On thin ice: what other athletes and coaches can learn from ice skaters
Christoph Wyss has coached strength and power for Chinese Speed Skaters and NHL hockey stars. In episode 74 of the Science for Sport Podcast, he reveals the secrets you can learn from the unique sporting movement of ice skating.
Wyss faces some unusual challenges, and these offer some valuable takeaways for field-based coaches and athletes.
First things first, it’s important to distinguish the difference between movement on ice and land-based sports like rugby, Aussie rules, and football (soccer to you pilgrims).
One key difference, apart from the fact it’s colder than a penguin’s undercarriage on the ice, is the muscle contraction type. Muscles can contract concentrically (muscle shortens), eccentrically (muscle lengthens), or isometrically (muscle stays the same length).
“The skating action itself tends to be more concentric and isometric, compared to eccentric during running,” Wyss said.
This has large implications for how you might want to train in the gym. Many field-based sports rely heavily on plyometric actions, which include large eccentric muscle actions, coupled with an elastic energy recoil. One example of this is stepping from a box, landing on the floor, and quickly jumping onto another box. However, as this type of action is not specific to the movements on ice, Wyss may have to turn his attention elsewhere.