Coaches and scouts often tell players they need “quick feet,” “first three steps to top speed,” or “increased foot speed.”
They’re mysterious comments because they’re usually made with no direction of how a player can improve acceleration. Most players and their parents understand they need quick feet in order to be a better hockey player, but they do not know how to do it.
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Essential factors for “fast feet”
In strength and conditioning terminology, “fast feet” means players need to improve the speed at which their “skating muscles” contract. As such, they must develop power to move faster during acceleration.
Players can also improve the power of the skating “recovery muscles” so that the muscles contract quickly to get the skate back on the ice to start another push-off. They must also have the correct skating biomechanics/movements so they are efficient skaters.
Examples of good acceleration biomechanics can be found in the following videos of Mathew Barzal, Connor McDavid, and Nathan MacKinnon.
Notice they do not start in a “V” start position, their skates are approximately shoulder width, same as you stand for a face-off.
Muscle power development
Muscle power is the ability for the muscles to contract as fast as possible. The equation for power is ‘Force x Velocity’ therefore, it can be improved by increasing force (lifting heavy weights) and jumping with high velocity (jump training).
Lifting heavy weights with low repetitions will increase power development because it stimulates fast twitch muscle fibres. Maximal velocity of muscle contraction occurs when the body is being moved as fast as possible using jump training, which also trains fast twitch fibres. Therefore, jump training is important for improving acceleration as well.
Set and repetitions
When weight training for power it is best to use weight that can be lifted only 2-5 repetitions. Using 3-5 sets are optimal. It is important to work with a qualified conditioning coach when weight training. Jump training protocol is 2-5 sets of 5-12 repetitions.
Leg training is done two days a week during the off-season. It is best to not weight/jump train on days when players are doing on-ice skating training or the day before skating training. If a player or parent does not want do weight train, jump training alone can improve muscle power.
Exercises for the skating “pushing” muscles (do 1, 2, or 3 of these exercises):
- Back or front squats
- Dead squat
- Smith machine squat
- Landmine squat
- Dumbbell squat
- Bulgarian split squat
- Leg press
Jump training exercises to improve power (do 1, 2, or 3 of these exercises):
- Jump squats
- Tuck jumps (also good for the skating recovery muscles)
- Box jumps – jumping up onto a box or jumping down from a box and rebounding up.
- Forward bounding – jumping from two feet forward with a brief moment on the ground, jumping as far horizontally as possible.
- Lunge jump