About the author: Guy Massi is the Director of Operations, Athletic & Curricular Development for Massi-Machado Strength & Conditioning, LLC (with two locations in New York), and has been developing clients and athletes for over twenty years. He is also on the Board of Advisors for Tsunami Bar and serves in a network affiliate advisory capacity to Haven Physical Therapy, PLLC & Sofos Chiropractic, PC also of New York. Coach Massi is available for speaking engagements, training and workshops by e-mailing mmscny@gmail.com. For a complete bio, list of projects and services please visit www.mmscny.com

Well, for the first time in a long career I’ve got to admit that I’m glad that it’s been a while since my last article. A lot has happened in that time, which will now allow me to paint a more focused Part II in this series. By now I am hopeful that you have formed your own opinion regarding which is more difficult to perform; Skating or Running. Really, we should modify that question to “Is it more difficult to develop speed, strength and power for Skating or Sprinting?” So for this article I will focus on skating, and briefly touch upon just a few development and training strategies.

Of course we see much focus on developing the strength and power involved in the concentric or “push” phase of skating, but what about the importance of the interrelated eccentric control. Let’s focus for a minute on the front leg, which in skating exchange eventually becomes the back leg. Never-the-less, let’s try to break this down bottom-to-top, and in reverse order of sorts. So, you just pushed and provided a powerful stroke with that right leg of yours. If all went well, you probably did the right thing as it pertains to maximal kinetic utilization of gluteal grouping, quadriceps, hamstring, gastrocnemius (calf grouping), soleus, Achilles, foot, metatarsals, etc. – correct? Well, we’ll get back to that.

Back to that front leg. What’s it doing? What is its role at this point of the stroke or stride? Well, it’s an important “post” or stabilizer to the overall movement and serves in an eccentric control capacity of sorts to gently and dynamically balance your body in stride; as well as set you up for the next push. You see, at that instant prior to leg exchange; the front leg literally becomes a “hammock” for suspended control of a body in motion. Aside from the fact that skating is one of the most specialized and athletically demanding activities on planet earth, and aside from overall lack of skill; lack of developed eccentric control may play a major contributing role in causing land-lubbers to stumble a few thousand times in their first journeys onto the ice. Not just because they don’t have the dynamic balance or skill required to pick up skating quickly, but because they don’t possess the eccentric control required in the leg that is left temporarily alone on the ice. You see, in a skater’s beginning stages and for self-preservation reasons; their brain-body connection basically rejects the idea of leaving one leg alone on the ice. The brain-body generally prefers a two-legged based, especially on a “foreign” surface, which is why learning to skate is also a sensory and proprioceptive desensitization, yet biomechanical acquisition and development process of sorts. (Eccentric control is intrinsically related to the above processes and dynamic balance) Sure, a newbie wearing a freshly purchased sweater and pair of skates might look good standing still in close proximity of the boards, but put them into the position of requiring their motor units to fire, and proprioceptors provide balanced motion in space while on that tiny blade; and it’s another story. (Hey – it’s an acquired skilled, but you get my point)

So in skating, you really find yourself in a perpetual “borrowing and lending” of forces type situation. As your back leg strides and pushes along the ice, it is highly reliant upon your front leg’s ability to maintain dynamic balance and eccentric control in order to lend oppositional force to the situation/push. Oh and then, that front leg is expected to immediately change positions and further contribute to the movement while borrowing as much force and stored muscular energy it can utilize – and so on and so forth. So needless to say, I think we can agree that; developing dynamic eccentric control and balance for skating is as equally imperative to the concepts of speed in skating.

Allow me to provide you with a few simple examples for the development of both dynamic eccentric control and balance, as well as stride force:

Eccentric Controlled Emphasized Pistol Squats:

There are entire progressions to get to a pistol squat, but here I will provide examples to those who can perform either free or loaded pistol squats, and those who require oppositional assistance. As with any movement, it should not be loaded until that frame of the movement is perfected.

If you CAN perform free, unassisted pistol squats change the dynamic in one or all of four ways.

1) Add resistance with a vest or other weight
2) Modify the surface medium and perform the movement on an increasingly more difficult unstable/softer platform. (i.e. thin foam mat, Perform Better balance pills, or well inflated Bosu Ball)
3) Add a small plyometric hop-catch at the top of the movement and before descending back toward the bottom to initiate additional eccentric control requirement
4) Perform the movement on a mini-trampoline (with a spotter in place and without a load)

If you CAN’T perform free, unassisted pistol squats; work on your mobility and progressively employ the following:

1) Perform the movement to a platform that gradually decreases in height. (i.e. high box, to a bench, to a medicine ball)
2) Perform the movement to maximal depth with the assistance of a partner or suspension trainer.
3) Add a small plyometric hop-catch at the top of the movement and before descending back toward the bottom to initiate additional eccentric control requirement
4) Modify the surface medium and perform the movement on an increasingly more difficult unstable/softer platform. (i.e. thin foam mat, Perform Better balance pills, or well inflated Bosu Ball)

Keep in mind that you want to work towards the eventual goal of performing an unassisted free pistol squat, and should not load any movement until you can perform the movement unassisted.

Below you will find an example of an Eccentric Control Emphasized Pistol Squat to a platform (bungee cord stabilized Perform Better-Adjustable Rear Elevated Split Squat Stand) Additionally, in the example below; I am using a shoulder/back loaded Tsunami Ultra-Light Bar to provide oscillatory and amplitude stimuli to the movement. (Tsunami bar is expounded upon later in this article)


(Support equipment – Perform Better Read Elevated Adjustable Spilt Squat Stand & Ultra-Light Tsunami Bar)

Dead Stall Kick-Thru Split Squats:

This is for developing stride force, eccentric control, dynamic balance and exchange. Initially practice and perfect this movement unloaded. The movement should be performed at a quick “one, one-two” tempo or in other words a; 1 second concentric:2 second graduated eccentric after each pause. One second ascending and two seconds descending and exaggerating the requirement of the eccentric control required in the front (post) leg. Visualize performing the movement in your “own personal narrow hallway” as to maintain posture and aim points. Here we will refer to the left leg as the “post leg” and right leg as the “active” or “kick-thru” leg, when in reality; both legs are gaining activity. Remember to synchronize elbow/arm drive with the movement meaning; leg up=arm back in unloaded versions.

1) Assume a split squat position with the left leg up as the post leg, and come to complete rest
2) Drive into your left leg (finding the heel and sole of front foot) as you quickly and powerfully begin to rise towards a tall-neutral position, while simultaneously beginning the process of synchronizing the “kick-thru” of your right (back) leg
3) Continue to drive to the tall-neutral position while continuing to clear the right leg through your frontal plane, bringing it underneath and forward with slight flexion to quickly touch down the tip of the toes approximately 12 inches ahead of the left post leg.
4) Immediately “rewind” the movement focusing on providing a controlled eccentric decent within a two second time frame, and quickly come to complete rest before beginning another repetition

Coming to a dead-stall after each repetition assists in developing explosive take-off strength, as there is little to no opportunity left to capitalize upon stored elastic energy or the stretch shortening cycle; being the complete pause before the next repetition allows for adequate dissipation of force. Hence, when in game play; any present stored energy will only serve to compliment one’s developed explosive strength and power.

Below you will find an example of Dead Stall Kick-Thru Split Squat. In the example below; I am using a shoulder/back loaded Tsunami Ultra-Light Bar to provide oscillatory and amplitude stimuli to the movement. (Tsunami bar is expounded upon later in this article)


(Support equipment – Ultra-Light Tsunami Bar)

Taking Development to a Whole Other Level:

One of the game-changers within our methodology is a platform called “Tsunami Bar”. They are flexible barbells in graduated flex and capacity that can basically accommodate loads anywhere from the most miniscule fractionated Olympic plate, up and through five, 45-pound plates per side on their level 5 bar. In a nutshell; this non-rigid training platform allows the user to perform truly dynamic movement at speed, which either cannot be performed or would be far too dangerous to be performed on the conventional rigid barbell. The platform has been scientifically been proven to elevate motor unit recruitment, and based on user performance (feet per second) can temporarily produce an impulse force of up to six times (6X) its own load. Tsunami bar provides for the safest and most effective application of speed, oscillation, amplitude and stability training found, and because of required speed and safety; cannot even been closely replicated through banded suspended resistance (BSR) (i.e. kettle bells suspended by bands at the end of a conventional barbell) The gains we have made in speed, strength, power and dynamic stability/capacity has been astounding! By applying Tsunami bar at appropriate junctures of the above and other movements, we have been able to cut developmental time by up to one-third typical. This is a must see, must experience platform that has and will continue to change our industry, and eventually render any programming completely devoid of its use – irrelevant. I feel it would be a disservice to you all if I were to continue to present while withholding such vital, career, and performance changing information. Simply search “Tsunami Barbell” and you will find their site. I am privileged enough to be a part of their Board of Advisors.

In closing, I assure you that as you progress in developing the kinetic linkage, strength and power required for explosive, balanced skaters – you will encounter various degrees of assimilation to both these and other associated movements. I encourage you; don’t become frustrated, rather remain agile and reassure the athlete that nothing will replace Persistent, Diligent, Effort – (a.k.a HARD WORK) Because in the end, all things that require growth and refinement are worth the process. Truly; Greatness is forged not fabricated!



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