Is Arm Movement an Art or Unimportant?

Feb 09, 2024

Arm movement plays a role all physical activities, from the everyday act of walking to the dynamic intensity of running. In sports like hockey, the precision of arm movement is required. I believe the thoughtfulness of arm movement is an art that provides effective overall movement across the ice. Let's begin by reviewing the biomechanics of arms during known & natural movements such as walking or running. Let's explore if these principles can translate into hockey skating ...

Whether walking or running, the biomechanics of arm movement optimize efficiency & balance. As we move forward, our arms naturally swing in coordination with our legs, acting as counterbalances to maintain equilibrium. The reciprocal motion of arms and legs helps conserve energy and propels the body forward. When examining arm movement during walking or running, it becomes evident that the arms act as pendulums, swinging in opposition to the lower limbs. This synchronized movement aids in stabilizing the body, reducing rotational forces, and enhancing overall efficiency. 

These same concepts & principles are not isolated to just off-ice movements. We must use the natural movement our body does habitually and translate this directly into hockey skating. In hockey, efficient arm movement is vital for maintaining balance, creating proper movement patterns, enhancing stride power, & even encouraging proper puck handling skills.

Here 3 key components I work on with my athletes to encourage proper arm movement patterns. 

1. Square Upper Body : On a stride the upper body remains square to the intended direction of movement, this enable players to maintain a stable/strong upper body position (engaging properly into core). This upper body position also allows players to execute precise/controlled maneuvers on their feet as they maintain strength over the hips. Preventing excessive shoulder rotation also allows for streamline stick movement. When the shoulders rotate excessively during a stride, it introduces unnecessary lateral movement, potentially compromising the player's balance and stability. Again, to prevent this, players should focus on keeping their shoulders square to the intended direction of movement. This disciplined upper body position not only aids in maintaining balance on the skating skills stated above but also allows for optimal stick control and puck handling.

2. Driving Arms Long & Low : This deliberate motion creates a dynamic synergy between the arms & legs, allowing players to generate power and speed on the ice. Our legs will naturally mimic the fluidity of arm movement (we see this in walking & running). I find that players can easily understand the concept of a stride that is 'long/low', this is exact movement pattern we want to maintain with our arms. To summarize, a player's arm movement involves a natural swing, hands driving by the hips, allowing for some controlled crossing of the torso, but careful not to extend fully across the centerline of their body. 

3. Variability in Movement : While understanding the these fundamental concepts of arm movement are essential, it's equally important to recognize that movement is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Variations in individual biomechanics and anatomy are natural, & athletes should embrace and adapt their movements to suit their unique natural movement. 

By discovering the 'art' of arm movement, athletes can optimize their stride power, enhance their overall skating skills, and strike a harmonious balance between linear and lateral stick movement. As players progress, understanding the concept of proper arm movement, they'll quickly see how even adjusting small movements can become instrumental in unlocking the full potential of their skating and puck handling abilities! 

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