Best Synthetic Ice vs. Inline Skating vs. Real Ice Training
Do you need real ice or the best synthetic ice to train at home?
Of course not.
With a pair of inline skates, you could mimic the movement, balance, and even the strength needed for the ice.
However, it won’t translate well on the ice when you trade in your wheels for ice skates.
Nothing beats the feeling of skating and training on real ice.
But it’s not always readily accessible and can cost tens of thousands to set up in your own home.
If you’re going the natural route, you only have the cold winter months and particular temperatures to work with.
The best synthetic ice panels are made of a high molecular weight polyethylene plastic, a high-quality material perfect for skating.
Connect several panels, slap on your ice skates and you’re ready to go.
You can get as close as real ice to practice your stops, shooting, speed, and agility.
With the pandemic, the next generation of hockey players lost precious training time this year.
Choosing the best synthetic ice for hockey solves that problem, helping you train on a surface similar to natural ice as we enter a "new normal" moving forward.
Because the best synthetic ice panels have slightly more friction than natural ice, you will feel a slight resistance when skating and shooting the puck.
However, that can help you build your strength, accuracy, and overall performance.
When it comes to training at home, opting for the best synthetic ice will offer you many years of the ultimate off-ice training experience.
Here are some essentials to get started:
A List of Your Training Essentials
Besides your synthetic ice panels (and, well, ice skates), here are some essentials you need for hockey at home:
- Stick, pads, pucks, and gloves
- Resistance bands
- At-home goalpost/net (with a backstop so you don’t smash mom’s windows)
- Passing aid or rebounder (if you or your family member will be training alone).
These will have you prepped and ready to train on synthetic ice.
Here are some simple drills to help you become a better player at any level.
Get swift hands with these stickhandling drills
Skating on your at-home ice is not enough.
You need to practice your fundamental stickhandling drills too.
Using a puck will encourage you to be more intentional with your control when training on the best synthetic ice.
Simple Triangle Drill:
Set three cones in a triangle shape, about 2-3 feet equally distanced.
Take the puck and stick and move the puck around each obstacle as quickly as possible.
Try to improve your speed, handling, and coordination. Try the drill standing still and while moving.
Figure Eight Drill:
The figure-eight drill is a fundamental hockey drill that takes the triangle a step further.
Use two cones equally spaced 2-3 feet apart, or shoulder distance.
Practice making figure eights with the puck in a smooth yet quick motion.
Increase the difficulty by spreading the cones further apart.
You will improve your dexterity and your reach in short order.
Build Explosive Speed Using Your Synthetic Ice to Your Advantage
Work on your speed at least one day per week, depending on your level and goals.
Speed is one of the determining factors of a hockey player's ability.
Speed gives you a great advantage on the ice and helps you stand out as you move from the Midget level, to Junior, and beyond.
But it’s a lot more than learning to run or move quickly.
The best synthetic ice has an average of 10%-15% coefficient of friction compared to natural ice, hockey players can build some extra speed due to the resistance.
Try these speed-training drills on your synthetic ice panels:
Push-up Start Sprint Drill:
You’re going to sprint the entire length of your synthetic ice.
If you need to, line up your panels as long as possible so you can really practice your sprinting.
Start from a prone or pushup position with your stick in hand.
Pop up off the floor and start sprinting as quickly as possible to the end of the panels.
Repeat the exercise going from one end to the other 8-10 times. Do 3 sets at least 2 days a week.
Ready to take your speed even higher?
With some extra resistance added to the power you gain on synthetic ice, you definitely can.
You’ll need someone to help you to complete the drill and a long resistance band.
Place the resistance band on your waist.
Make sure your synthetic ice panels are set up so you can sprint a considerable distance.
Start from one end and skate as fast as possible with your partner behind, providing resistance with the band using both hands.
Keep going as fast as possible until you reach the end.
Turn around and repeat the process, this time with your partner releasing one hand at the halfway mark.
Make sure to maintain as much control as possible.
Take long rests in between each drill. The goal is to build speed, not conditioning.
You need to do each drill as quickly as possible, not as long as possible.
Become an agility demon
Some people confuse speed and agility. Others believe that agility is more important than speed and vice versa.
Both are important.
Speed allows you to go one direction as quickly as possible.
Agility is your ability to react and change direction.
Agility has a lot to do with brainpower, where speed aims to maximize your physical abilities.
To improve your agility on your synthetic ice, you must set up drills that require you to react quickly and change direction at a moment’s notice.
It’s the exercise everyone loves to hate; the dreaded iron cross.
This simple yet effective drill helps you hone your agility, ability to stop on a dime, and your crossovers.
Set up your synthetic ice panels in a large enough square so you can complete the exercise.
Place 4 markers equally distributed from each other in a cross pattern with you at the center.
Start in the middle of your cross.
- Sprint forward quickly with a few strides.
- Then skate quickly backward to the starting point.
- Cross step to the left, then back to the starting point.
- Move in a backward direction to the back marker, then forward to the starting point.
- Then cross step to the right and back to the starting point.
Repeat the drill 5 times for 3 sets, taking a 90-second rest in between.
Don’t worry, your synthetic ice panels are durable enough to endure those hard stops needed for an iron cross.
In fact, those scuff marks made by the skates create a better skating experience for you over time.
DIY Obstacle Course
Here you get to be your creative self! Obstacle courses are a great way to improve your agility, stopping ability, step overs, and more.
Use whatever items you have at your disposal: cones, pucks, gloves, and even hockey sticks.
Set it up on your synthetic ice so you can slalom through, step over, or skate around the obstacle course.
Get a timer going and go for five rounds, trying to beat your personal best each time.
Practice Your Shooting
Developing a perfect forehand and backhand shot takes years of practice.
But you can develop power and accuracy quickly the more you practice.
With your synthetic ice set up at home, try these two drills.
Figure Eight Shooting Drills
Get three pucks for this shooting drill.
Place two pucks about 3 feet apart or shoulder-width apart.
Pass the third puck quickly around the two pucks, forming a figure eight then hit a shot at the end of the eight.
Repeat for 15 reps and work on the drill at least 3 days weekly.
Improve your one-timers
Getting a one-time shot off can surprise both defense and goalie and it’s a great shot to have in your kit.
Set up your goal post and place your rebounder at the front of the goal. Line up some pucks and pass them one at a time to the rebounder.
When the puck comes back on the synthetic ice, practice a one-time shot to the top corners of the goal.
For added difficulty, you can place the rebounder to the side for diagonal shots, or have a friend send you quick passes so you can improve your accuracy.
Goalies Need to Practice To
If you’re a goalie, practicing on the best synthetic is perfect for you.
Goalies don’t get the specialized training they deserve, mainly at younger ages.
Synthetic ice set up at home allows them to dress in full gear and practice specific movements that will help improve strength, agility, and reflexes.
Slap on your pads, blockers, and get your gloves ready.
Here are some helpful drills you can try on your synthetic ice.
The Butterfly style is a go-to for goalies to get max coverage on the lower part of the net.
The goalie drops to their knees with their legs spread outward.
For a simple drill, get your cones or at-home goalpost set up.
Practice getting into the butterfly position at different parts of the goal as quickly as possible.
Start at the center or crease and assume the butterfly position.
Quickly get up and skate to the right post and get into the butterfly.
Then get up and assume the butterfly at the left post.
Complete the triangle by skating back to the center of the goal.
For added effect, have a friend, coach, or sibling shoot a puck so you can practice saving in the butterfly position at different points.
A goalie’s ability to quickly slide to one side to protect their post can make the difference between winning and losing.
For this sliding drill, you’ll a friend, sibling, or coach.
The person will be trying to score at the goalie’s stick side.
Start from the crease and slide to the post with the stick to deflect the oncoming shot.
Get up quickly and slide to the glove post. End the drill at the center crease.
Keep going as quickly as possible deflecting as many shots as possible.
If you have another player or friend who can try scoring at the glove end, that will make it even more challenging!
Remember to practice saving the shot away from danger and not back into play.
You can combine the sliding drill with the butterfly drill for added effect.
These are just two of many effective drills. Goalies who practice often will feel more comfortable sliding, stopping, and getting down to block or deflect shots.
As we’ve seen over the years, PolyGlide ice is the best synthetic ice for off ice hockey training.
For many, it feels like skating on the real thing.
For others, it’s as close to the ice as it can possibly be.
Investing in an at-home, synthetic ice rink makes you a bit faster, agile, and stronger than your competition.
If you practice these speed, strength, and agility drills a few times per week, you’ll be ready for when the real action comes.
As we saw during the pandemic break, some hockey players came back raring to go.
Yes, many would have had access to real ice.
But we won’t be surprised if NHL players had synthetic ice rinks set up at home and that gave them the edge.
For people as passionate as we are about hockey, synthetic ice panels are a no-brainer.
The pandemic and quarantine will stop many things but it won’t stop us from skating!
If you need help with choosing your synthetic ice panels, don’t hesitate to call us.
Take a second and check out some of our most popular rink packages!
Keep on Skating!
Jim Loughran, PolyGlide Ice