12 Oct Quick start in hockey
Quick starts, or acceleration is a key skating skill that if developed with efficient technique can help you win those short races. A quick start is the combination of footspeed and explosive power. Therefore, the faster you can move your feet and the greater your overall leg strength, the fast you will accelerate. Power is defined as strength (force) multiplied by speed. For the purpose of this blog we will be talking about the technique or footspeed aspect of acceleration. Stay tuned for a future blog discussing leg strength and power.
A hockey quick start is very much the same as a sprint start (without blocks). Unlike Olympic sprinters who use starting blocks to help them grip and push off, if you tried to sprint from a stand still position you would naturally turn your heels inward and driver your legs directly behind the body.
The major difference is that after you have gained a little speed, runners don’t have to worry about losing friction with the ground. The hockey stride is a wide push because that is the optimal angle to grip and continually produce force. Once again I will highlight the wide stride in far greater detail in future posts.
A quick start can be performed through 3 different starts.
V-Start – heels in, toes out.
L-Start – one skate points towards the target, opposite skate is turned 90 degrees.
X-Over Start – body starts sideways, push and cross over opposite skate.
All 3 starts are effective in their own right. For most players the x or cross over start is most commonly used. It has been argued that by picking the skate up off of the ice to cross over, a player is wasting time when they could be moving forward. I personally do not agree with this philosophy. What is over looked in the x-over start is that there is never a moment when a player isn’t producing force. As the right skate pushes off and is lifted to cross over, the left skate has already begun to push forward. Additionally, momentum is generated helping the skater accelerate faster.
The technique itself is performed by taking 3 quick strides behind the body. The first stride should be directly behind the body. Second stride should be slightly wider and the third slightly wider then the previous. After 3 strides you should be able to have enough speed to get into your natural skating stride.
A key point to remember is that the higher the heels come off of the ice, the slower your quick start will be. This is known as recovery. The faster you can get the stride leg back in under the body, the faster you can get it out again. This is the basic philosophy for skating speed.
Keep those points in mind and you should be able to win those short races.