The Skating Treadmill for skaters will allow for skating stride training on a machine rather than on real ice. Since stride mechanics is an exacting science, teaching it should replicate, as much as possible, skating on real ice – flat. This allows the student to apply their new found knowledge effectively, as trained – on the only ice we know – flat ice, when they get the chance.
When kids reach their early teens they can often challenge the skating machine, rather than the reverse. That is why it is important to ensure an adequate - and accurate - speed with respect to the skating track. It gets worse as the kids get older, stronger and more efficient. Often you will find treadmill owners/trainers compensating by being creative. But in reality this creative incline training or use of medicine balls, weights and elastic bands only goes to reduce stride efficiency. It does however achieve its intended goal of slowing the kids down enough so they don’t over-skate the track – and therefore these programs are sold as “training.” In the truest sense of the word they are – cardio, core etc., but not stride extensions. In fact these compact the stride, making it more choppy and “running-like.”
Many studies have shown that the use of parachutes while terra firma running generally causes inconsistent drag, thus again altering running mechanics too much. While muscle strength and power development does play a huge role in acceleration and speed, most improvements come from better biomechanics. This is why putting athletes on too high an incline is increasing their strength in one direction but sacrificing their overall technique, thus proving to be detrimental overall.
The absolute best approach is to work at balancing the athlete’s muscles with consistent resistance in both the stride extension as well as the recovery step. Doing this relieves the need for over-speed training.
If you were a cross county coach training long distance stride mechanics you would generally not machine train on more a 3 degree incline as this will be detrimental to the runners biomechanics. But this does have to be done, if only to prepare runners for hills. So that makes sense. However, ice is flat - always; there is no need to train kids to “power through a hill” by training on a mild incline, let alone one set at 10 or even 20 degrees which often happens.
Some coaches suggest you can use up to a 10 degree incline to improve acceleration but again this comes at the cost of proper mechanics and muscle balancing. The greater the angle you are running on, the more you must alter your normal stride pattern, which is detrimental when it comes back to normal running. This also doesn’t allow the legs to recuperate and heal from the anaerobic burn they are susceptible to. This is worse for a skater who must now recalibrate muscle memory to compensate for a flat surface. How does this make sense? It doesn’t.
Training at a inclines of 10-15 degrees is beneficial for body composition [burning fat] as your energy requirements are low enough to utilize free fatty acids as a fuel source, but this can be achieved on a regular running treadmill. There is not need to spend additional money on doing this on a skating treadmill.
Training effectively on any treadmill really depends on what your overall goal is:
But none of these are ideal if you’re looking to improve your running speed or technique.
All these comments are more poignant with respect to skating, as the natural environment is always flat and you are on a thin 1/8” metal blade, pushing out your feet laterally while skating. This is the polar opposite of running in shoes where you have multiple inches of a straight rubber sole pounding vertically. So where there might be a slight value in training at a an incline for terra firma running due to the natural terrain being uneven, there is absolutely no value to training on any incline from a skating perspective when we are talking about biomechanics, stride extensions, etc.
Trainers have to stop equating running with skating if they are to maximize skater’s benefits and training time: raise the deck for composition, cardiovascular or calories - not for stride mechanics. And do it by choice, not due a limitation the skating treadmill has.
That is why the entire argument on ice skating treadmills comes down to speed, not incline. If they go fast enough, the only creativity that trainers/coaches need to bring is in dissecting the exacting science of stride mechanics.
Look for a skating treadmill with an ability of speeds that will challenge the pros – but make sure it is a calibrated speed, like THE Skating Treadmill. Test it by running on it to gage its accuracy. This will give skating coaches options and in the process allows them the opportunity to engage everyone from young “learn-to-skaters” right through to the elite NHL prospects. Lest anyone be worried about cardio, caloric and composition benefits – at this speed you achieve all that also – while doing it flat!
Author: Ray Bakker
Web site: ExpressFitnessProducts.com
Telephone: 866 863-9773
Essentials of Strength and Conditioning by Baechle and Earle, published by Human Kinetics
Training for Speed, Agility, and Quickness by Brown and Ferrigno, published by Human Kinetics