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Stride Dynamics: Unveiling Hockey Biomechanics - Part 3: Single Support Propulsion

Updated: Mar 9

Hockey player in Single Support Propulsion phase

To enhance skating speed, peak muscle power and swift acceleration are crucial. Skaters achieve this through correct biomechanics, particularly by rotating the skate outward to push off the inner edge forcefully. This motion, paired with the leg's external rotation and abduction, fully activates the gluteus muscles. The knee also rotates outward, away from the midline, at a 45-degree angle, contributing to the power generated.

The power phase continues with strong knee and hip extension driving the leg back, utilizing the full strength of the quadriceps and glutes. Skaters with faster speeds maintain a pronounced flexion in the knee and hip, which allows for greater muscle loading and results in an explosive transition to full leg extension, thus boosting speed.

Additionally, these skaters often have a wider and longer stride, thanks to the external rotation of the hip and foot, allowing for more power in the push-off and covering more distance per stride.

Article Index:


Anatomy & Biomechanics

Hamstring Anatomy Image

The Hamstrings

The hamstrings, a group of muscles located at the back of the thigh, are crucial contributors to the biomechanics of a hockey stride. The biceps femoris is particularly significant among these muscles due to its role in knee flexion and hip extension.

During the propulsion phase of a hockey stride, the hamstrings actively propel the body forward. They do this by extending the hip joint and flexing the knee, essentially acting as a spring that launches the player forward on the ice. This action is fundamental for generating the power necessary for rapid and agile movements.

Suppose the hamstrings are compromised in any way, such as through strain, injury, or weakness. In that case, it can substantially impact a player's ability to generate sufficient power for propulsion. This could manifest as a struggle to accelerate quickly or make agile movements on the ice. Consequently, the player may experience a decrease in their speed and agility, which are critical attributes in hockey.

Moreover, issues with the hamstrings can also affect the player's skating technique. For instance, a player with weak hamstrings may compensate by overusing other muscles or altering their stride mechanics, leading to further issues such as muscle imbalances or overuse injuries.


Calf Muscle Anatomy Image

The Calf Muscles

The calf muscles, situated at the back of the lower leg, are integral to the biomechanics of a hockey stride. The gastrocnemius is particularly noteworthy among these muscles due to its role in the ankle's plantar flexion, which points the toes downward.

During the propulsion phase of a hockey stride, the calf muscles, especially the gastrocnemius, are actively pushing off the ice. This push-off is achieved through plantar flexion of the ankle, which allows the skater to use the ice as a platform to generate force and propel themselves forward with speed and power.

If the calf muscles are compromised through injury, fatigue, or weakness, it can significantly impact the player's ability to push off the ice effectively. This could result in a struggle to generate the necessary force for propulsion, reducing both speed and power during skating.

Furthermore, compromised calf muscles can also affect the player's balance and stability on the ice, as these muscles are essential for maintaining an upright posture during skating. Additionally, if the calf muscles are not functioning optimally, the player may compensate by altering their stride mechanics or overusing other muscle groups, which can lead to muscle imbalances and potentially contribute to overuse injuries.


Motion Specific Release

MSR Single Support Propulsion Demonstration Video

Hockey Biomechanics Part 3: Single Support Propulsion

Dr. Abelson demonstrates MSR procedures used to release restrictions, helping to improve AROM, address muscle imbalances and improve overall performance.



In summary, the effectiveness of a hockey stride hinges on the coordinated function of multiple muscle groups. Key muscles like the glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles, especially the gastrocnemius, play a crucial role in enhancing speed and agility. Correct biomechanical techniques are vital for maximizing muscle power and acceleration. However, it's important to recognize that injuries or weaknesses in these muscles can adversely affect a player's performance, highlighting the need for proper training and rehabilitation.

The application of Motion Specific Release (MSR) is also noteworthy in this context. As illustrated by Dr. Abelson, MSR can help address muscle imbalances and improve range of motion, ultimately contributing to better skating efficiency and reduced injury risk. This discussion aims to shed light on the complexities of skating biomechanics, emphasizing the importance of muscle health and proper technique in achieving optimal performance.


Dr. Brian Ableson - The Author

Dr. Brian Abelson Photo

Dr. Abelson's approach in musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he focuses on integrating the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the developer of the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.


Hockey game in play

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  4. Hay, J. G. (1993). In The biomechanics of sports techniques (4th ed.). Prentice-Hall.

  5. Lafontaine, D., & Lamontagne, M. (2003). 3-D Kinematics Using Moving Cameras. Part 1: Development and Validation of the Mobile Data Acquisition System. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 19, 4.

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  8. Nobes, K. J., Montgomery, D. L., Pearsall, D. J., Turcotte, R. A., Lefebvre, R., & Whittom, F. (2003). A Comparison of Skating Economy on-Ice and on the Skating Treadmill. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 28, 1–11.

  9. Post, A., Oeur, A., Hoshizaki, T. B., & Gilchrist, M. D. (2011). Examination of the relationship of peak linear and angular acceleration to brain deformation metrics in hockey helmet impacts. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, 16, 511–519.

  10. Tuominen, M., Stuart, M. J., Aubry, M., Kannus, P., & Parkkari, J. (2015). Injuries in men’s international ice hockey: a 7-year study of the International Ice Hockey Federation Adult World Championship Tournaments and Olympic Winter Games. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49, 30–36.

  11. Turcotte, R. A., Pearsall, D. J., & Montgomery, D. L. (2001). An apparatus to measure stiffness properties of ice hockey skate boots. Sports Engineering, 4, 43–48.



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