If you were a track athlete or a speed skater, deceleration would be none of your concern—those are pure speed sports. Hockey is different.
Once you add a change of direction to the equation, everything changes. Not only do you need to be able to accelerate like you were shot out of a canon, you need to stop on a dime.
It is that deceleration phase that can be a game-changer for your hockey speed training. Not only does it help you make a move on your opponent, but also if done properly it sets you up for that next burst of speed.
So I want you to shift your focus from acceleration to deceleration. You can't be a dragster out on the ice. You need to be a Formula One car—powerful and agile.
Step 1: Drop Squat and Stick
This is a very simple way to teach you the movement pattern you are going for when you decelerate. Do this in front of a mirror so you can see you hips, knees and ankles.
Start from a tall standing position, and then as quickly as you can, drop down into a ¾ squat position and come to a full stop. Your hips should be sitting back. Your lower back should not be rounded. Your ankles should be flexed. You should be balanced over your feet with your heels down.
Hold for 3 seconds, then return to the starting position. Do 5 reps.
Step 2: Drop Squat, Jump and Stick
This nice progression gives you the quick power application, taking advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle to give you more power. When you rapidly lengthen a muscle, the stretch reflex kicks in, causing the muscle to contract. When this is combined with your voluntary jumping action, it is like adding a turbo booster to your legs.
Do this in front of a mirror, so you can see your hips, knees and ankles.
Start from a tall standing position and then quickly "pull" yourself down into a ¾ squat as quickly as you can (drive your arms down hard as you do this). Immediately explode upward as you jump as high as you can (driving your arms upward as you do this) and finally absorb and stick that landing as quickly as you can—landing in your perfect deceleration position that you worked on in Step 1.
Step 3: Repeated Squat Jump and Hold
This is a great way to get comfortable being uncomfortable as the burning in your quads builds and you force yourself to be explosive when fatigued.
Keep in mind all the proper mechanics you have been working on in Steps 1 and 2, especially as you fatigue; that's when things fall apart right?
Perform 3-5 repeated squat jumps, getting as high as you can and off the ground as quickly as possible.
Immediately upon landing your last jump, hold a thigh-parallel squat position with a neutral back position (putting your hands on your knees to brace yourself is cheating). Hold that position for 5 seconds, then immediately explode back into your 3-5 squat jumps.
Repeat the cycle 5 times.
If you want to make it even harder, then during your squat hold, actively brace with your abdominals, contract your quads and squeeze your glutes. That will take it to an entirely different level of pain. Don't believe me? Give it a try.
Step 4: Step Stick
Now you will get some lateral movement with single-leg deceleration—more like what you experience on the ice.
Start with two quick steps to your right and then quickly decelerate on your right leg (outside leg).
When you decelerate, absorb with your hip, knee and ankle so you finish in a low and loaded position.
Hold that position for 1-2 seconds (to make sure you have landed in a balanced position), then quickly push off your right leg to initiate the two quick steps to your left.
If you struggle to stick the landing with perfect mechanics, slow down your shuffle until you get it. Once you are nailing your balance every time, then take bigger, more powerful steps.
Do Those Look Easy?
Some of you might look at those and think they are too easy for you. You want to get in the gym and start smashing out Squats and hit the track for some sprints.
Try one set of each. See how far you get (with perfect form) before you hit a roadblock. Then invest the time fixing those foundation movements that will let you be faster and more agile on the ice while using less energy.
Once you have mastered this hockey speed training progression, you can keep going with single-leg variations for each step. Just make sure you are decelerating with good alignment and landing in that low and loaded position so you are ready to explode up the ice.
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