I often get questions from parents about whether or not their child is “ready” to participate in our skating treadmill training program. They want to know if their 8-year-old is too young, or even their 6-year-old. Or what if their child only plays House hockey, or what if their child plays defense? My answer is always the same, “Let’s try it and see how they do!”
The training curriculum that I designed is “level specific”. That is, there is a training level program for all players of all ages and abilities. The curriculum is progressive in nature, it starts by building a strong foundation of correct skating biomechanics, and progresses upward into explosive speed and quickness biomechanics. The highest level-Elite Strength- also address speed and quickness, but with additional work on leg strength, anaerobic conditioning, and mental toughness.
On a player’s first visit, we evaluate and assess their current skating skill set, and place them accordingly into the curriculum. What are we looking for to make this placement?
Players age 6-10 (Foundational Levels 1-5)
This age group is still working on developing correct mechanics and motor patterns. Developmentally, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT TIME for learning proper skating technique.
Players age 6-10 years of age are what exercise physiologists refer to as “highly plastic” which means that their brain-to-body neuromuscular pathways are not done developing yet and therefore these players can make changes and learn new information quickly. To properly place these players in Foundational Training Levels 1-5 we are looking for:
1) Deep Knee and Hip Flexion;
2) The ability to take long extended strides;
3) The ability to return the pushing foot under the midline of the body;
4) Correct arm motion
5) Attention span and the ability to focus on the task at hand.
Item #5 is one of the biggest reasons some young players are not ready for this kind of training. They may be a pretty good skater, but if they have trouble listening to the instructor, are easily distracted, or simply can’t stay focused long enough to process the information, then it may be a good idea to wait a year and try again. Conversely, there are some 10 year olds who just started playing hockey and are not very good skaters, but are old enough to concentrate and listen. These players generally do very well with the skating treadmill training and see noticeable improvements very quickly. Foundational Levels 1-5 tend to have longer skates, 20 or 30 seconds at a time, which allows the player to practice thousands of reps. These levels also provide the player with a lot of opportunities to hold onto the bar and just focus on one piece or part of the movement at a time. Last but not least, workouts for this age group should be fun and enjoyable!
Players age 11-14
There is a wide variety of skating skills in this age group. Some of these players have been skating and playing hockey for almost 10 years, some may have started later and have not had a lot of power skating instruction. There are also huge differences between players who have been playing at the AAA level for years, and a middle-schooler who is just trying to make their local high school team. The criteria we use to place these players into the workout curriculum are as follows:
1) Same foundational qualities listed in ages 6-10 group-knee bend, stride mechanics, arm movement, posture and carriage;
2) Leg strength;
3) Anaerobic fitness.
If players in this age group have a sound skating foundation, we will place them into the 2nd level of the pyramid in the Explosive Speed Level. These workouts differ greatly from the Foundational Levels in the following ways:
1) Skating times are much shorter, but more intense with higher elevations and speeds;
2) Emphasis on sprinting biomechanics-high knees, fast stride recovery;
3) Very high elevations and/or speeds;
4) Physically and cardiovascularly demanding workouts.
5) Begin working on mental control and mental toughness.
Players age 15-18
Again, we see a wide variety of skill level in this age group. Generally speaking, these players have mastered the foundational biomechanics and are ready either for the Explosive Speed series, or in some rare instances the Elite Strength series. Placement criteria is the same as for players 11-14 with the additional checklist:
1) Mental awareness, mental toughness;
2) Dedication and enthusiasm for elite training;
3) Ability to make corrections.
The higher Explosive Speed levels 3 and 4 will provide players with an incredible increase in power and explosiveness. These levels will provide hard-working athletes an opportunity to go from GOOD to GREAT. With almost full-grown bodies, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT TYPE OF TRAINING for this age group. Explosive Speed Levels 1-4 is where the players at the National Team Development Program (NDTP) train. This training really helped players like Dylan Larkin, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, etc., when they were 16-17 years old. High School age players who are lackadaisical in their approach to training, are undisciplined in their eating or sleeping habits, or unable to embrace the physical and mental challenges of elite training will struggle.
Players age 18-25
For the college or professional player, the Elite Strength series is designed to reinforce proper technique, increase speed and power, and build leg strength and endurance. The workouts are mentally and physically challenging as well, and will require the athlete to have a positive mindset and a clear idea of what their training goals are. Other modalities are used in these workouts to accomplish these things:
1) Use of bungee cords and hand weights for resistance training;
2) Players frequently skate with their sticks;
3) Very short, all-out, bursts of skating on high elevations with speed.
The Elite Strength workouts are not for the “faint of heart”. Only top-notch athletes with a respectable conditioning base will be placed into this series.
Yes, this means YOU!!! We having been training adults for almost 10 years on the skating treadmill with FANTASTIC results! From absolute beginners and never-evers, all the way through folks who have skated and played hockey since they were kids, every adult who ever tried the treadmill LOVED it! Because you are on the treadmill in front of a full-length mirror, adults tend to learn very quickly because they can finally SEE what they are doing. All the Moms and Dads who train on the skating treadmill really love how cerebral it is-there is so much to concentrate and focus on, the hour just flies by! Not to mention the skating treadmill is a great cardio workout. 😉 PS-your kids will ride you all the way home…
Remember MOM’S, DAD’S, AND COACHES CAN TRAIN FOR FREE when they come with their child. See YOU soon!