Don’t underestimate the simple things
Posted by Dean Holden at June 16th, 2012
By Jack Blatherwick (2010)
In planning your summer training, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that the most expensive options are the best. After all, that’s what marketing is all about.
Certainly, there are many valuable ‘pay-for-play’ options: stickhandling, shooting or skating instruction lead the way. You can also skate on treadmills, plug your muscles into a machine that stimulates them, lift weights and compete in summer hockey leagues. All good stuff really, but each represents only a single piece of the puzzle.
Watch closely as the Red Wings and Penguins battle over the Stanley Cup. You’ll see the two teams who best represent the future direction of hockey — the type of players to copy if you’re serious about getting better. They play faster and with more skill than the rest of the NHL.
Faster. More skillful. Don’t forget these qualities this summer. The scouts certainly won’t. Their preoccupation a few years ago with size has been replaced with a search for skillful speedsters, and the league will continue to evolve in that direction as each team tries to catch the top two.
Skill and speed – plus quickness, agility, coordination and explosive strong legs – are athletic qualities that require repetition after repetition after repetition – not money. Instruction might help some players, but improving stick skills, athleticism and skating speed are projects for those willing to put in quality practice time.
The one off-ice activity that is most likely to improve skating acceleration is short, explosive sprinting. It’s free; therefore no one is marketing it. In testing 500 teams, we have consistently found a high correlation between short sprints on-ice and off – a higher correlation than any other variable: strength, vertical jump or power measured on a bike or in any other way. The shorter the sprints the higher the correlation.
At every age, off-ice sprints are a high priority. It’s too obvious and simple; therefore sprinting for quickness is unduly left out of the development process. Sprints are suggested for endurance training, but generally these sprints are too long and the rest intervals too short to improve speed and quickness.
This is often the case when planning skating drills. Somehow “skating” equates to “drudgery,” meaning endless stops-and-starts or tough drills that are counterproductive for improving quickness and skill. Don’t make this mistake in the summer. Keep your on-ice and off-ice sprints short, and allow enough recovery to ensure that speed and quality technique are the highest priorities.
Another good choice is participation in explosive sports that involve quickness and agility – sports like basketball, soccer, football, lacrosse, tennis, racquetball and squash. One drawback however: in team sports it is easy to put it on cruise control and play without speed. Therefore, my recommendation is to try “BASELINE TENNIS,” a training game used by elite tennis players.
This is tennis without serves, so points last longer and are filled with incredible athleticism. There’s no way to hide, as in a team sport. You must sprint to each shot and immediately back to the middle to prepare for the next one. It includes dynamic training of core muscles, as you lunge and twist for forehands and backhands; plus, it duplicates the explosive interval nature of endurance in a hockey game.
Don’t fall for a sales pitch that the more money you spend, the better development you’re getting. Sprinting, stickhandling, shooting pucks and baseline tennis are free. Skating practice can be inexpensive at the right time of day. All these require no instruction – nothing but a commitment, and the rewards are not easily matched at any cost.
Category: Fitness / Training