May 27, 2018

How To Skate Like Nathan MacKinnon

Today you learn the many ways Downhill Skating is analogous to skiing. But power skating coaches usually instruct a “skateboarding style”.

I must admit that many of my Downhill Skating insights came from the ski slope. I didn’t start skiing until I was 21, and in the last 7 years I’ve improved each year. As my skiing technique improved, so did my skating technique. My Downhill skating to be precise.

Downhill Skating implies momentum – like how skiing is downhill. With forward momentum, you use the profile of your ski/blade to til over and put yourself on an arc to turn. Downhill skating and skiing both require weight shifts plus edging to control your direction and maintain your momentum. They both require subtle shifts in weight by moving the pelvis.

Skateboarding is similar to Power Skating because you have a vector based on your wheels or blades. And then you use one leg to push to gain speed. Once you’re at speed, pushing to change direction is useless, and all you can do is lean the board a bit and hope not to fall off.

The similarities between skiing and skating continue past this analogy. And those similarities unlock the secrets to strides like Nathan MacKinnon.

When you’re skiing from the base of one chairlift to another and striding, you learn that you cannot flick the toe. You can generate a primary impulse through your heel. This keeps the entire ski (skate blade) on the snow (ice) as you extend the hips and knee. The toe only begins its force production at the end of your hip twist.

It was here that I realized:

Most coaches (skating, strength and conditioning, skill) assume that the pelvis remains fixed while the striding leg femur externally rotates extends and abducts. Or at least I did. What actually happens is that the ski/skate remains fixed while the pelvis moves.

The anatomical movement of the femur in relation to the pelvis is the same. External rotation, abduction, and extension. But the point of reference is all off. And I think it screws everybody up. EVERYBODY.

Very few understand just how earth-shattering this is. But now you do. I’m sure someone is gonna tell me that this knowledge is documented in an obscure figure skating books from the 1970’s – but this knowledge is not taught in hockey or power skating. As this idea catches on, watch as skaters transform in front of your eyes.

Key Takeaway: The pelvis moves in relation to the feet to generate force. Not the other way around.

When Mackinnon Strides out, he can keep his entire blade on the ice longer than many other players. This is because he keeps his heel on the ice longer. When he extends in the ankle, it’s more of an uncoiling or whip effect as the pelvis finishes its twist.

If you think of keeping your pelvis facing forward and then externally rotating, abducting, and extending your leg to push away from you at a 45-degree angle, you’ll immediately feel your groin pull. It might not actually pull – but you’ll feel a strain.

If you do the same motion, but twist your pelvis, the striding leg snaps into a fully extended position.

While the feet stay oriented in space, the pelvis rotates so that the striding leg’s femur externally rotates, abducts, and extends. Meanwhile, the front leg internally rotates, adducts, and flexes relative to the pelvis.

The Meta-Principle here is feet oriented in space, pelvis generates movement.

The corkscrew is a movement used by defensemen on the breakout, McDavid on breakaways, and MacKinnon while deking. In all these situations, the feet are oriented and the pelvis generates movement. But very few players do this movement. Likely because they think they need to keep their pelvis in place while their feet move instead of the other way around.

Since most players get tighter at speed, most players lose the ability to use this movement. So they lose optionality, reactivity, and flow at speed.

The reason that the corkscrew is such an important movement is that it gives players optionality while counterbalancing the hands’ movement.

Optionality: A move that can transition into 3, 4, 5 other moves

Counterbalance: Every time the hands move, the pelvis counter rotates to maintain equilibrium

It’s exciting that it took me a long time to figure out to explain something that I’ve been FEELING for several years. It’s exciting because when I can explain what I feel – it gives you a better chance of feeling it too. It’s useful to note that I have a degree in Kinesiology from a top 35 school in the world and I took special courses in functional anatomy. The reason I bring this up is that if I struggled to explain in anatomical terms what I’m feeling, I doubt that anyone else has done this. And this means that you’ve found an informational advantage. I hope that you put this to good use by executing on your information arbitrage.

If you’d like help with that, I created a video course called the Downhill Skating System. You can learn how the step by step video instructions, drills, and breakdowns will walk you through exactly how to learn what we discussed in todays article. I’d love if you checked it out.

Thanks for reading today.

-Jason

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