The hardest part of my job is educating parents and coaches by having them understand the facts and myths about off-ice development. Most of all understanding that it’s a long-term process whereby there’s no quick fix or secret training method to develop an athlete’s speed overnight. The word development means ‘process, growth and advancement’… and that takes time.
I understand the high expectations of wanting results overnight, but it simply doesn’t work that way. I’ve had many conversations with parents and coaches about how, a lot of the time, what a player really need is time to grow into their body. In my professional experience, as an off-ice strength trainer, the best approach is to always be straight up and give parents and coaches the facts. It is important to trust the development process and trust in my experience to get their players the results they need.
When I ask parents/coaches to trust me, I don’t expect that they put blind faith into the hope that they see results. I take all the steps to prove results by measuring a player’s progress and, in turn, testing their performance while recording their results. At the end of the day, if a player is simply stronger and more mobile, they should be able to generate more power into their skating stride and see a big difference in their first step quickness.
Here are three ways of helping to create first step quickness for the young athlete in your life:
#1. THE DEEP SQUAT TEST
If your player cannot perform a deep squat (I mean glutes to the ground!) then they are definitely limiting their potential for speed. Players that don’t have full range of motion at the hip and ankle joints and have poor flexibility will lack the power needed in a skating stride to be faster. It’s that simple. Start by seeing someone who specializes in what is called Active Release Technique. They will help with any mobility issues and have a player feeling better instantly the next time they step on the ice.
#2. FLEXIBLITY AND MOBILITY
Muscles are like elastic bands that harness a lot of power. Think about how the farther you stretch that elastic band, the more power is behind it. Now take a stronger elastic band and stretch it, you can easily see how much more power it has. Players must take stretching seriously on a daily basis. Performing specific flexibility and mobility exercises will help a player not only feel better and feel faster on the ice, but it will help prevent them from getting injured.
#3. STRENGTH TRAINING
If your player is at an elite level or pursuing to make a jump to major midget or junior, they should be starting a strength training program. Players not only need to protect themselves from impacts on the ice by being stronger, but lower body strength is what is going to give a player the power to generate more speed on the ice. One of the best investments parents can make is in a strength program for their player.
Players need mobility, as coaches will attest to. They need to be flexible enough to enable efficient mobility on the ice. Now just add strength and power to the equation and you have created a very strong foundation for increasing first step quickness. There is no secret to developing speed, but there is a proper process and specific exercises that will make a big difference. While understanding that it is a long-term development process, and by taking the right steps, players can see a significant difference in their speed in as little as six weeks time.