April 2003                  

                 The Butt Tuck


We often hear the phrase ' hips in to the turn' in skating. This means leaning so that the left hip is always to the inside of the left skate. It does not mean rotating the hips in to the turn! The whole body should lean in to the corner without any rotations of the hips or shoulders.

It is the position of the pelvic bone that controls the position and motion of the hips, as well as of the knee drive. And since the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, which is connected to the knee bone, which is connected to the shin bone, which is connected to the ankle bone, the position of the pelvic bone is key to maintaining pressure in to the ice. You must maintain the pelvis in a tilted position so that your butt is tucked under you to have control of what the rest of the lower body needs to do to put pressure in to the ice. This pelvic position can be referred to as the 'butt tuck'.

Try this simple exercise to demonstrate the effectiveness of the butt tuck in keeping the hips in and the knees forward. Stand a little bit from a chair or table and bend your ankles, knees, and waist. Extend your left arm and lean against the chair or table so you are supported on your left leg. Rotate your butt up toward the ceiling so that there is an arch in the small of your back (your back forms a u shape like a bowl). Look at the position of your left knee. Now rotate your butt down so that the small of your back is rounded (like an upside down bowl). Notice how your knees moved forward. Try getting the weight to the ball of the foot with the butt rotated up and then try it with the butt rotated down under you. You should find it was easier with the butt rotate down. Now do the same, taking note of the position of the left hip. You will find it much easier to keep the left hip in towards the table with the butt rotated down and tucked underneath you.

Keeping the butt tucked under you allows the knees to drive further so that you can land in a low position on the middle part of the blade.

So, when you skate, or do drills, TUCK YOUR BUTT!

                 

                 December 2002

                 Bend the Ankle

We know that the largest and strongest muscles used in the push are the ones around the hips and the quads, however the ankle is a very important and often forgotten joint. It is the last joint to extend in the push and even though the muscle groups around the ankle are smaller they are the ones to deliver the final power in a push.

In order to have power in your push you need to have maximum pressure in to the ice. However, to have maximum pressure you need to have the weight behind the push. This is referred to as the weight transfer in skating. The weight needs to fall forward, down, and to the side and you feel pressure under the back part of the ball of the foot before pushing. This movement is initiated with an ankle bend forward. The more you can compress the ankle, the more muscles you will be recruiting in the lower leg ankle and foot that can now be used to exert pressure into the ice.  The push starts with an opening of the hip and knee and finishes with an extension of the ankle. Pressure is maintained through the ball of the foot until the end of the extension. The result is more force exerted into the ice over the entire push and an increase in the time the force is applied, resulting in faster speeds.

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          January 2003

          Improving your Power with Jumps

Jumps have long been done for off ice training as a means of improving power. Jumping is one of the fastest ways to improve starts and accelerations. Jumps to improve starts should be short in duration and very powerful. An example of an off ice jumping program for starts is 2 x 3 x 6 explosive jumps from basic position. The rest periods should be as long as you need to do the next set with the same explosive power, so in general +3 minutes rest. Jumps may also be done for lactate training as well as aerobic power training. An example of training lactic power is 2 x 3 x 45" r 6' R 8' intensity 90-95%. An aerobic power program would be 6 x 3' r 3' intensity 80%.

Jumps on ice produce even greater gains if done with good technique as they are very specific. They also can have a good effect on helping to learn to push more powerfully. Jumps can be done end to end, on the straights, or on the corners, as part of the warm up or part of the training program for the day. Make sure to have the best technique possible when doing the jumps to reinforce good habits.  This means closing the ankle and letting the weight come to the ball of the foot before pushing, delaying the jumps until the body as reaching a point if imbalance (weight transfer), and using the arms straight back and forth to minimize rotations.

A listing and description of jumps for the straight away can be found in  The Speed Skater's Guide to Maximum Power and Speed.

July     Diagonal Hill Steps
June            Specificity in Training
May             Summer Training  
April             The Butt Tuck
March          Delaying the Push - Straight Aways
February      The Corner Armswing
January        Improving your Power with Jumps
December     Bend the Ankle
                   February

                   The Corner Armswing

        
Whether it be on the corners or the straights the arms should always be synchronized with the legs to maximize the power the legs can deliver and to maintain good balance.
One of the most common mistakes many skaters make is to get in to the habit of getting too comfortable with both hands on the back and never practicing good arms swings at lower speeds. Then, when it's time to go fast and really use the arms, they don't know how to move. While it's good to learn how to skate with both hands on the back, you must also learn how to use the arms properly.
A good arm swing is a relaxed one, where the arms swing loosely from the shoulder sockets and do not rotate the shoulders on the swing. To do this you must relax the entire upper back, shoulders and neck.
The arm swing must be synchronized with the legs. The basic rule is opposites to opposites! When the left leg moves forward the right arm moves  forward, when the right leg moves forward the left arm moves forward.

The arms should always swing loosely and with a full extension to the back and a slight bend in the elbow on the forward up swing.
In the forward position the arm should be extended forward in a relaxed position with the upper arm passing close to the body and a slight bend at the elbow (around 120 degrees). The hand should be in line with the center line of the body, and should be relaxed with the thumb up and no higher than the nose.
When the arm swings back it stay very close to the body, the elbow gradually straightens and the arm stops its back swing when the entire arm is about parallel to the ice. The hand stays relaxed and the thumb is pointed down.


The swing with the left arm on the corner is a little different than the straightaway swing.

The left arm has an abbreviated arm swing compared to the right for a couple of reasons. One is to avoid creating momentum away from the corner by swinging too long, and another is to avoid the possibility of rotations caused by a long inside arm swing.
The upper arm swings through a very short range of motion such that it never extends beyond the chest in the forward swing and above the back in the back swing. The upper arm and shoulder must stay relaxed and swing from the shoulder socket only to avoid rotations.
The lower part of the arm bends at the elbow in the forward position to about 75 -80 degrees. The thumb should be pointed up and the hand stops at about mid chest. On the back swing the lower arm extends fully so the elbow is almost straight and the thumb is pointing down.

Syncronization on the corners:
Again, remember the basic rule  opposites to opposites! When the left leg is forward the right arm is forward, when the right leg is forward the left arm is forward.
Right Arm - Start with the weight on the left leg as if you are starting a left leg push on the corner. Put your right arm forward and your left arm back as described above. As soon as you start to drop the knee before the left leg push the right arm starts to swing backward. It stays close to the body during the entire swing and moves at the same rate as the legs, such that when the left leg reaches full extension, the right arm also reaches full extension in back of you. Then as soon as the right knee starts to drop forward for the right leg push, the right arm starts it's swing forward. The elbow starts to bend slightly on the upswing and finishes when the right leg finishes its extension. The thumb should still be pointed upward, the hand relaxed, and about the height of your nose.
Left Arm  Start with the weight on the right skate in a cross over position (left leg is extended in back to the side). Put your left arm forward as described above. As soon as you start to drop the knee before the right leg push the left arm starts to swing backward. It stays close to the body during the entire swing and moves at the same rate as the legs, such that when the right leg reaches full extension, the left arm also reaches full extension in the back swing. Then as soon as the left knee starts to drop forward for the left leg push, the left arm starts its swing forward. The arm stays close to the body, bends at the elbow on the upswing and the thumb is pointing up and towards the chest.


Common errors:
Poor technique in the arm swing can be the root cause of many other technique errors. Some common errors include:
Keeping the elbows bent during the entire swing. Can cause stiff shoulders resulting in tightness in the back which will result in tightness in the hips, which will shorten the push.
Keeping the arms stiff during the entire swing. No elbow bend. Will cause the shoulder stiffness, again shortened push, pushing upward.
Swinging across the body. Can cause shoulder rotations, make weight transfer difficult, landing on the inside edge, premature pushing.
Not enough arm swing. What the legs do the arms do and visa versa. If the arm swing is meek and mild, so will be push be.
Cupping hands. (Palm down on the front swing and up on the back swing). May cause some shoulder tightness on the back swing taking away from the full power of the swing.
Stiff hands. Stiff hands will cause the swing to be abrupt and cause tension in the shoulders.

A good way to practice the arm swing is to do it off ice, in stationary positions first to learn the pattern of the arm swing, then in movement to learn the synchronization.
                 

                 March 2003

                 Delaying the Push - Straight Aways

A wise person once said, "Good things come to those who wait". How true this is when applied to the push!

Delaying the push means waiting to push until the body is in the optimum position to exert maximum force in to the ice and you have created momentum in a forward and sideways direction. . You must wait until your momentum has carried you almost to the point of instability before releasing the push.

During the initial part of the load, just after the skate has landed on the ice, the center of gravity or force in to the ice is on the heel. As you continue to glide forward, the weight (center of gravity) shifts forward and down while the ankle angle closes, moving the center of gravity forward towards the ball of the foot. The key is to wait to push until the weight is near the back part of the ball of the foot and the ankle has reached the power position before releasing the push.

A couple of key technical points must be considered here to ensure the body has enough time to shift the weight forward and to the side.

1)    The skater must land the skate blade on the ice either on the flat of the blade or slightly toward the outside edge to ensure all of the weight is over the loading leg. If the skate lands on the ice on the inside edge, this reduces the amount of glide time and the skater is forced to push too early without having loaded the push.


2)    The drive leg, the leg that has just finished its push, must recover from in back of the skater and not be thrust forward until the center of gravity has started its fall forward. One common error skaters make is to draw the recovering leg back in toward the gliding leg from the side, rather than allowing the leg to simply fall behind the gliding leg. A simple rule of thumb here is to let the leg fall behind so that the thigh is perpendicular to the ice and you can fit your fist through the gap between the back of the loading knee and the front of the driving knee.
These simple exercises will help give you the feeling of delay and waiting to push until  the point of instability.

Exercise 1:
Start by standing with your feet together. Place your right foot one step back, toe pointing straight down to the ground. Now move your center of gravity forward by leaning your upper body forward. Keep leaning until you reach the point of instability and you lunge forward. Try not to bring your right foot forward to catch yourself until you absolutely must in order not to land flat on your face. That's the power of gravity.

Repeat the exercise noting the speed of the right leg as it moves forward to break your fall!

Repeat the exercise noting the extension of the back leg and foot!

As the body passes the point of stability there is an incredible increase in momentum of the body forward! The speed at which the body naturally accelerates the right leg is truly amazing. We want to access that acceleration and momentum when we skate.

Exercise 2:

Now do the same exercise but this time moving the weight forward and in to the inside part of ball of the foot by closing the ankle angle until you reach the point of instability and the right foot lunges forward in approximately a 45* angle to break your fall.

Repeat the exercise noting the speed of the right leg! (Naturally) Try to duplicate that speed without reaching the point of instability; in other words, don't bend the ankle or let the weight come to the ball of the foot.

Repeat the exercise noting the extension of the back leg and foot! (Naturally)


When the you bring your weight forward to the inside of the ball of the foot by compressing the ankle angle and then waiting to push until the moment just prior to the point of instability you will create the most effective and efficient push. This will maximize both the body's momentum and force in the direction you want to go.

That acceleration of your body mass coupled with maximizing pressure into the ice will create the greatest speed and power!

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Summer  May 2002
                   
              Summer Training



Yep, it's been a long season and you've worked hard and are tired and want a break from training. That's great! Take a break. You really do need it!

But don't be a couch potato. The first few weeks after a long season is a good time to unwind and do some non sport specific aerobic activities. These endurance activities can include hiking, jogging, swimming, lacrosse, soccer, racquetball, biking, etc. A few times a week should be enough to keep you in decent shape.
Your 'rest and regeneration' time depends on your age, level, goals, and experience. The more advanced you are, and the higher your goals, the shorter your rest.
National team level athletes take only a couple of weeks rest before heading back to training, whereas younger, aspiring athletes may take as long as a month to 2 months of reduced activity.

For more advance athletes the season's training should start with laying the strength base. Why strength? Because it is the foundation for endurance, at least the type of muscular endurance a speed skater needs. Without strength, it is hard to hold a good basic position for very long. And the stronger you are the less energy you need to spend holding yourself in that position and the more energy you can actually expend in the important part of the stride, that is the push.

Laying the strength base takes about 8 - 10 weeks, with 2 - 4 strength training sessions per week. During this time it is also important to really work hard on flexibility and balance. The more flexible you are the easier the basic position becomes because you are not fighting the muscles to hold the position.
You are also doing longer aerobic work during this time to starting to lay the aerobic base.

The next phase of training is the General Preparation phase where you are still working on strength, but the emphasis is more towards aerobic endurance and aerobic power. This phase lasts from 10 - 16 weeks, depending on when your season starts. Activities during this phase include 2 - 3 strength sessions per week, 2 - 3 long aerobic sessions, and 1 - 3 aerobic power (interval) sessions.

Longer aerobic sessions should be a mixture of cycling and running. Long inline sessions are not great for short trackers and sprinters as the position is much higher and how you train is how you will skate. Inline should be saved for shorter sessions like interval training. Sessions are any where from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Aerobic power training takes place on inlines, dryland imitations, slide board, ice, cycling or running intervals. Aerobic power intervals are generally 2 - 6 minutes for low end aerobic power and take place at the beginning of this phase. High end aerobic power intervals take place later in the phase and consist of intervals of 15 seconds to 2 minutes. The early part of the phase is a great time to work on technique both on ice and off ice. Do it slow and do it right and save yourself the pain of having to make in season corrections. 
Highly aerobic sports such as soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey are great summer aerobic activities.

You can also include some sprint training either in warm ups or as a separate session during the General phase to work on speed and co-ordination.

The next phase of training is the Specific Phase and lasts from the end of the General Preparation phase to just prior to your first competition. In this phase you will be doing specific power strength, jumps (for more advanced athletes) shorter intervals, and sprints to work the anaerobic system. You will still need to maintain what you gained in endurance by doing a couple of aerobic and recovery sessions per week and also maintain flexibility and balance by making sure to do it in warm ups and warm downs.

Set your goals, talk to your coach, make your plan, and stick to it. You'll be so glad you did!


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              June 2003

              Specificity in Training


If you're the average speed skater trying to get ahead, you likely don't have tons of time to train while you either go to school or work. Unless you are a full time skater on a national team, most skaters are lucky to be able to get in one work out per day, six days a week.  So when you train, you want to make sure to get the best bang for your buck by being as specific as possible.

Specificity in training relates to:

1) Training the specific muscle groups used in skating
2) Training the specific energy systems used in racing

To train the specific muscle groups used in skating, you must simulate the skating position and motions as closely as possible. While running 10 miles a day, every day, may get you in great aerobic shape and give you a great oxygen delivery system, it really won't increase your ability to skate in basic position, or your speed and power.  To do this you must perform exercises that simulate the skating position as closely as possible.  This doesn't mean you shouldn't run, though, because running is great for general fitness, which is important to skating as well.

Of course, skating is the most specific exercise you can do for skating. But if you're like most folks, you don't have a whole lot of summer ice time and may be somewhat limited even during the winter.
Activities like inlining (ice specific technique as opposed to inline technique), dryland skating imitations, skating jumps, and slide board are very similar in that the position is the same and the motions are similar. Cycling and rowing are less similar, although they do approach the skating position in certain parts of the stroke, and are excellent for cross training. 

To train the specific energy system used in racing, again you must concentrate your training on the same energy systems.
Short track skaters must have the ability to sprint 500's as well as sustain a high pace over 3000m. This means they must have good anaerobic power for the 500, good anaerobic power and capacity for the 1000, good anaerobic capacity for the 1500's, and good aerobic power for the 3000. This means they must do an all round training program, compared to a long tracker who may specialize in either sprint or distance. 
All of these specific energy systems can be trained only by doing interval work specifically designed to target a particular energy system. Again, the 10k a day routine won't do much for you here, other than to get you generally fit and give you a great aerobic capacity  a system which plays only a minimal part in actual racing (unless you are doing marathons). 
As a general rule, the intervals should run in between 50% less than the total time it takes to do a race to no more than 25% above the time.  If you are doing the lesser time intervals, you can do more intervals, but the speed is higher and the rests generally longer in ratio to the work time. If you are doing the longer time intervals, you do fewer intervals, the speed is also lower, and the rest is shorter in ratio to the work time.

This doesn't mean that you jump in to the specific energy system training right away though. In the May 2003 tip on summer training we talked about laying a good foundation for the specific training first.
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              July 2003

              Diagonal Hill Steps
             Taken from The Speed Skater's Guide to Maximum Power & Speed
                   Book 2
                   The ELLIS METHOD for Corners
                   To be released August 1, 2003









Objective:
To simulate the entire movement of the cross over in motion.
To feel the lean on the cross over while in motion.
To feel maximum pressure in to the ground before the push.
To feel the explosion of the leg on each push.
To simulate the rhythm and timing of the cross over while in motion.


Method:

Start from a standing position with the feet about shoulder width apart and pointing straight ahead.
Stand so that your left foot is up the hill, right foot down the hill, with all of the weight on the left foot. Both feet are pointing perpendicular to the slope of the hill.
The upper body should be low and relaxed, with the back and shoulders slightly rounded and the butt tucked. Your right arm should be extended forward in a relaxed position with the upper arm close to the body and a slight bend at the elbow. The hand should not cross the centerline of the body.
Extend the right leg directly to the side and lift the heel about 1 inch off the ground with the ball of the foot still in contact. Keep the right foot in line with the left foot and pointing straight ahead. 
The weight on the left foot is about mid foot with the knee slightly in back of the toes and the knee bent to 90 degrees.










Execution:
From the set up position, bend the left ankle slowly forward as far as you can and feel the weight advance to the outside part of the ball of the foot. The left knee should drop forward to a position well ahead of the toes. At the same time, lean the entire body towards the hill until you feel like you will fall over.
Next, the left leg extends fully, driving your body up the hill. Throughout this whole sequence the weight remains on the ball of the foot.  At the same time, the right leg drives across and the foot drops slightly ahead of, and to the inside of, the left foot and remains pointing straight ahead.
Now, while leaning towards the hill, slowly bend the right ankle so that the right knee advances forward and down past the toes. Keep pressing the knee forward and down until you cannot bend the ankle any further and the angle is closed as much as possible. At the point of instability, the knee of the left leg bends and starts it's drive towards the back part of right knee. The left knee should be lower than the right knee. 
Keeping the pressure on the ball of the foot, extend the right leg so that the hip, knee and ankle are straight. At the same time the left leg continues it's drive forward and across and the foot lands slightly ahead of, and to the inside of, the right foot. Be sure not to over step as this will throw your center of gravity back on your heels and down the hill.
Each step should take you diagonally up the hill, as you are driving the weight slightly forward as well as to the side.
Keep stepping for 5-6 complete crossovers. Go through the movements slowly at first, and then gradually speed up the movements as you get better at performing the correct motions.

Technical points
On the landing of each foot the weight should be under the mid portion of the foot.
The left foot lands so that the left hip is to the left side of the left foot. The right foot lands so that the left hip is to the inside of the right foot.
Both feet should be pointing straight ahead on landing and you land on the edge of your sneaker (not the flat).
Before each push, the weight drops to the ball of the foot by bending the ankle forward and you lean the body to a point of instability.
The upper body should be low and relaxed, with the back and shoulders slightly rounded and the butt tucked. Your shoulders and hips must not rotate at any time. They remain perpendicular to the back of the chair.
Be sure there is no collapsing of the ankle to the inside. The ankle should only bend in a forward direction.
The hip, knee and ankle extend fully to the straightened position, all the time maintaining the pressure under the ball of the foot.
Make sure to use a strong, full right arm swing.
In both the start and finish positions on the left leg there should be a straight line from the left ankle to the left knee to the left hip to the left shoulder. Any break in the line means you may have rotated or twisted, or simply haven't leaned enough.
In both the start and finish positions on the right leg there should be a straight line from the right ankle to the right knee to the left hip to the left shoulder. Any break in the line means you may have rotated or twisted, or simply haven't leaned enough.
Wait until are just about to the point of instability before starting the each push and cross over.
The finish of the push with one leg and the landing of the other foot should occur simultaneously.
Each step takes you up the hill diagonally to more closely simulate the direction of travel on a cross over.

Feelings associated with the movement
The right ankle feels compressed, locked and strong when in the power position.
As you drop the knee forward and down, and lean, you feel the entire body sink down and in toward the hill.
Just before the push you feel the body has reached a point of instability such that if you did not push off you would fall in toward the hill.
When the knees are as far forward as possible you feel pressure under the ball of the foot.
As you speed up the movement and the ankle angle closes more rapidly you feel a nice light bouncy rhythm as you compress in to and explode out of the power position.
Each extension of the legs feels like an explosion of power as you drive up the hill.
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