Derek Popke of Vancouver Hockey School works with Vancouver Canucks Alex Burrows during on-ice training session>Stride Starts at the Core
A powerful hockey stride starts at the core of the body. This area is located just above the waist and is sometimes referred to as the “trunk” or “abs”. The core is made up of the Transverse Abdominis, the Rectus Abdominis, the Erector Spinae and the Pelvic Floor Muscles. Core muscles are responsible for stabilizing the athlete’s spine while the body engages in movement such as the hockey stride. Developing a strong core is important for skating as it allows the player to initiate, transfer, and maintain continuous power in their stride – stride after stride, shift after shift. A weaker core causes a player to lose power, and potentially cause injury to the groin, low abdominal and lower back region. During the process of striding, a player must “set” their core. Setting the core requires the athlete to draw their belly button in towards their spine and engage the lower muscles of the core area. When the stride leg drives into extension, these two actions will enable maximum transfer of strength down through the legs and ankles and into the ice.
Body Lean and Shoulder Position
The player should start with a slight body lean in the forward direction with the chin in the upright position. The shoulders should be kept back in order to maximize and maintain effective balance. Once this is established, the player must bend his/her knees. Equally important to bending the knees are sinking the hips down towards the ice. The correct knee bend is in the area of 90 degrees and right at the point of discomfort.
Putting the Technique into Practice
Once the proper body alignment is established, the core set, and the stabilizer knee bent, the player then can put the technique into action. Remember to go slow at the start. When the techniques are put into action, it is very important that the mechanics are correct rather than the player trying to gain maximum power right away. When the stride is performed correctly, the player should be able to draw a straight line from the ear, through the shoulder, down the extended leg and into the ankle at stride completion. At the exact moment of full leg extension, an aggressive pointing of the toe (plantar flexion) followed by an equally aggressive pulling up of the toes (dorsi flexion) adds a critical ‘snap’ to the skaters stride. Further, players must ensure they are exhaling forcefully upon each stride extension. Maximizing leg extension will generate more power into the stride; help conserve energy and most importantly make a player faster and more effective.
As one of the lower mainland’s most respected skating coaches, Popke has built Vancouver Hockey School into an industry leader over the past 10 years. You can visit Derek Popke’s latest camps and clinics at vancouverhockeyschool.com
Contributing Author Scott Hebert owner of excelfitness.ca
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