Pros and cons of skating on a treadmill for hockey players

In Coaching Hockey, Premium Articles by Mike Bracko2 Comments

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).



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About the Author

Mike Bracko

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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. He played hockey in the AJHL, BCHL and NCAA (University of Illinois-Chicago). Mike has authored 16 DVD’s on skating instruction and performance enhancement. He does 200-300 skating clinics with 400–500 hockey players every year. He specializes in 1-on-1, small group, and team skating with youth, minor, junior, and pro players. [email protected] See All Posts By Mike



  1. 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.

  2. Author

    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

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