February 9, 2018
If you read my previous post on How to Skate Like McDavid, I talked about one specific mechanic: The Tipped Hip.
In this breakdown, I talk about why the tipped hip is an important mechanic in the greater context of the Downhill Skating System. Specifically how the tipped hip generates “lean” so McDavid can skate downhill. And how McDavid could generate even more lean to skate even faster.
Let’s take a look at a quick comparison:
You might notice in both pictures, the athlete is going downhill. (But only one works with Darryl Belfry.)
But let’s break down the mechanics involved.
In the Downhill Skating System as with the Downhill Skiing System that I recently pioneered, you’ll notice the following similarities:
- No pushing
- Gliding on edges
- Leaning with body to generate changes in velocity
- Tipped Hips
Notice how McDavid is able to hold his gliding edge with his body lean in these pictures.
Let’s compare McDavid’s lean to Duchene’s lean. I looked carefully for the same drill and movement so that we’d get an accurate control.
You might notice that McDavid has more lean than Duchene. If you watch the clips of McDavid going through the Power Edge Pro, you might see that he is noticeably quicker than Duchene. Every time Duchene orients his center of mass over his skates and pushes with his legs, you might notice that he slows down.
In the above photos, notice how McDavid starts with a more aggressive lean. Then maintains his lean. You can see where his center of mass is situated compared to his legs – and compare it to Duchene. McDavid maintains his lean, while Duchene straightens up.
Then, just for interest, I put a time stamp of the gap between when McDavid released his shot, and 0.83s later when Duchene released his.
In this particular frame, you can see Duchene’s center of mass orient over his legs as he pushes with his left leg. Meanwhile, McDavid shifts his weight from foot to foot keeping his center of mass to the inside of his turn.
This is where the tipped hip is helpful.
While on one leg, McDavid can more easily orient his center of mass in the direction he wants to lean – and thus generate velocity in that direction.
So now, let’s talk about lean, fall, and center of mass.
The best way to understand this is to compare it with turning a bicycle.
You lean your body in the direction you want to go. As you can see, your center of mass orients towards the direction of the fall. You generate velocity in that direction. Same as skiing.
Back to McDavid:
What limits most players is how hard they can push into the ice. Their speed relies on their ability to generate force in the direction they want to go. But McDavid doesn’t even try to push where he wants to go. Instead, he leans where he wants to go. Like he’s riding a bike. And that’s how he’s skating downhill.
So how would we make McDavid faster?
Let’s agree for a moment that McDavid has mastered the footwork and center of mass orientation necessary for maximum speed. What then, would hold him back?
The answer is eccentric and isometric loading. To add more speed to McDavid, you would improve his ability to handle heavy loads under eccentric and isometric loads. That’s so his body can get in even more aggressive leans in more situations.
But let’s say that you are not McDavid – and you want to skate faster in all situations on the ice. What would you do?
Developing the ability to load eccentrically and isometrically will help. But not to the same degree as learning the mechanics of leaning downhill to generate velocity. You’ll know you’ve got it when you don’t have to “push” with your legs – and your velocity comes from twisting, tipping, and leaning. Then you’ve got it.
By this point, you might be wondering if I recommend the Power Edge Pro as a training system. Sure. It’s a good system. Let’s also examine another system that focuses on lean, footwork – and not pushing:
Here I point out that the system is irrelevant. But the mechanics are very relevant. In Boris’ system (Boris taught Auston Matthews since age 6 or something), his focus on edgework allows players to be comfortable leaning in more directions more aggressively. The footwork makes it easy for players to orient their feet at points of traction to provide lean.
It seems like both the Power Edge Pro and Boris are able to teach the mechanics of Downhill Skating. And the mechanics always win.
The main mechanical principle that you want to understand from this post is lean.
- The more you lean, the faster you’ll go
- The more you lean, the more you can glide on your edges instead of stopping your momentum
- You want to use foot positioning, comfort on your edges, body orientation and tipped hips to generate your lean
- If you don’t lean, you need to push to generate force. If you need to push, you’re toast.
Study NHLers center of mass relative to their feet – ask yourself what mechanics can help you achieve that. And if you’d like help answer that, you can check out the Downhill Skating System where we explain exactly how to master those mechanics.