Hockey Fitness: Agility training

Last month’s Hockey Fitness post focused on building explosiveness. Hockey is all about stops and starts and quick, explosive movements. The plyometric inspired exercises illustrated last month should paint a picture of where to begin with that side of your training.

That explosion training will not only build strength but also help with footspeed on the ice. Adding agility drills to your off-ice workouts are another great way to strengthen your skating skills. Agility training is something that forwards, defensemen and goaltenders can all benefit from.

There are a number of fantastic resources on the internet talking about different types of agility drills and training that specifically impact hockey players and the muscle groups they need to target. Below are four drills which might be strong additions to your offseason program.

20-yard Shuttle

20-yard Shuttle

If you happen to tune into the NFL Combine you will see this drill done quite a bit. It is a great speed and agility drill that can be adapted and altered as you see fit. Start off by setting up three cones, or markers five yards apart. If you happen to have access to a football field you can go by the yard lines.

Start at the middle cone, sprint forward five yards to the next cone, change direction and sprint ten yards in the opposite direction before finishing back at the middle cone. This is a great drill for explosiveness and change of direction. As you improve with the drill you can expect your first three steps on the ice to improve as well.

One wrinkle that is interesting to throw in is switching sprinting for backpedaling or shuffling. This is particularly effective for goaltenders and defensemen to institute along with the traditional sprint.

30-yard T-drill

30-yard T-drill

This is a drill that takes some of the 20-yard shuttle but combines it with other agile movements. The main focus of this drill is not only the explosive first step but developing fluid hip movements and improving change of direction.

Starting at the back cone, a player will sprint forward and rapidly change direction into a five-yard shuffle. Upon reaching the third cone, you will shuffle the ten yards across before shuffling five yards back to the middle. To finish, backpedal to the starting cone.

In a similar manner to the 20-yard shuttle, this keeps you moving at all times but combines, sprinting, backpedaling and lateral movement. One wrinkle you can add would be to substitute karaoke or crossovers for shuffling. In fact, that is something you can do with each of these drills.

20-yard box

20-yard box

This is yet another drill which draws from the 20-yard shuttle above. It also has some similarities to the 30-yard T above but has more of a focus on short movements than the endurance used in the T-drill.

This drill can be started at any of the four locations, but it is typically best to start by sprinting forward, changing direction into a shuffle (or crossover), backpedaling and finishing with another shuffle. Like the T-drill this uses all three movements and focuses on explosive, fluid movements and agility through the change of direction.

Zig-Zag Drill

Zig-Zag Drill

This particular drill can be adapted in a number of different ways. Depending on what kind of focus you wish to have, the cones can be kept in close proximity to one another or spaced further apart. Adding more cones is also recommended, as it will allow you to lengthen the drill beyond 15 or 20 yards.

Starting with the cones five yards apart is a good trial approach and can serve as your base set-up. Determining shorter or longer distances will allow you to focus more on straight-line speed, or tight agile movements. This drill can also be adapted to use a shuffle or backpedal instead of sprinting.

The Zig-Zag drill really hones in on keeping fluid hips (particularly if you’re backpedaling) and tight cuts. To start, sprint from cone-to-cone in a zig-zag pattern making sure to cut your turns as tight as possible at each cone. You should always cut to the outside of each cone as you reach that point.

These four drills offer a good mix of different approaches you can take to agility training. Using speed ladder drills (as mentioned last month) and other advice from your coaches and around the internet will allow you to build a well-rounded off-ice speed and agility training regimen.