Pros and cons of skating on a treadmill for hockey players

An important rule is to train the way the game is played.

Training on a skating treadmill has existed for about 25 to 30 years, with proponents suggesting it can improve skating biomechanics and fitness.

However, there is little objective evidence that skating uphill on a treadmill improves game-performance skating. There is some evidence that skating uphill on a treadmill may be useful for improving “skating fitness.” Skating treadmill training has evolved to use more game-performance skating and puck-handling, passing, and shooting.

Differences between skating on ice and a treadmill

The main difference between skating on ice and skating on a treadmill is that all hockey rinks are flat, whereas many skating treadmill training protocols have players skating uphill.

In some European countries (Russia and Slovakia specifically) the training protocol of skating treadmills (called “Skate Mills”) is to have the players skate primarily on a flat treadmill, and not as much uphill.

In North America, the training protocol of skating uphill can be questioned because it does not adhere to the rule of specificity of training. An important rule of training for a sport is to train as close to the way the game is played.

The plastic treadmill surface has a higher coefficient of friction than ice, therefore skating on a treadmill requires more exertion because the plastic is not as slippery as ice. Skating on a treadmill either uphill or flat may be better used for conditioning rather than improving skating performance. Having said that, if a player is skating on a flat treadmill there would be similarities to skating on ice.

Skating uphill changes the skating stride

When skating uphill on a treadmill, the movements change so that there is more hip extension (pushing backward) and less hip abduction (pushing to the side).

An important rule is to train the way the game is played . . .



Join The Coaches Site to access the latest drills, tactics & leadership lessons from hockey's top coaches.


Already a member? Login

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Since you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry this post was not useful for you...

Tell us how we can improve this post?

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]

View all posts


  • I am a skill coach at the Red Bull Academy in Salzburg. We are using two Skatemills for our development program on a daily basis, we work with the players individual or as a team using our 400m2 Skillcenter.
    We have two prototype of a very modern Skatemill specifitcation where we work on skating, stickandling, passing and shooting. We get support from the Red Bull Sports Medical and Testing Department, which allows us to analyse the players regarding skills development, biomechanics and physiology (lactate accumulation as an example).
    Here in Salzburg we work with science on and off the ice, thanks to the recources of our highend Academy infrastructure.
    For us the Skatemill is an essential tool in our players development program, which last at least four years.
    In Skating we can see and very important prove the progress of our players constantly.
    The Skatemill is an additional tool for our daily on ice practices and off ice work.
    As an example for a skill session I skate with a player on the Skatemill for twenty minutes and work on a movement pattern, right after we hit the ice and transfer the movement. Very important for us is the Feedback of the player, and it´s positive, they like the focused work in an isolated enviroment (Skatemill) and link it to an enviroment that it is common for them, the ice.
    When we add an training tool like a Skatemill we don´t focus on the problems and disantvantages, we are all in to find the benefit and solution for our athletes.
    All the best to Mr. Bracko, I did attend a presentation years ago in Bratislava.

  • Hi Anton,

    It’s nice to hear from you. Thanks for commenting on the article.

    I remember meeting someone from the Red Bull Academy when I was in Bratislava. Perhaps it was you. The person I met asked me to send him some information about my presentation, which I did. I believe he said he would discuss my presentation with his colleagues and discuss having me come to the Academy to give a presentation. I guess it was not meant to be.

    Thanks for giving me the information about how you use the skate mill. It’s very interesting how you use the skate mill instead of doing the analysis on ice.

    You have misunderstood the objective of my article if you’re focusing on disadvantages I wrote about. Your program is very well developed with the use of flat skate mill and ice, and more coaches can learn from your program. The objective of the article was to educate coaches about how skating uphill is a disadvantage and that there are many advantages of using a flat skate mill. I think most coaches don’t understand all the skating characteristics that can be practiced on a skate mill.

    Yours truly,
    Mike Brackoi

  • We believe that our Russian treadmill work program, which was developed in the methodological laboratory of the RED STAR hockey school from St. Petersburg and was named POWERSKATER PRACTICE, gives players the maximum possible benefit for the formation of their game motor and playing qualities.

    I will try to explain why … …

    – The set of skills that you acquire on completion of all the given tasks become mastered and honed. We would not move forward until we are confident that you are ready for the next challenge.

    – All work that is carried out according to the POWERSKATER PRACTICE program is taken into account categories such as:


    – the level of preparedness,

    -the level of physical condition of each young athlete.

    – All exercises in the POWERSKATER PRACTICE program imitate the game itself as well as motor techniques and skills. All the crucial aspects are covered during our trainings such as: modelling game situations, motor and game solutions, as well as the search for non-standard ways out of various difficult competitive situations.

    – The work that we are offering to our students is built on a progression, from simple to complex. The exercises are structured in such a way that each subsequent task corresponds in its content to the techniques and skills learned in the previous task, supplementing and complicating it with the new elements.

    – We monitor the active involvement of each trainee. Being active/initiative is not only a goal but also a required condition for every exercise. In addition, the number of repetitions of the proposed tasks, and the adequacy of rest pauses between attempts to complete them, is important for our work.

    – All the exercises that are offered for the athletes contain an incentive for their implementation. This incentive is the relative complexity of the performance. Light exercises are not interesting, they are boring, and they are not able to hold the trainee’s attention for a long time. But at the same time, we do not offer our students overly difficult tasks. Indeed, in this case, we run the risk of facing a situation where the athletes will lose their concentration due to not being able to complete the task that they are not yet able to do.

    – We believe that one of the conditions for a competent construction of the training process is the presence of a complete perception by the player of the exercise that he has to perform. Therefore, we make sure that every student has a full understanding of each exercise in details, enhancing the effect of perception by careful visualization. At the same time, we make sure that the process of mastering the proposed work is clear, concise and accessible.

    – In order to explain the new and most difficult exercises, we will use the demonstration of the performance of the upcoming work, recorded on an electronic medium. We try to familiarize ourselves with such exercises before the start of the training, so as not to waste the player’s time allotted for the lesson on the theoretical perception of the upcoming task.

    – The key to success is the constant introduction of innovations into the training process. Our workouts are always varied. To be able to achieve this goal, we constantly develop a whole series of tasks that contribute to its achievement in various ways. We are inventive in our tasks construction, and constantly adhere to the form of play and the competitive orientation of tasks. As we master the assigned tasks, we practice combining different techniques and goals in one exercise.

  • Hi Igor,
    What a fantastic description of your skating treadmill work, procedures, and learning opportunities. I really appreciate the time you took to describe your program. It sounds really good.
    All the best to you and your colleagues.
    Mike Bracko