Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Hockey Skater's Arm Movements

This is a partial reprint of a very in depth post done exclusively for CoachChic.com members.  So, while I'm sure there should be plenty of information to convince the open minded, some of the videos, pics and information has not been included in this piece.
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For sure, there are going to be some doubters as my presentation begins.  I'm just hoping that the evidence will ultimately be overwhelming enough to convince the rational thinker about how the hockey skater's arms really should move.
-- Dennis Chighisola
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A Hockey Skater's Arm Movements

I actually posted the following video to YouTube.com 8-years ago -- in other words, I knew this stuff at least that long ago, and really long before that...


To date, that video has had 34,031 views, with more negative comments than positive ones.  Of course, I'd have gotten down about that, if I put too much stock in what certain folks have to say.

And, what did they have to say?

Probably two-thirds of them seemed to be adult rec players, who mainly resorted to expressing how they felt.  In other words, quite a few said things like, "No, I don't think that video is right.  It seems to me that I feel my arms pumping forward and backward when I skate."  Not exactly what I'd call scientific evidence, but...

About the other third of the negative responses came from the disciples of a popular lady "powerskating" instructor.  So, with that, I offer one of her YouTube.com videos featuring one of her instructors...


Quite obviously, there are two drastically different schools of thought being expressed so far, with this old coach suggesting the hands, arms and shoulders rotate across the body, while Ms Stamm is pretty strongly believing that the arms move forward and backward, as in running.

Next, I submitted as evidence coming by way of the Institute for Hockey Research (IHR), which claims to be "the only organization in the world that has a dedicated research agenda for the scientific investigation of hockey."  The Institute is led by Dr Michael Bracko, a PhD and Sports Physiologist -- with those credentials being far beyond my own or Ms Stamm's.   And, as if Bracko knows that there's a debate going on (in lower levels of hockey), he shot a video comparing a hockey skater's hand, arm and shoulder movements (that I showed on the CoachChic.com site).
As an aside to those who don't have access to that video, you'll have to either chase it down or trust me...  For, what Bracko discovered was that those who used side to side arm movements beat the race times of those who attempted to pump the arms forward and backward.
I don't know if anyone has an argument with either Bracko or me at this point.  Still, I promise there's more ammunition to come.  In the meantime, let me share a little common sense here, when it comes to the hockey skater's arm movements...
I hope it makes sense that a hockey skater's arm movements do have to go forward and backward on a typical forward take-off.  In fact, the first step (or two or three) is usually the same as a sprinter.  I mean, if the legs or pushing rearward -- like a sprinter, the arms must also move along the same plane.
There's science involved here.   The forward and backward pump of the arms helps with momentum.
hockey skater's arm movementsAs importantly, the body has the need to constantly balance itself in a movement.
Actually, speed of movement calls for going momentarily out of balance.  So, the arms attempt to get the body back in balance by moving in equal and opposite reactions to the legs.

There's more going on here, too... And for this, I'm thinking of the story about Bob Hayes, known back in the 1960's as "The World's Fastest Human".  I was only in my late-teens at the time, but I recall reading stories about Hayes' trainers having him lift weights, something that at that time was almost taboo for skilled athletes -- you know, the fear that skilled athletes might become "muscle-bound" from lifting heavy weights.  (With that, I showed my members a video of Hayes sprinting, that containing a good closeup of how he forcefully pumped his arms in order to aid the equal and opposite thrusting of each leg.)

If you get what I'm suggesting, I'm hoping you recognized that Hayes' forceful arm pumps actually aided the force he was placing into the ground with each stride.
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Now, thanks to Dr Bracko, we know that, once a hockey player has gotten underway, he shifts from pushing backwards on the take-off to thrusting towards the outside thereafter.  In other words, after a backward thrust or two, a hockey player's stride changes, into what I refer to as the skating mode.

And, if all that I've just described is true about the science, I hope the reader can appreciate how the skater's arms must move in a side-to-side motion, in equal and opposite reactions to the outward thrusting skates.  Moreover, I think you might also understand how a forceful pumping of the arms in that manner can translate into more powerful outward thrusts.

Oh, and did I promise to add yet another piece of ammunition to reinforce Bracko's and my feelings about the hockey skater's arm movements?  Well, in a scientific paper titled "Arm Action in Hockey Skating - Is It Being Taught Incorrectly?", a number of fairly qualified people comment on just that.   I mean, we're talking Dr Marion Alexander, Julie Hayward BKin, Caroline Taylor MSc Sport, from the Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Manitoba.  And, while I suggest everyone use the above link to read the entire paper, I'll at least end with the following excerpt:

"Hockey coaches almost invariably teach the arm swing in skating to occur in the forward backward direction, similar to that seen in running directly forward (Nauman 2009; Glantz 2010; Rhoads 2010; Stamm 2010). Most coaches and skating instructors will have hockey players practice flexion-extension of the shoulders and hips when striding (Bracko 1999). Their reasoning is that since a hockey player is primarily moving forward, their movements should be forward (flexion and extension of the hip and shoulder). As one author recently noted “Swinging your arms forward and backward while skating creates momentum in the same way that swinging your arms does while running”(Nauman 2009). However, it is clear that flexion-extension of the shoulders and hips while skating hinders the coordination pattern required for effective skating, and in fact almost impossible in hockey skating. The coordination pattern required to drive the arms forward and backward while the legs are driving out to the sides is difficult and counter productive in that the momentum of the arms is in a forward backward direction while the legs are driving the body from side to side."