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DEVELOPING BETTER ATHLETES ONE STRIDE AT A TIME

In the world of sports training, the term "first step quickness" gets used almost as frequently as the term "functional training" does in the weight room. What exactly does it mean when a coach or trainer tells you they are going to work on your "first step quickness"? or if you are a hockey player, what does it mean when a coach tells you that you are going to be working on "explosive starts"?

The terms "first step quickness" and "explosive starts" are terms which athletes and parents like to hear when someone is working with them, but how do we achieve this and what exactly does this mean? In order to be explosive or quick, we must understand the term impulse. Impulse is the amount of force which is being applied multiplied by the time over which the force is acting. This term is extremely important in the sports world, but especially when we are talking about an athlete’s ability to accelerate from a stationary position whether they are on or off the ice. In order to generate first step quickness, we must be able to generate a large force over an extremely short period of time. This helps to explain the term "quick feet" which can be heard from every hockey coach, instructor, player or parent anywhere there is a sheet of ice and a hockey game being played. However, as a player, it is important to realize that having quick feet is important but without the force, you are not going to be able to generate a large impulse. We need to have an emphasis on pushing all the way through into complete hip, knee and ankle extension during the push, but moving the feet as quickly as possible in order to be in a position to start the next push off. This holds true for the first two - three steps on ice and slightly longer off ice due to the glide phase which occurs in the skating stride. So next time you are training, either on or off the ice, think about completing your push off through hip, knee and ankle extension while emphasizing a high stride rate during the initial steps and you should see your "1st step quickness" improving.

Brian Shackel, MSc