational ingredient. Techniques vary but when it comes to speed one thing is constant… knowing how to achieve maximum distance out of each push is the key. To learn how to skate faster forward first you must slow down and break the stride into its smaller parts. Analyze and perfect each part, put the pieces back together, then practice the entire motion at an easy pace until it feels natural.

The basic parts of the forward stride are:

Knee bend



For a great forward stride, and ultimately phenomenal sprint, the knees should thrust forward past the toes. Sometimes it helps to think about bending the ankles as if you are trying to get your shins to touch the tops of your feet. It’s impossible to bend your ankles in this way without bending your knees deeply. With a deep knee bend the skater is spring loaded and ready to unleash stored energy.

The next part of the stride is the extension. Many players think that the push should go back at an angle away from the body but if you take a look at the stride most speed skaters use you’ll see a push that is generated to the side. Speed skaters are the fastest skaters on earth and they use this push for good reason. Apply science, specifically Newton’s Laws of Motion, the Concept of Momentum, Vectors and Geometry, and Kinematic Equations, and what you’ll discover is that a push to the side results in twice as much distance as a push that is directed back at an angle. (You can find the complete scientific breakdown at Additionally the extension should be absolute, with every joint; hip, knee, ankle, foot, and toes fully extended.

The recovery, when the pushing foot returns, is the final part. The closer the pushing blade is set down to the gliding blade the more distance the skater will get out of the next push, so aim to return the foot so deeply that the recovery foot actually passes the body’s center line and is placed down on an outside edge.

POWER is the second ingredient in speed. Power is the ability to turn physical strength into useful motion.

The most obvious way to increase power is to increase strength. On-ice plyometrics increase might and have the added benefit of improving balance. Balance is important in the production of power because if the body is out of alignment when force is applied some of the energy will be sent in the wrong direction, resulting in lost speed. When the body is properly aligned the energy is sent exactly where it is meant to go and the payoff is faster skating.

Sheer will is another aspect of power. In order to be powerful athletes must be willing to push so hard that they actually exhaust themselves. This is useful information for everyone, especially those not quite technically sound, when in doubt, PUSH AS HARD AS YOU CAN!

QUICKNESS is the final and most important ingredient in speed. It is so important that it even trumps technique. That doesn’t mean that technique isn’t vital but it does mean that at a full speed sprint your feet should be moving so quickly that something will have to give just to keep up the pace. So what gives? Well, it’s not the extension because that’s the follow through and there’s never a good reason to give up knee bend. That leaves just one thing, the recovery. Be very careful, however, to give up as little as possible, and keep in mind, the better your technique is the later you will reach that point, which means the more time you spend perfecting your technique the faster you will fly.

So how quickly do the fastest skaters in the game move? ----At a full speed sprint the impact players push 4 ¼ times per second!

Being fast tastes oh so sweet… Bon appetit!


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