In all the Power Plus sessions this year, by far the most common obstacle to performance that we saw was lack of knee bend. But why is knee bend so important, and how do you get it?
Why Knee Bend Makes a Superior Player
Here’s what a deeper knee bend will do for you: When you bend your knees you get lower to the ice, a lower stance gives you more balance (less likely to fall), and harder to knock off the puck. In order to get power in each stride you need to bend your knees. The more your knees are bent the more power you can get from each push. More knee bend = more power and speed.
Why Most Skaters Don’t Bend Enough
There’s a simple reason that most skaters don’t bend their knees enough: it feels easier not to. Getting a deep knee bend takes strong abdominals and lower back, and strong hip and groin muscles. Skaters with insufficient strength in these muscle groups will feel a sense of weakness in their core when they bend their knees deeply. To get away from that feeling, they subconsciously straighten their knees. Unfortunately, skating with less knee bend may feel easier, but ultimately it reduces your speed, power, and stability. If you want power and speed, you have to build up your strength so that knee bend feels natural.
How to Get Great Knee Bend
Focusing on leg strength alone won’t give you great knee bend. Great knee bend requires strong abdominals, lower back, hip, and groin muscles. To deepen your knee bend, you’ll want to do exercises that target these muscles and teach them to work together effectively. A few possibilities for off-ice exercises are wall sits, lunges and weighted squats for older athletes.