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.
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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).