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#### Last Updated: February 23, 2009 12:53 PM

I was watching an on-ice power skating session the other day and overheard some parents commenting on how great a session it was because their child was exhausted when they were done.

While hard work is an important part of becoming a successful athlete, smart work is more important than hard work and that means making sure you understand what you are trying to train; this is particularly true when you want to improve acceleration.

Acceleration, sometimes called first step quickness is how quickly you can come up to full speed.

Speed is not as important as acceleration for a hockey player. The average period of hard skating during a shift is less than four seconds, not enough time to reach full speed when you have to change direction to avoid other players or make a move on the ice.

High school physics

To better understand the process of improving acceleration we have to go back to high school physics class. Now I know many of you would rather eat hot coals than revisit high school but trust me the key to improving acceleration is found there.

One of the basic formula in physics is F=ma; force is equal to mass times acceleration. If we play around with this formula a little bit we can get the formula a= F/m or acceleration is equal to force divided by mass. In hockey terms force is the amount of strength you have and mass is your body weight. Therefore your strength divided by your body weight equals your ability to accelerate.

So the first step in improving acceleration is to get stronger.  This is a very important point that is often lost on young hockey players and their parents.  They see advertising of pros running over hurdles and using agility ladders and assume this is the best way to train. Many of those pros already have adequate strength and use these other types of training to supplement their strength work.

Strength is crucial

Until you have enough strength, that should be the primary focus for any young hockey player. So how much strength is enough? Generally, you are strong enough when you can do a full squat with 1.75 times your body weight one time. Strength beyond this does not seem to improve hockey acceleration too much more.

The second step in developing acceleration is to transfer your strength to on-ice performance. This is done with power skating. Some people like to do dryland and bike sprints but the movements in sprinting and skating are so different that a big improvement in sprinting only results in a small improvement in skating acceleration.  Acceleration has to be developed separately from anaerobic conditioning fitness. Conditioning is designed to develop fatigue, which decreases speed and acceleration, preventing you from improving those abilities.

Acceleration is built through shorter sprints, less than four seconds, with lots of stops and starts and long rest periods while anaerobic fitness is built through longer fatiguing sprints with short rest periods.

It may not seem like your son or daughter is working hard when they are doing acceleration training but remember, smart training is always better than hard training.

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