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Ask Bill Begg!

Skating's top coach answers your questions

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World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.

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Feb. 17, 2010

How Do I Develop Speed on Skates?

QHello, Bill: I am an outdoor distance skater and am very good at holding a strong pace. My weakness lies with speed. I have a hard time accelerating and getting up to the speeds of some of my competitors. When running I can sprint very fast, but that doesn't seem to translate to skating. What can I do to improve my speed on skates? - Eric from Minnesota

Hi, Eric: Some years ago, researchers at an Australian university used high-speed film to analyze skate technique. What they found was that high speed on open roads is associated with:

  1. A full extension side push
  2. A high back and front arm action

Based on your running speed, you apparently have fast twitch muscles — and that can be a plus for skating. But the study showed that flat-out leg speed is not required for quick acceleration on skates. What's vital is solid technique.

And to develop a solid technique, you need to master the six keys to top-end speed:

  1. A low skating position with the butt down as though you are sitting.
  2. The transfer of body weight over the rolling support leg.
  3. A full-extension push to the side with all wheels touching the ground until the leg is fully extended.
  4. A high back arm action: Your arm should make a 45-degree angle (approx.) behind you and then swing forward until your hand reaches the opposite side of your nose. (When it comes to top-end speed, your arms are as important as your legs.)
  5. The D-recovery loop: After finishing a push, you lift your foot up and loop it back behind you with the toe pointing toward the opposite skate heel.
  6. The drive-through action of the back leg: After the recovery loop, you drive your back leg forward. As you do this, keep your shin parallel to the ground until after the knee moves in front of the support leg.

(Watch this video to see still shots illustrating the six keys.)

Skaters who learn the six keys see big increases in speed, as you can see from this video of a skater who went through our Beggsport program.

Another thing that can help you go faster is interval training, including vibrations and ATP sprints. (Bill's column on interval training.)

But nail down your technique first. No amount of training can make up for a lack of it.

Cheers, Bill

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