Arm movement in skating: every action has an equal and opposite reaction

Mike Bracko

Mike Bracko is a skating coach, skating researcher, strength & conditioning coach, and fitness educator. He holds a Doctorate degree in Exercise Science and Biomechanics and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach through the NSCA. He played hockey in the AJHL, BCHL and NCAA (University of Illinois-Chicago). He does skating clinics with 300–400 hockey players every year specializing in 1-on-1, small group, and team skating with male and female players ranging in age from 8 years old to pro players.  He is also the strength & conditioning coach for the USA Men’s Deaflympic hockey team.  [email protected]

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There is no such thing as a bad skater rather, there are players who need to develop their muscle memory so they can skate with a smooth coordinated movement pattern.

One of the most misunderstood and incorrectly taught skills in skating is arm movement. Many coaches do not understand that arm movement is a law of physics – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It is a law, and you cannot break the law! When skating, the legs push to the side, therefore in order to maintain balance, momentum, and speed, the arms must to move to the side.

Arm Movement Research

Marion Alexander, Ph.D. and colleagues at the University of Manitoba Biomechanics Lab wrote a paper entitled Arm Action in Hockey Skating- Is It Being Taught Incorrectly?  Dr. Alexander is quoted as saying: “Hockey coaches almost invariably teach the arm swing in skating to occur in the forward-backward direction, similar to running. Their reasoning is that since a hockey player is moving forward, their movements should be forward. Although no valid rationale is given for the selection of this technique, it has been universally accepted by almost all hockey coaches as the ideal technique for fast skating.” Dr. Alexander goes on to say: “The basic premise of this paper is that hockey coaches teaching the forward-backward action of the arms in hockey skating are incorrect. If the skate push off is in the sideways direction, and increased speed is attained primarily by increasing the force of the push off, then a sideways arm swing should be used by all hockey players. The correct movement of the arms and hips during skating is abduction and adduction movements” (abduction is when the legs and arms move sideway away from the body, and adduction is when the legs and arms come back to the body).  In the picture below, McDavid’s left leg and right arm are abducted, and his left arm is adducted.


There is no such thing as a bad skater rather, there are players who need to develop their muscle memory so they can skate with a smooth coordinated movement pattern . . .



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