Hockey is a special game that combines just about every aspect of an individual’s athleticism. Hand-eye coordination, stamina, balance, strength and speed are all valuable traits for a player to possess. While it is incredibly important to have the endurance to give the same effort with three minutes left in the third period as you did on your first shift, having the explosiveness to burst past an opponent, rip a wrist shot top corner or make a clutch save is equally important. In fact, hockey is just as much about quick explosive movements as it is about endurance.
Developing and training the muscle groups that will make you a more explosive player is an important portion of any off-ice training regimen. Using traditional weight training like squats, lunges and other lower body exercises will aid in building the necessary strength in muscle groups used in skating but there are other exercises you may not be using already.
Plyometrics and speed ladder training can be supplemented as additional training tools to not only build and stimulate growth in certain muscle groups, but they will also help to increase foot speed, agility and explosiveness in a player.
Speed ladder training is particularly effective for building foot speed and agility as you can mix-and-match various movements to create a workout that is fully customized to your strengths and weaknesses. A few personal favorite speed ladder exercises include one and two-foot hops through the ladder and side-to-side, quick shuffles side-to-side through the ladder and explosive front steps and backpedals up and down the ladder. Additional hockey specific speed ladder drills can be found from Livestrong and this link.
- One and two-foot hops: This can be done in a straight line or side-to-side with a speed ladder. As you gain more comfort and balance with the drill you will be able to increase the speed in which you do the drill. The motion is simple: hop on one or both feet in a straight line making sure to step in every box on the ladder. For side-to-side hop in and out of each box as you make your way down the length of the ladder.
- Side-to-side shuffles: This is a slightly more advanced drill, but is particularly effective for goaltenders and building foot speed. For this drill begin on one side of the ladder and quickly shuffle across each box, making sure to touch both toes in the box as you make your way across. Move up and down the ladder in a zig-zag pattern moving in both directions. Increase your speed as you gain comfort with the drill.
- Forward and backwards explosion: This is a terrific explosion drill that should help build strength and speed for that first step towards a loose puck. Begin on the side of the ladder and move to your left or right, one box at a time, taking hard steps backwards and forwards ensuring that you touch both feet in each box as you go.
Plyometric exercises are another great wrinkle to add to an off-ice workout that will not only focus on lower body but the upper body as well. With the focus on quick movements and building strength, plyometrics are a great thing to add to your offseason regimen.
Simple box jumps – as highlighted by this Livestrong article – are my personal favorite and can be done on steps or any firm object. The higher the object, the more energy needed to reach the top, thus, you will literally see your progress as you build more strength. Adding weight to this drill is a great challenge as even 10-pound dumbells will make the exercise that much more strenuous. Plyometric pushups – also noted in the article – are another interesting exercise. I have used a medicine ball in the past to balance myself and add a wrinkle to the exercise. Here are ten more plyometric exercises to build into your workout.
Hockey Fitness will be a running feature on the Great Skate blog that will feature different techniques and workouts to help you become a better player. Stay tuned for further installments of this series.