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Becoming a Faster Skater

By Ontario Minor Hockey Association, 10/04/16, 11:45AM EDT

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The Single Leg Skater Squat improves balance and coordination

By Mark Fitzgerald,  Strength & Conditioning Coach - Anaheim Ducks, Director of Performance - Elite Training Systems, Lead Training Advisor - Under Armour Canada

Strong Legs – Strong Strides

We are all excited that the hockey season is getting underway and the off-season is in the distance, in the rear view mirror. We hope that young hockey athletes had a great summer and were diligent in developing a routine of training to get better at your sport, away from the ice, either with a Strength & Conditioning Coach or in another sport that compliments hockey well, in order to develop other physical and athletic skills. Getting better at hockey cannot always take place playing hockey and you need to continue to develop athleticism through training, even throughout the season, not just in the off-season!

As a Strength & Conditioning Coach, I always want to help athletes, whether they are pros or at the grassroots level, get better at their sport and improve performance through training. In this season’s series of articles we will focus on strength movements that can be done virtually anywhere, whether it is at home, in the rink or a hotel room, with minimal to no equipment! The first movement I will introduce to you is the Skater Squat, a single leg exercise that will help strengthen your legs to help give you a stronger and faster skating stride. Lower body strength is a key attribute to any athlete and this is something that can be developed, at any age.  

The Single Leg Skater Squat is a unique exercise that reinforces athletic positioning on both the weaker and dominant leg, improves balance, coordination, stabilization and above all strength & power! This is a very effective movement as it directly co-relates to the demands of skating. Here are some good cues to help you execute the exercise.

Single Leg Skater Squat

  • If you do not have access to Airrex Pads, here are some suggestions to help progress the exercise - use folded towels, couch cushions, or even stack pillows. Stack items to appropriate height to maintain proper form and technique. If you do not have access to dumbbells for counter balance, then use soup cans, bottles of water or even a contained jug of some type.
  • Begin on one foot in an upright or tall position. Bend the other leg, keeping the heel close to the glutes. Arms at your sides.
  • Keep weight in the planted foot, start by sitting back or hinging at the hip. Make sure to plant the foot into the floor with more weight in the heel. Begin to raise the arms, as you sit back for counter balance and a proud chest.
  • With the bent leg, reach back with your knee to touch the target of the stacked items. The depth of the movement will determine how high you will raise your arms, but maintain a flat or neutral back with tight abs. Do not reach out with your arms, just raise them straight up and do not let the spine break that neutral position.
  • On the planted or working leg keep the knee behind the toes at all times and not letting the knee collapse to the inside, when you reach the proper depth according to your fitness level, drive or push back up into the start position.

The Skater Squat is a demanding single leg movement that involves a number of different variables and can be used from the novice to advanced levels. This movement requires the athlete to engage their mid-section in order to efficiently move the legs and arms about the core, which directly relates to the demands placed on the athlete during play on the ice. Be sure to maintain good posture throughout the entire movement so the spine remains in a neutral position, not bending like a turtle in the upper back or arching extensively in the low back. Remember to track the hip, knee and ankle to align the lower body. Aim for full range of motion or as deep into the position as possible. However, those with restrictions or limitations may have trouble getting into the end position. Work to getting to full range of motion without breaking back position or lower body alignment, the better you get at it start taking away height from the stacked items and watch your skating stride get stronger! Look to complete 6-8 Reps per Leg, for 2-3 Sets.

I look forward to connecting with you all more throughout the hockey season, here at OMHA.net, lending more helpful tips and exercises to making you more complete athletes through training, nutrition and recovery strategies.

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