Skating Analysis
2. Knee Bend

veryone who has been to any skating school knows they need to have a low knee bend. The question is how low. Everyone may have a different way of assessing it and may have a different opinion on the degree of knee bend. What I want our skaters to achieve in a knee bend is a position where the lower part of the upper leg is parallel or almost parallel to the ice.


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Low Knee Bend Illustration

We also remind players that there is a second reason for a low knee bend. It lowers, of course, our centre of gravity, which contributes significantly to our stability and agility on the ice. The low knee bend is one area which I have found, working with the Canadian Womens Olympic Team and others, females, generally, are able to adapt to more quickly than men. I find this to be the case aside from the fact that they, already, tend to have a lower centre of gravity than males.

Not Enough Knee Bend Illustration

We also look at, and teach, when to use the low knee bend in a game. Without getting into a long discussion on this issue here, suffice it to say:

1. Players in a game generally use a low knee bend when they are skating fast because you don’t need it when you are skating slow. However, we do delay drills where we teach players if they want to be explosive from a moving position, even when they skating slowly, they should keep a low knee bend and keep their feet moving. In this way when they change gears to accelerate, they are already in a position where their knee bend is low and their feet are moving. All they have to do is start moving their feet faster. This enables the players to make the transition from medium speed to top speed in an instant. It also makes this change in gears harder for the opposing defenceman to read.

2. We look at players when they are on the puck. Sometimes we will work with a player and help him get to a terrific low knee bend then, as soon as he starts to handle the puck, he straightens up. In some situations, the problem is simply that his stick is too long, so we have him work with a shorter stick, keeping in mind how this may affect other aspects of his game. A shorter stick doesn’t guarantee a lower knee bend ( the player may just end up leaning too far forward) but clearly a stick that is too long will force a player when he is handling the puck, to straighten up his knee bend.

As I have already said, I typically see a skating posture with the body lean too far forward and the knees extended. We use a number of drills focused specifically on pulling the shoulders back and bringing the seat down which results in a lower knee bend.

The knee angle when the leg is fully retracted should be at least 90 degrees or slightly lower (at top speed). Biomechanically, the knee angle from which we can get the most powerful push is not 90 but more in the range of 120 degrees. (picture or diagram) However, if you watch a player in slow motion, he starts to open up that 90 degree knee angle before he really starts to drive the leg. The result is that he should be in a position to push his hardest at approximately 120 degrees. Thus, if a player only retracted his leg to an angle of 120 degrees to start from, as he opened up his knee bend to drive his leg hard, he would be past the knee angle (120 degrees) which would provide him with the most powerful leg drive.

I am convinced that this is an area of instruction which is totally "show and tell". You can tell players all you want to get a low knee bend but unless you are constantly showing them by example in your own skating a very deep knee bend as you demonstrate your own drills, it will often never sink in. This is, again, an area where both on and off the ice we have specific exercises to help players lower their knee bend. I constantly tell players knee bend means POWER.

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