June 5, 2018

How To Improve Skating Speed – Weight Shifts vs Mass Placement

The secret to improving skating speed without skating harder lies in the difference between weight shifts and mass placement.

We can probably agree that words are used to make concepts clear. Sometimes I use a simpler, but less accurate word to make a concept clear. When I say accurate, I refer to the definition that is accepted in scientific literature.

For example, the words significant carries significant meaning in scientific literature. It indicates statistical significance. You can’t throw that word around scientific literature lightly. But the word significant has a different meaning in the non-scientific literature community. Even though it is “less accurate” – it illustrates a point. So it is useful.

I aim to use words as tools to help people. There are two enemies to this:

  1. Word-Thinking
  2. Word Guardians

Word thinking is when someone uses word definitions, labels, and analogies to create the illusion of rational thinking. For example…

how to improve skating speed

Here you see the commenter is right about almost everything. But because we don’t use the same word as him, he assumes that there is a lack of understanding on our part. This is word-thinking.

Word Guardians are like Word-Thinkers – but since they know what a word means and you don’t, they assume they are superior to you. You see Word Guardians doing two things to ensure their superiority:

  1. Use the precise scientific term that no one else knows
  2. Use invented terms that no one else knows

As a Word Guardian, when you use a word that no one else knows, it is convenient because no one can prove you wrong. Since they don’t know what to disagree with precisely. Word Guardian victims usually end up assuming that the Word Guardian is right.

I admit to being a Word Guardian and Word Thinker at times. Truth be told, it’s really great to have a better scientific vocabulary than other people. If you say things with enough certainty, people just believe whatever you say. It works particularly well with family members, friends and spouses.

One major flaw in Word Guardian word-thinking is the lack of falsifiability. If no one understands what you’re saying, you can’t be proven wrong. And if you can’t be proven wrong, you can’t use feedback to learn. That’s why in a hockey context, I aim to be clear with my words.

I promise that the point is coming.

Today, we discuss the difference between Mass Placement and Weight Shifts.

I might use the term weight shifts differently, the same, or similar to other coaches. But I’m going to differentiate between the two and provide my rationale for tilting them the way I do.

Weight Shifts

Weight implies that gravity is acting on a body. You can tell weight based on ground reaction force. When I refer to weight shifts, I refer to the weight shifting from one foot to another.

Mass Placement

Mass implies matter. A “body” in space. And mass doesn’t necessarily have to relate to gravity or to the ground.

When I refer to mass placement, I refer to how the center of mass is placed in space. This is often relative to contact point of the skates on the ice.

Who Can Shift Weight And Mass Placement?

You can shift weight without displacing your center of mass. You can displace your center of mass without shifting your weight. And you can displace your center of mass while shifting your weight.

Most players can shift weight without displacing their mass. This is the first key to Downhill Skating. Being able to weight from foot to foot while skating.

how to improve skating speed - weight shift

Some players can shift their weight and displace their mass. This is a more advanced skill because it is hard to maintain control. The first weight and mass shift aren’t hard. But maintaining balance for the second, third, and fourth shift is hard. This is what we talked about in the article called “Elite Shooting is Elite Skating”.

This first clip with Dahlin shows weight shifts and mass displacement.

Fewer players can displace their mass without shifting their weight. Particularly going from the inside to the outside edge. This is the Downhill Part of Downhill Skating. This is the part we call the Edge Rollover.

This clip isolates the trickiest part of Dahlin’s skating: the mass displacement without weight shift. You only see the weight shift at the end.

The Problem With Standard Edge Drills

If you watch elite skaters like McDavid or Dahlin, they blend all three patterns into all their movements. Weight shift with no mass displacement. Mass displacement with no weight shift. And weight shift with mass displacement. Sometimes within the blink of an eye.

Most skating drills stick to one mode at a time. They aren’t dynamic enough to mimic the in-game demands. It’s all well and good if a drill looks pretty – but how is it used in the context of teaching players to feel comfortable with these modes of movement on the ice?

What Is The Secret?

When players should be shifting weight and displacing their mass – they push.

When players should be displacing their mass relative to their skate’s point of contact – they only shift their weight.

If you get these things right, you’ve learned the secret.

If you’d like to go down that rabbit hole, I created a video course called the Downhill Skating System. You might want to take the Downhill Skating Style Quiz that we created to see your biggest opportunity to learn Downhill Skating.

Thanks for reading today!




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