Back to Back Issues Page
5 Keys to Off-ice Training for Faster Skating and MORE!, FF Insider#80
November 24, 2009
Welcome Back,

Please enjoy another issue packed with evidence-based information about sports performance training and news about current events at Finish First Sports Performance. If you find value in this e-newsletter, please forward this message to your teammates, coaches, or other parents of hard working athletes.

5 Keys to Off-ice Training for Faster Skating

By Coach J. Hoy, CSCS, PES, NASE Cert., USAW, Jump Stretch, Inc. Certified

It’s a well known fact that the game of ice hockey is getting faster—which, like so many other sports, means that the fastest athletes will have an advantage. Unlike other sports, however, ice hockey is unique in that skating is a different movement than running. To be a fast skater, you need to be learning the specific techniques on the ice, and following a specific off-ice training program.

So, have you ever wondered if you were doing the right exercises or training correctly to help improve your skating speed? How do you know if you’re on the right track?

Well, if you’re like most players, the answer is yes, and this article will provide you with 5 Keys to Off-ice Training for Faster Skating, to help get you and keep you on the right track.

1. Train for Strength (Force Production)

As a hockey player, you need to be strong. I know, that seems like common sense. Not only do you need to be strong, but you also need to be selecting exercises that focus on producing force in different planes of motion. You need to do both double leg and single leg exercises, and exercises that move forward, backward, up, down and sideways (side to side). Research studies have shown that a deadlift exercise has a high correlation to all out skating speed. So, if you want to get more push out of each stride and improve your top end speed, it would be a good idea to incorporate deadlifts into your program. As always, begin by learning proper technique from a certified coach, then progress to adding weight and doing deadlift variations.

2. Train for Balance

Yes, this seems like common sense, but it is often overlooked. Research studies have been done recently that show that balance training can help improve skating speed. The studies showed that the hockey players who scored the highest on balance tests, and followed a simple balance training program also scored the highest on skating speed. Training for balance doesn’t mean performing gimmicky exercises while standing on a stability ball or similar exercises, but rather it means learning how to better stabilize each joint during movement, especially using one leg at a time. I’ve been incorporating balance training into hockey training programs for over 10 years now, and believe me, exercises for balance, when done properly, are hard enough done on a flat surface while wearing no shoes that there is no need to be doing potentially very dangerous exercises on a stability ball. While the gimmicky exercises might look like fun—they are just gimmicks with little transfer to the sport of ice hockey. The main point here is that simple balance training does correlate well with skating speed and you don’t need any crazy devices or exercises to accomplish your goal.

3. Train for Muscle, Joint, and Postural Balance

In order for muscles to function the most efficiently, and the body to perform movements such as skating, there needs to be balance. Muscle balance not only pertains to strength balance, but also balance in flexibility. Muscles that are tight and/or weak prevent the body from performing normally, and typically require other muscles to take over for the weak ones while the tight ones are restricted from using their full potential. These imbalances affect the way the joint is stabilized and the nervous system only allows the body to be as strong and as explosive as the joint is capable of being stable. In other words, poor joint stability creates strength and power limitations. Postural balance is also important. Poor posture creates muscle and joint imbalances, which I have stated creates limitations. To skate fast, you need to work on your posture, joint stability, and muscle balance.

4. Train for Flexibility

As competition grows in ice hockey, so does the need to improve a team’s ability to play systems and understand the game. These are things that are done at the team practice sessions. More often than not, these sessions don’t account for flexibility training for the players, so it is neglected and left for the training days. However, flexibility training, or stretching is something that you should be doing on a daily basis. Poor flexibility (tightness) negatively affects how much strength you can have and creates muscular, joint, and postural imbalances. Stretching needs to be done after any activity--including practice and ALL training. Focus on stretching to improve flexibility—so if you are doing static stretches (where you reach and hold), hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.

5. Train for Explosive Power

Explosive power is the body’s ability to produce force quickly. I often hear players say that they are doing plyometrics. Plyometrics is such a broad term that it doesn’t really tell me anything. There are different types of plyometrics, each with their own specific goal and outcome. For faster top end skating, research has shown that plyometrics that focus on force production, rather than decreasing ground contact time, have the highest impact on improving skating speed. What this means is that jumping up onto boxes or over a hurdle from the ground (from a standing or squatting position, single or double leg) is better for improving top end skating than training to step off a box, land, and then immediately over a hurdle. The first examples focus on producing force quickly to generate a quick, powerful contraction to jump, while the second example focuses on decreasing the amount of time the feet are on the ground (ground contact time) for an explosive contraction. So, to get the most out of your plyometrics for top end speed, do exercises that are designed for quick force production such as box jumps, hurdle jumps, squat jumps, tuck jumps, single leg hops and bounds, etc.

For more information about how to incorporate these 5 key areas into your training program, you can reach Jeremy at 412-787-5070, or

Athlete Hydration

By Emily E. Novitsky, BS, CSCS, Finish First Sports Performance Athletic Performance Specialist

How important is hydration really?

It could possibly be the determining factor in maybe the winning point or even the winning play. Staying hydrated during games, practices and training sessions is very important to every athlete. It is especially important for the athletes that play in the hot humid sun bearing weather. Dehydration is not selective to different sports or positions it is important for every sport and every athlete at all levels. In this week’s article I will explain the importance of hydration to athletes and the current recommendations for athletes.

Here at Finish First Sports Performance we feel that it is very important for athletes to stay hydrated. I n general the human body is made up of over 90% of water. If a human has no source of water they will only survive for a few days. This is why it is so important for athletes to stay hydrated. Another vital reason to stay hydrate is to prevent Heat illness or Heat Stroke. This topic of heat illness and heat stroke is constantly brought to our attention during the spring and summer seasons. The first form of prevention of both of these illnesses is to stay hydrated.

As I mentioned in the beginning statement that it doesn’t matter what sport you play staying hydrated is a key to success for every athlete. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) the current recommendations for athletes is to consume an average of 3 quarts (96oz) of water daily. If the athlete is going to be exercising they should consume an additional 16oz prior to exercise. During exercise the athlete should consume 20-40 oz of water. The 3 quarts (96oz) of water consumption a day is not a maximum or minimum amount it is merely an average. If the athlete is more active on some days than others they should adjust the intake accordingly. In addition if the athlete is going to be participating in higher intensity workouts, they should also increase their water intake. Another increase in water consumption should also take place when there is a hot/humid environment during play/practice. They should add an additional 8-20oz of water if there is an increase in climate.

Staying hydrated during activity is very important because unless you are properly hydrated there are some play making differences in your performance. Some effects of hydration are decrease in performance overall, decrease in blood pressure, decrease in sweat rate, increase in heart rate, water retention, decrease cardiac output, decrease blood flow, and increase in perceived exertion. So in other wards your body has to work even harder than it would normally be working to complete a task if you are dehydrated. The body is able to perform optimally if it is properly hydrated.

Some additional advice for consuming liquids or water is to eat meals pre workout/pre-game that is has a high content of liquids or water. For instance an athlete can eat a fruit cup, watermelon slices, orange slices, smoothies, and there are plenty other healthy foods that have a high content water or liquids. These foods are also a great post-game or between activities an additional way to supplement water consumption. If the athlete is participating in an activity that is 60 minutes or longer of high intensity play they also should consume 600-1200 ml of fluids containing carbohydrates and electrolytes. An example of carbohydrate or electrolyte drink would be Gatorade or power aide.

You can also make a homemade carbohydrate drink that is basically fruit juice watered down. However if the athlete is participating in an activity of lower intensity for less than 60mins water should be sufficient. The main goal of water consumption or intake is replace the sweat or urine that is loss during activity. The recommendation for fluid replacement post activity is for every pound of weight that is lost you must replace it with 20oz of water or liquids. As mentioned before instead of drinking 20 oz of water you can drink 16oz and have a snack that also contains liquids.

If you have any additional questions or comments pertaining to hydration please feel free to contact Emily or Jeremy at or call us at 412-787-5070.

How Alcoholic Beverages Affect Your Athletic Performance

By Heather R Mangieri, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN Finish First Sports Performance Nutrition Advisor

It’s no secret a large percentage (some estimates up to 88%) of college athletes have had an alcoholic beverage (1). Therefore it’s no surprise collegiate coaches ask me to discuss alcohol use when I give a nutrition presentation. Alcohol has metabolic, cardiovascular, thermoregulatory and neuromuscular actions that may affect exercise performance (2). Whether it is consumed days before the event, the night before the event or after an event, alcohol can negatively affect performance by limiting glycogen stores, depleting the body of nutrients, promoting dehydration and many other effects.

Nutritionally speaking, alcohol is a toxin that provides the body with 7 calories/gram. Surveys report that the majority of collegiate and recreational athletes do not consume alcohol on the day of the event or competition, but rather the days before or after. This article is meant to educate readers on the fact that alcohol can have lasting effects on performance. The following are only a few of the ways alcohol interferes with optimal functioning.

Dehydration You already know that dehydration impairs performance but did you know that alcohol promotes water loss? Alcohol depresses the production of antidiuretic hormone, the hormone which helps our body to conserve body water by reducing the loss of water as urine. When this hormone is depressed, urine output increases, resulting in an increased loss of body fluids. As you might expect, this also increases thirst. Further, this increased loss of water can result in the loss of other vital minerals causing electrolyte imbalances. Severe dehydration can take several days to a week to correct. So, what you drink on Friday or Saturday night can still have an effect on your performance Tuesday or Wednesday.

Impaired Motor Skills Alcohol gives the perception of reduced tension and increased relaxation, resulting in impaired reaction time and mental acuity for up to several days after consumption (3). These affects can also lead to a disruption in accuracy and balance, hand-eye coordination, response skills and impaired visual tracking. Those not only directly affect performance but may also increase injury risk. Athletes train hard to perform well. Injury prevention should be among the goals of any athlete.

Recovery and Glycogen Metabolism Many athletes are aware that post workout nutrition is an essential part of the recovery process. Resynthesis of liver and muscle glycogen stores are the primary goal of recovery nutrition. Unfortunately, some athletes have been known to consume an alcoholic beverage when the event or exercise period is over. Barnes, et all studied the effects of alcohol consumption in the post workout period and the relationship to strength. While decreases in peak strength are typically observed in this post workout period, peak strength loss was significantly greater in a group that consumed an alcoholic beverage in the recovery period as compared to the group that consumed a carbohydrate beverage alone (4). The results of this study show that to minimize exercise related losses in muscle function and to enhance muscular recovery, athletes should avoid alcohol containing beverages in the post event period (4). Burke, et al also studied the effect of alcohol intake on muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise. While the main effect of alcohol intake on post-exercise muscle glycogen is unclear, the main effect of alcohol intake is indirect, by displacing carbohydrate as a recovery beverage (5). It is well accepted that carbohydrate intake in the post-event period is beneficial to recovery.

Fat Storage Alcohol interferes with the metabolism of fat and carbohydrates. The body uses the energy obtained from alcohol for energy but does not store it as glycogen. So, the body uses the energy obtained from the alcohol and diverts the energy available for the carbohydrates and fat consumed into fat storage. This may lead to an increase in body fat that may not be desirable.

Still, more interference with alcohol and performance exist. Alcohol also negatively affects sleep, another important component of the recovery process. Others include amino acid metabolism, lactic acid metabolism, reduced serum testosterone levels and thermoregulation. Don’t let alcohol get in the way of your dreams. The best way to minimize the negative outcomes of alcohol is to say no to alcoholic beverages and say yes to proven nutritional strategies.


1.) O’Brien C and Lyons F. Alcohol and the Athlete. Sports Med 2000 May;29(5): 295-300.

2.) Shirreffs SM. Maughan RJ. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 5(4):192-6, 2006 Jun.

3.) Burke L (1995). The Complete Guide to Food for Sports Performance (2nd ed). Sydney: Allen and Unwin

4.) Barnes MJ, Mundel T, Stannard SR. Acute Alcohol consumption aggravates the decline in muscle performance following strenuous eccentric exercise. J Sci Med Sport. 2009 Feb 18.

5.) Burke LM, Collier GR, et al. Effect of Alcohol Intake on Muscle Glycogen Storage After Prolonged Exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology (2003)95:983-990.

Motivational Quotes

"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence."
-- Eddie Robinson

"The man who wakes up and finds himself famous hasn't been asleep."
-- Anonymous

"Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things."
-- Frank Clark

"Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work."
-- H.L. Hunt

Brand Name Logo Apparel, Just in Time for the Holidays--STORE NOW OPEN!!!

Need some ideas for your Holiday shopping?

Looking for a nice hat, jacket, golf shirt, dry fit workout gear, hoodies, or other apparel?

The Finish First Sports Performance apparel store is NOW OPEN!... offering different style logos on brand name items.

Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Dickies, Carhartt, Patagonia, Champion, Hanes, New Era, Columbia Sportswear,Izod, Jerzees, Ping, Russell...

And many more brand name items!

To get updatesKeep checking back to the main website (, and click on the "Apparel" tab across the top.

Thank You for Your Support

Thanks again for subscribing to this free e-newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. I look forward to your feedback as I continue to research to bring you the most current scientific training information available.

Should you have any specific article requests or questions, email me at Please visit for detailed sports performance training information and programs offered exclusively by Finish First Sports Performance.

Yours In Training,

Coach Jeremy S. Hoy, CSCS, USAW, Jump Stretch, Inc. Certified,
Elite Performance Scientist

Finish First Sports Performance

For Finish First Insider backissues #1 - 29, click here

Back to Back Issues Page