Skaters who use the correct technique and are efficient on the ice, are the skaters who have the fastest and longest stride. Skaters think if their moving their feet real fast, they will skate real fast. In reality they are going very fast nowhere.
Having quick feet is very important for agility skating but it does not correlate to stride length and power. In our classes we always speak of stride, glide and recovery. The skaters must be in a really strong hockey position to achieve the three elements of striding. Let’s go through a few main points that will help us achieve a longer and more efficient stride.
Skaters should have their feet under their hips. They should be roughly shoulder-width apart, forming a box shape between the ankles and the knees rather than a triangle, from too wide of a stance. Hips are down nice and low. The skater’s shoulders should be up nice and high, not bending or hunched over. The skater’s eyes and head should always be up.
We don’t want them falling over forward which causes them to lean. Skaters need to bend with their knees and not bend with their backs. We stress in all our classes that the players should be low enough to feel their shin pads are pushing up against the tongues of their skates. This will give them that deep knee bend.
If the player can feel comfortable in this position it helps them to have a better center of gravity, better balance and allows them to be able to fully extend their stride with each push.
The heels of your skates should be just a few inches apart as you push off with each stride. Being in that low position is key for the length of your stride. The skaters who bend at the hips rather than the knees increases strain on the low back and minimizes power transfer from the glut muscles to the lower limb.
Once you have pushed out to the side and your leg and ankle is fully extended, you can get a toe-flick at the end of your stride. You can't even get your toe-flick unless you have a full extension.
Many skaters leave out the gliding part of the stride and just keep using the short choppy strides that are both inefficient as well as tire you right out. Players should fully extend the leg so that there is no bend behind the knee and push off at around a 45 degree angle from the body.
Full recovery is coming back to where your feet are under your hips.
When striding, it’s also important for a player to keep their arm motion going forward and backward, not side to side, otherwise the player will slow down. We tell our skaters to use their arms the same way they would if they were sprinting. The reason we do not want our skaters swinging their arms across their mid line is that this motion will prematurely cause their heel of the striding leg to lift off the ice. With only the ball of the foot and toe on the ice to push with, it works against the skater for that powerful push you need. The stride push starts from the heel and works its way to ball of foot and then ends with the toe flick.
The skaters must also avoid pushing straight back but push on an angle. Pushing straight back will not allow you to dig into the ice with your edges on the push. You then waste energy and are not efficient. Pushing out to the side allows you to fully use the entire blade of the skate (heel, ball, and toe). A technically good skater has very little upper body movement other than the arms. Everything happens from the waist down while skating. This means no upper body swaying back and forth or up and down as well as no head bobbing.
Lastly almost all players will have skates that are 1 to 2 sizes smaller than their shoe size. This allows for a tight, snug fit. The foot should not be moving around in the skate while playing, as this will decrease skating efficiency and balance. Make sure you have been properly fitted for your skates.
The last bit of advice we can give you is to enrol in an off-ice-training program that combines power, flexibility and endurance.
A perfect skating technique without strong powerful legs will not let you attain your full potential in terms of speed and explosion. Focus on a program that will build power, endurance and flexibility.