- Understand how to utilize the Dry Skating exercise in various ways to maintain the strength and power of the skating muscles.
- Learn how to teach hockey players to perform the Dry Skating exercise similar to the way they skate during a game.
- Apply the research on muscle strains and integrate a hip adductor eccentric exercise for hockey players.
Focus of Performance during Pre-Season
During this time of the year, hockey players are thinking of one thing: Make the team! Therefore, as their personal trainer your goal is to help the player(s) reach that goal.
Throughout the pre-season, ice hockey players are undergoing evaluations, working in training camp to make a team, and playing pre-season games. A personal trainer who has worked with a player, or players, during the off-season has done everything possible to get the players to maximize their conditioning so they can perform at their maximum potential. Although the players' main focus at this time is making the team, they still need to maintain their strength, power, and endurance. As this relates to the most important skill in ice hockey, skating, the trainer must decide what is best to maintain leg strength and power. In this early part of the season there is a fine balance of focusing on on-ice performance, execution of skills relevant to performing well to impress the coaches, and maintenance of the strength and fitness gained during the off-season.
Skating Muscles and Biomechanics
Electromyographic studies of ice skating have shown that the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis have the most activity during the propulsion phase of skating (Halliwell, 1978; Kumamoto et al., 1972). The other muscles that are important for skating performance include the gluteus maximus, hip adductors, and hip abductors. Later in this article we will talk more about exercises to prevent hip adductor strains, which are a common injury in hockey.
Skating for ice hockey involves concentric hip abduction/extension and concentric knee extension during the push-off phase. At the end of the push-off, there is a high velocity eccentric contraction of the hip adductors to decelerate the leg (Chang, Turcotte, & Pearsall, 2009). The eccentric contraction is then followed by another high velocity concentric contraction of the hip adductor/hip flexor and concentric knee flexion for the recovery phase. This movement can be emulated off the ice by doing an exercise called “dry skating.”
Dry Skating exercise
Dry Skating Exercise
In pre-season, players do not have a lot of time for off-ice training. As such, trainers must include exercises in their training programs that will provide maximum benefit in a short period of time. One exercise that can maximize leg strength and power is “dry skating.” This exercise emulates the stride and recovery of skating on ice and it can be utilized similar to the way players skate during a game (game-performance skating), i.e., cruise strides to maintain speed or position on the ice, acceleration, or high intensity skating (Bracko et al., 1998).
Push-Off Phase of Dry Skating
The movement of “dry skating” is almost identical to the skating movements because the legs are pushing to the side (hip abduction/extension) and the shoulders abduct/adduct in equal and opposite movement with the legs. During the movement, the body is moving side-to-side. The most appropriate knee angle to achieve with the athlete immediately prior to push-off (loading phase) is approximately 90 - 100 degrees (similar to the knee angle during skating). Each push-off should be at maximum speed and power to emulate a single leg plyo-push-off.
Recovery Leg of Dry Skating
After pushing off, the “recovery” leg is adducted specifically relating to what speed of movement the player is using. For high intensity skating, the recovery leg is brought back under the opposite hip. When using deep knee flexion to develop muscle strength/endurance, the recovery leg stays under the same hip while the knee flexes to approximately 100 degrees. During movements that mimic acceleration, the recovery leg comes off the ground only 6 – 12 inches and stays under the same hip because these movements are quick side-to-side movements.
Dry Skating Routine
The following is a program incorporating various forms of the Dry Skating exercise. The exercises involved, similar to a plyometric routine, can be performed twice per week with 2 days of rest between exercises.
- “Stride” side-to-side with similar arm movement.
- Step to the side without a hop.
- Knee flexion should be at about 75 degrees.
- Perform 2 sets, 30 seconds each.
- Stride side-to-side with a small hop during the push-off.
- Deep knee bend should be approximately 90 degrees.
- Perform 2 sets, 45 seconds each.
- Perform quick, small hops side-to-side keeping feet wide apart.
- Perform 2 sets, 45 seconds each.
High Intensity Skating:
- Perform a powerful horizontal push and hop while attempting to cover as much ground as possible with each hop.
- Knee flexion should be 90 degrees.
- Perform 2 sets, 60 seconds each.
Hip Adductor Strain Prevention
Hip adductor strains are common in ice hockey. It is speculated that adductor strains may be caused by repeated high velocity eccentric contractions which decelerate the leg at the end of a stride (Chang, Turcotte, Pearsall, 2009). Chang, Turcotte, and Pearsall (2009) also found that the adductor magnus muscle had larger increases in peak muscle activation and prolonged activation with increased skating speed. It was observed that stride rate and stride length increased with skating speed, and that the rate of hip abduction increased with significant activation of the adductor magnus, indicating a significant eccentric contraction. Schache (2012) used an eccentric exercise called the “Nordic Hamstring Exercise” to reduce hamstring strains in Danish National men’s soccer players. Therefore, hockey players may benefit from eccentric training of the hip adductors to help prevent strains.
Hip Adductor Eccentric Training
A simple but effective exercise can be included as part of an eccentric workout or as part of the off-ice warm-up before practices or games. This exercise involves the player standing and holding a chair, or balancing with hands on a wall. The player forcefully swings/abducts the right leg/hip as high in the air as possible, and then forcefully adducts the leg/hip across the body. The player should perform 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps with the right leg and then do the same with the left leg, while keeping the opposite foot flat on the ground.
Bracko, M. R., Hall, L. T., Fisher, A. G., G. W. Fellingham, G. W, & Cryer, C. W. (1998). Performance skating characteristics of professional ice hockey forwards. Sports Med. Training Rehabil, 8, 251–263.
Chang, R., Turcotte, R., & Pearsall, D. (2009). Hip adductor muscle function in forward skating. Sports Biomech, 8(3), 212-22.
Halliwell, A. A. (1978). Determination of Muscle, Ligament and Articular Forces at the Knee During a Simulated Skating Thrust. Unpublished Master's Thesis, University of British Columbia.
Kumamoto, M., Ito, M., Yamsahita, N., and Nakagawa, H. (1972). Electromyographic Study of the (sic) Ice Skating. International Congress of Winter Sports Medicine, Sapporo, Japan, pp 130-134.
Schache, A. (2012). Eccentric hamstring muscle training can prevent hamstring injuries in soccer players. J Physiother, 58(1), 58.