Speed of contraction in muscular training is crucial to the performance of the muscles in the intended sport. But many coaches pay little attention to this. I’ve attempted to break the skating movement down in to 3 simple phases, just to keep it simple, and easier to explain on the internet. And then later we can see the time it takes for contraction to occur.
These phases can be seen in my Video Review, here:
Bart Swings and Peter Michael attack after only 1km of Berlin Marathon,
where Bart finished in a time of 56:10, smashing the World Record.
His foot cadence at this point was between 55 and 58rpm.
As an example, I'm using a video of myself. My Cruising speed in the video is 35km/h@40rpm cadence.
Phase 1 = 0.43s*
0.00 - 0.43s Set down + Glide/under-push + initial part of the stroke through the power box.
Quads/Hamstrings acting Isometrically* Abductors acting isometirically then concentrically.
(Knee angle = 110° +-5°, desired knee angle would be 95° +-5°)
(Hip angle = 80° +-5°, desired hip angle would be 70° +-5°)
*This may be slightly concentric during aggressive
double-pushing, but only a few centimetres of extension.
Phase 2 = 0.33s
0.43 - 0.76s Power stroke out to the side.
Quads acting concentrically. Abductors acting concentrically, but late rbeing taken over by Gluteals.
(Knee angle = 110° +-5°, increasing to 180° at the end of the stroke)
(Hip angle = 80° +-5°, increasing to 155° at the end of the stroke)
Phase 3 = 0.74s
0.76 - 1.50 Unweighted Recovery phase
The whole sequence comletes in 1:50 seconds.
Phase 1 and Phase 2 are totally different kinds of contraction, and use different muscles in diferent ways. Muscle recruitment is extremely varied throughout the stroke cycle. Add in to that the fact that you are on an unstable environment, and you ar cleaning at an angle, thus engaging the core differently, and using the abductors as prime movers and the adductors as stabilisers, then it’s already pretty complicated.
Most people will focus on the quads and hamstrings during their strength training. However, we really need to look at the body more “globally”. The skating movement, and the reason you get tired in races has a lot to do with 1. Your Abductors/Adductors, and 2. Your core
1. Your Abductors/Adductors:
One of the main reasons (there are other reaosns also) you see all your favourite super-star skaters doing these weird exercises with elastics and ropes (turn cables? click here.) is because it makes one MAJOR difference to the simple “one leg squat”. It engages your adductors or abductors (depending on which way you lean). The abductors are the Gluteus Medius and Minimums, TFL, Sartorius and Piriformus. It’s essential to have these engaged while doing (at least some) of your strength training exercises like squats. Equally important (if not in actual drive force, but as a stabiliser, and to avoid chronic body imbalance injuries) are the adductors; Adductor breves, Longs, Magnus, Minimums and Gracilis.
So, when you’ve got the idea about engaging the abductors, then we need to look at what speed range to work in. Let’s take the “Inclined One leg Squat” as a single example. (Also called the 'turn-cable-one-leg-squat') This is what we know from my ‘cruising’ video analysis, earlier:
Phase 1 Quads Isometric*, Abd. Concentric = 0.43s*
Phase 2 Quads Concentric, Abd. Concentric = 0.33s
But of course, each skater has a natural RANGE. I've analysed several of my own skating videos at different speeds, and on diffeernt days, and found that my own range of frequency is between 34 rpm and 52 rpm, meaning a complete stroke cycle of between 1.15 -1.63s, and phases as follows:
Phase 1 = 0.33s - 0.48s
Phase 2 = 0.23s - 0.38s
So this can give me parameters to work with in my strength training through the winter. Sk8skool can also give you YOUR parameteres, and many other personal details about how YOU can improve more effectively, with simple tweeks to your taining, click here.
Bart's cadence during his first attack in Berlin with Peter Michael**, his initial cadence for the first 10s was 55rpm, with a max cadence of 58rpm, (rememebr this was on 125 wheels), but he soon setteled down to a strong power stroke cadence of 41 -43rpm.
**It was interesting to note that the people chasing Bart (including Peter Michael who dropeed a 1m gap behind Bart) had an even higher cadence than Bart, sometimes over 60rpm... but that it was not as effetcive as Barts acceleration. This leads us to think that either they are not as powerful or their technique is not as effective... open for discussion. Thus providing even more circustancial evidence that "fast feet" is not the key, but rather effective weight transfer and long power strokes with meaningful delivery are the most effetcive way to skate. It would also be interestijng to do an analysis of 110mm cadence vs 125mm cadence.... but that's a different article.
So during the early winter period (Oct - Jan) of muscular endurance training, then it would make sense for ME to do each squat with this timing; 0.33 - 0.48s pause in a low position, then a 0.2 - 0.38 second extension (fairly quick), and then back to a half second pause.
Joey Mantia (picture right) demonstrates what I mean in the first 10s of his video here, even though he is working on leaning the other way, with underpush.
This rhythm can be applied to many exercises, drylands, olympic-lifting or plyometrics. And of course you need to periodise the training, you don’t want to train in this rhythm all year long.
Joey Mantia demonstrating awesome form
on the 'turn-cable-one-leg-squat'.
Your accelerations, or spritning, would obviously be a faster rhythm, and there for need different training. Also cadence is normally higher on track or indoor, and because of the additional compression int eh corners, higher forces are at play. But this can be calculated for and incorporated in to a personal training program. If you are a pure sprinter, focussing on 100m, 200m TT, 300m, TT and 500m races, then your cadence will be much much higher, and therefore should be reflected in yoru training.
2. Your Core:
The way your core muscles and pelvis experience the movement is complicated, because you have 2 legs working at different times and in different phases of the cycle. So your core experiences true multi-taking demands. This has an impact on your strength training, and this is why core/pelvic stability is crucial. The best way to tackle this incredibly, almost impossibly complicated function is VARIETY of core exercises, “few sets, MANY exercises” is the key, and change your core routine completely every 6 weeks. It's also advisable to always include some diagonal rotations movements... And Sk8skool covered this before in a previous article, click here.
Racing and training:
The rhythm of a paceline (in a pack) in a race is the same for everyone. The group finds a common frequency. But when you attack, or accelerate, or sprint, you decide your own cadence. So your strength training needs to reflect that. If you’re just doing “group strength training” or you are just training in a gym, then your movement speed is probably a long way off from optimal for speedskating. And most group strength training (dry-lands with the team) don’t think about what speed to perform the exercises.In fact most people do squats etc. the same speed as “the-average-guy-at-the-local-fitness-centre”.
Of course, you want variability in your training, as well as in your performance capabilities. So a variety of exercises, with different frequencies and rhythms are advisable, also including different ranges of motion (extension lengths). Not forgetting all round body development, including upper-body, shoulder, back, arms, etc. However, the principle remains that a good “sports specific” strength training program will have it’s central exercises being based around these principles of speed of contraction, and type of contraction.
To find out about other changes to your training to make you more effective, and the implications upon YOUR winter training and off-skate training click here.
To get information about Core taining, off-skate training and interval trianing as E-books click here.