Off-Ice Training to Improve Your Hockey Game
Hockey is a demanding sport that requires a wide array of athletic skills. For example, hockey players need to be strong and quick, powerful and agile, flexible and stable. It all begins too with lower body conditioning, namely your legs, hips and core. Improve your on-ice hockey performance with this off-ice functional leg workout that uses a combination of resistance training, functional stability, joint mobility and agility.
Train to Be Quick and Agile
The hockey rink is cluttered with bodies; it’s an uncommon occurrence for a skater to reach top speed on a full-length breakaway. More valued is your ability to start, stop and change directions in a hurry. The lateral hop and stick is an excellent drill for developing agility, balance and power.
Start by taking in an athletic stance with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees and hips slightly flexed, weight on the balls of your feet. Hop sideways three to four feet to your right and a foot-length forward. Power the take-off by using your glute muscles and pushing off the ball of your foot. Land on your right leg in a skating stance—knee and hip flexed, body slightly bent at the waist. Hold this single-legged stance for a few seconds. Spring sideways to your left and slightly forward, landing on your left leg and hold for a few seconds. Repeat for three sets of 12 reps each.
Turbo Charge the Posterior Chain
In skating, the muscles of the posterior chain are your power pack. The more powerful your glutes and hamstrings are, the quicker you can get moving on the ice. A study published in 2015 found the classic barbell deadlift to be an effective way to improve lower-body explosive strength.
- Start by standing close to the barbell; your shins should be just a few inches from the bar.
- Place your feet about shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Grip the bar slightly wider than your shoulders so your hands are outside of your knees.
- As you begin to lift the weight, keep your low back in extension and slightly arched, and push your hips back away from the bar.
- Keep your shoulders pulled back and do not let your low back round into flexion.
- Imagine accelerating near the top of the lift. Finish by contracting your glutes and pulling your body into a completely upright position.
- Your hips should be under you and in line with your trunk; don’t bend forward or lean backward at the top of the lift.
- Lower the barbell back to the floor, keeping your shoulders back, lower back extended and hips pushed back.
- Repeat for three sets of 12 reps each.
Build Up That Single-Leg Strength
Skating relies on balancing and powering off one leg at a time. The Bulgarian or single-leg split squat helps develop single-leg stability and strength, as well as joint mobility for the knees, ankles and hips.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging down by your sides.
- Try a light weight at first, about five to eight pounds per dumbbell and increase the weight as you get stronger.
- Stand about three feet in front of a sturdy bench, step or platform.
- Reach back with your left leg and rest the ball of your foot on the bench behind you.
- Bend both legs and drop into a deep lunge, keeping your weight back and chest upright.
- Try to bring your rear knee almost to the floor. Straighten up and repeat.
- Keep the dumbbells by your side and don’t let them swing throughout the movement.
- Repeat for three sets of 12 reps on each leg.
Protect the Groin and Lower Abdomen
Skating tends to create uneven levels of strength between the medial and lateral muscles of the lower body. It also contributes to tight hip flexors and IT bands. Left unaddressed, these imbalanced and tight tissues can lead to injuries. Hockey players are particularly prone to strained groins and sports hernias. There are a number of ways to address this. One method is to strengthen weaker muscle groups, such as hip adductors and glutes. Another and often overlooked approach is soft tissue work, such as self-myofascial release (SMR) or self-massage, and stretching.
Foam rolling is an SMR technique for dealing with tight tissues and painful trigger points. One useful technique for hockey athletes is foam rolling the IT band, which is a band of fibrous, non-elastic connective tissue running along the lateral aspect of the thigh from the hip to the knee.
- Start with your left outer thigh resting on the roller, just below the hip bone.
- Support your body with your arms and right leg, and slowly move the roller down towards the knee.
- When you find a tight or painful spot, hold the roller in place and try to get it to relax.
- Taking a couple of deep breaths can help. Slowly work the roller down to just above your knee, then work back up to just below the hip bone.
- Be sure to roll both legs.
Stretching is roughly divided into two types, static and dynamic. Walking lunges and the Bulgarian split squat described above are regarded as both strength exercises and dynamic stretches. Another way to deal with tight hip flexors is a static stretch. Kneel down with your left leg forward and your right knee on a pad. Both legs should be bent at about 90 degrees. Keeping your chest upright, gently slide or push your hips forward until you feel the stretch in the hip flexors. Don’t bend forward or lean on your front leg. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, then switch to the other leg. Repeat one more time on each side.
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Single Leg Split Squat
- Hockey Training Pro: Three off-ice power and core exercises for hockey goalies and skaters
- Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: Barbell Deadlift Training Increases the Rate of Torque Development and Vertical Jump Performance in Novices
- Mike Reinold.com: The True Hip Flexor Stretch
- Mike Reinold: 3 Tools to Get More Out of Your Programs in 2013
- T Nation: Mastering the Deadlift: Part 1