HOCKEY TRAINING: Five Exercises to Help you Battle in the Corners

Hockey training

We’ve been doing more and more work with hockey athletes here at Velocity, and one thing they all share in common is that they are ready to work. Hockey has a long tradition of grueling training, and that’s because being on the ice is a fight (sometimes literally, though that’s not what we’re talking about here).

As performance coaches, we love athletes who aren’t afraid to get after it – the ones who are going to leave a trail of sweat on the gym floor when they’re done. Hockey players always fit this description, so we wanted to give all of you ice-warriors a few exercises to help you win when you’re up against the boards, fighting it out in the corners.

Add these to your training program and we bet you’ll win more of those corner battles on your way to winning the war.

Exercise 1: The Burpee

For such a simple exercise, few movements forge mental toughness and an unbreakable body like the burpee. With little more required than “get down to the floor and get back up,” it develops a mindset and work ethic that won’t quit, which is critical for winning the battle of the boards during all three periods and beyond. If you want to learn how to bend but not break, all while preparing your body for grinding competition, then burpees are for you.

To begin, drop your chest to the ground as quickly as you can while under control. Maintaining tension through your midsection during the descent is critical to a clean, efficient burpee. Next, push away from the floor, snapping your hips up so your feet land under your hips and jump. Spend as little time on the ground as possible – if you want to build a better motor you have to practice going as fast as you can. It’s that simple: get down, get back up! This simple exercise is a fantastic tool for the body and the mind because you have to keep your body moving even when it wants to give out – a skill every hockey player needs.

 

This physical and mental strength will serve you well the next time your opponent picks your most exhausted moment to come after you. If nothing else, the burpee teaches you how not to give up.

Exercise 2: Keiser Pulley Push-Pull

This cable exercise is a great way to build whole-body explosive power in a rotational pattern.  When you are fighting along the boards, it’s not just about pushing or pulling in one direction. When you need to knock the other guy off his skates, rotational movement from your skates all the way through your upper body makes the difference. Build this type of explosiveness and you’re sure to win more battles.

We like to use the Keiser trainer for this exercise because its unique air resistance lets us move more explosively and measure an athlete’s power output, but you can use any cable trainer that has two arms.

In a good athletic stance, use your legs and hips to rotate your body. Transfer that power to an explosive pulling and punching motion with the arms. Control it on the way back to the start position.  

 

Exercise 3: Double Kettlebell Front-Rack Position Lateral Lunge

This exercise is designed to strengthen the legs and core in the frontal plane of movement (side to side). It challenges the athlete’s ability to resist and absorb lateral forces as well as produce force coming out of the lunge. These abilities are critical not only for general skating but also for staying on your skates while pushing back against your opponent as you fight for the puck.

To do the Double Kettlebell Front-Rack Position Lateral Lunge, you need to:

  • Hold two kettlebells in the front-rack position with elbows forward and not to side
  • Maintain a rigid torso
  • Take a large step to the side with toe pointed forward (not to the side) while keeping the other foot in place
  • As you lower yourself to the side, keep your chest up, core tight, and feet flat
  • Push your hips backward
  • Get as low as possible while maintaining posture
  • Push back to original standing position with speed and continue to maintain posture
  • Repeat on the opposite side and continue to alternate for the prescribed repetitions

Exercise 4: Anti-Rotational Stability Chop

This exercise is designed to improve athletes core control in different positions. It teaches the athlete to engage and brace his or her core while the rest of the body is doing other tasks. This ability is critical for all movements on the ice, but especially at the point of contact.

To do the Anti-Rotational Stability Chop, you need to learn basic breathing technique and lumbo-pelvic control. Then you can apply the exercise to different base positions, such as: Tall-Kneeling, Half-Kneeling, Split Stance, and Standing.

 

Exercise 5: Airex Pad Single Leg Stability

The is a simple exercise that can be performed with or without equipment. It forces the athlete to focus on balance and stability at the hip, knee, and ankle of the working leg. Even though it doesn’t involve any weights or powerful movements, the improved balance and stronger stability you will gain will make you a tougher skater to knock down.

To perform this exercise, stand with both feet together and one small ball of any type in each hand (LAX ball, baseball, tennis ball, whatever you have). Start with your feet on the ground and progress to standing on a balance pad when you need more of a challenge. While hinging at the hip and keeping your back flat, bring your chest forward and down by bending one knee while keeping the opposite leg straight. Reach across your body with the right hand, placing the ball on the ground. Return to standing position and try to maintain your single leg stance. Next, reach across your body with the left hand to place the ball on the ground. After you’ve stood back up, repeat the process to pick up the balls. Small cones may also be used: instead of setting something down and picking it up, you have to touch the cones.

Discover the Secret used to Build Great Athletes

Lessons on building Olympic Athletes

Discover the Secret Used by Olympic Committees and Elite Sports to Develop Elite Athletes…

The world’s leading sports organizations have spent decades and millions of dollars to discover the formula to build great athletes.

Dear Parent,

We’ve been in the sports profession for decades, and have helped over a million athletes. We’ve examined athlete development systems around the world. And most importantly, many of us are parents as well.

We know the awesome, positive aspects of youth sports participation. It can help athletes develop a fit lifestyle, learn to work hard and build a growth mindset.

Like you, we believe in the work ethic, attitudes and character developed through sports training and competition. We help young athletes strive to pursue their goals. That’s everything from making the team, getting more playing time, or even becoming a professional.

We are inspired when we see an athlete or team striving to be their best. Operating at elite levels, we see the stage of international sport as a showcase for the human spirit. Our love of sport includes the process of building great athletes.

This why we love what we do! Some days though, it is hard to see good people, with the best of intentions, making mistakes developing young athletes.

We understand it is hard to know what’s best for your young athlete. What’s best for them to have success now and in the long term. There is so much conflicting information.

There’s so much pressure to win now. There are the demands of sport, life and school that make it hard sometimes.

What does it take to create GREAT athletes?

Organizations like the US Olympic Committees, US Soccer, USA Hockey and others have a mission to develop great athletes. The world’s best. They’ve spent decades researching and testing these different methods. In international sport, it’s a race to build the best.

In youth sports today, we all know that there is tremendous pressure for an athlete to “win now” so they can make the elite team. The coach and the club is under pressure to “win now” or they risk losing their players to another team or club. Parents feel like if they don’t get their young athletes in the right place early the future opportunities will be gone.

All of this “win now” leaves little time for actually developing. Don’t get it wrong, we want the young kids to compete and there to be winners and losers in games. Yet, if we sacrifice developing a well rounded athlete for winning at 10 years old, we are mortgaging their athletic future for a win today.

A great athlete in most sports starts with athleticism. Without question there are also different key sports skills you must start early. For example; dribbling in basketball, ground strokes in tennis, and ball touch in soccer. You need to play the sport at a young enough age to start developing this.

In an athletes’ earliest years, they might rely on this skill to stand out. It’s the sport after all! Looming underneath is a need for athleticism. It becomes important more and more as they move up in levels and competition get tougher. As the other players also have high level skill, then athleticism becomes another route to gain an advantage.

If you’re not sold on it yet, let’s look at a few examples of this playing out in the real world.

Urban Meyer, famous football coach at The Ohio State University, recruits multi-sport athletes. In fact, some reports show that a whopping 89% of his football recruits are multi-sport athletes.

Ohio States recruits multi-sport athletes

image from @ohiovarsity

Let’s go wider than only football and look across all Olympic Sports. The United States Olympic Committee has done extensive research for decades on what builds a champion. They’ve looked at hundreds of Olympians and medalists to see when they specialized.

Many would expect to be an Olympian you had to specialize early and give up other sports and some times that’s true. But the data shows a different story. Olympians are arguably some of the most elite athletes on the planet. Yet, the USOC study shows they play multiple sports through their high school years!

US Olympians play multiple sports

But it’s not just about specializing in one sport; it’s about the training that often goes along with it. Developing only “sport specific” skill, without a route to increase overall athleticism does them much more harm than good!

Our job as a Sports Performance organization is to create a better athlete, which means a well-rounded athlete.

Skipping Well Rounded Athletic Development Can Have Harmful Effects…

As coaches, we hope to create great athletes who have a chance at being successful for the long haul. To support this, our programs are based on the concepts of Long Term Athletic Development.

Just like a baby needs to follow steps in development, so does a young athlete. A baby must learn to roll over before crawling, crawl before fore walking, and walk before running. Athletes need to build a solid foundation for elite athletic performance before they can reach their full potential.

When athletes skip critical steps in building this athletic foundation, they are at a much higher risk for injury and burnout. We’ve seen it in our centers across the country and we’ve seen it in Olympic development systems around the world. Olympic Committees have contracted with us to help solve the problem of injury due in large part to over specialization.

• In a Loyola University study of 1200 youth athletes, researchers found that early specialization was one of the strongest predictors of injury. Athletes who specialized were 70-93% more likely to be injured compared to multi-sport athletes.

Without a well rounded athletic base, missed pieces act like cracks in the foundation. They might not be a problem now, but they can lead to future problems down the line. Small cracks have a tendency to grow over time and under pressure.

The trouble is building the foundation early isn’t always sexy. And its really hard for parents and young athletes to find the time.

Your Long Term Athlete Development System

The Long Term Athletic Development model has been developed over several decades. It’s been adopted by many successful elite organizations. The best know expert might be Dr. Istvan Balyi, a coach and sport scientist. He helped implement this model in professional tennis, with USA Hockey, in the UK to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics and through Sport Canada.

The concept is simple. There should be a long term view of developing an athlete with the highest chance of success at the elite level. To do this we need to have some outline of what they should be doing from the youngest ages all thr way through their pro and Olympic career.

Now don’t misunderstand, this isn’t some fluffy “they all win and there is no competition” model. It comes from elite sport and supports competition. It doesn’t support winning at the earliest ages at the expense of being a great athlete later. This document from LTAD.ca is a great summary:

From the start to finish, we progressively build an athletes foundation, skills and mindset so they can reach their full potential. But we know every athlete doesn’t have the potential to succeed to a Gold Medal in every sport.

So doesn’t that make this a waste for most athetes?

NO. Because it helps athletes reach their best potential. Because an athetic foundation of fundamental movement and sports skills, improves the likelihood and opportunity to participate in sports and fitness life long.

This balance of elite development and sports participation is why so many sports organizations have adopted this model. These examples help show how Sport Canada and USA Hockey are applying it to their systems;

Since 1999 the Velocity model has incorporated the LTAD concepts and has evolved with continued research and experience with over 1 million athletes. We think about athletic development as a pyramid and if we are going to build this pyramid to great heights we need a broad and comprehensive base.

By building a broad base of athletic skill and movement we create a foundation. An athletic movement foundation that they can build on and without wide cracks. This way a young athlete has more movement skill and physical resources to draw from. Then they have more opportunity to find their best position or sport as they get older.

Just go back to that USOC graphic about how many sports Olympic athletes played. They had the athleticism to pick the one that they could excel at, in part because they had a broad athletic base.

How Can a Parent Help a Young Athlete in Todays Sports Environment?

As we know, the demands of time, year round participation and advancing technical level make it hard on young athletes and their parents. You don’t want your kids to fall behind because they took time to play another sport or training. You fear they wont be on the right team or have the opportunity later.

It’s a real concern and as parents, one many of us have felt as well.

Sport coaches can be as frustrated. They fell pressure to focus on skill development. So often they cant incorporate the overall athletic development they might want as well. They only have a few hours a week and parents bring a lot of pressure to succeed now.

But we have insider knowledge. You can do both. While our young athletes in the US are playing club and school sports they can develop as athletes.

Through the year they can just continue to develop athleticism. Not just sport skill. Not only sport training, just general, all around athleticism. For our youngest athletes, this means as little as 2 hours a week that builds fundamentals.

Then as they enter middle school and high school training becomes more focused on strength, speed, power and fitness. An hour 2 times a week adds to their athletic foundation and develops movement patterns beyond their specific sport.

During some parts of the year they can increase the time spent on developing these qualities. If they want to be their best and can spare 2-4 days a week, they can do more to reach their full athletic potential.

We hope parents understand; its not a question of sport specific skill OR overall athleticism. It’s a matter of AND. You can develop your sports skills, compete AND keep becoming a well rounded athlete.

Our experience in elite sports and youth sports confirms this view. We’ve seen what works and building better athletes in key in our belief.

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3 ways to get an edge this summer: hockey specific training

winners never quit

Summer is the off-season for hockey, but it’s a great opportunity to get an edge over other players. If you want to get ahead and not fall behind the competition, here are three keys to your summer training.

Get Stronger

Summer is a great time to get strong. In-season you can do it, but it’s a lot tougher. The off-season offers a chance to get in the gym 3-4 days a week and see some gains without tiring you out before games.

Strength has a correlation with reduced injury risk, lower-body power, and on-ice speed. To get these benefits, a hockey player needs to increase his or her athletic strength. This means your strength training must be ground based, use multi-muscle/joint exercises, and include elements of both force production and rapid muscle contraction.

Build Athleticism

While it may seem to be counterintuitive, training to improve your hockey game doesn’t always mean more hockey drills. When you increase your overall athleticism through dynamic movement training or even playing another sport, you challenge your coordination, functional strength, and have fun at the same time.

Building a broad base of athletic skills can help reduce the risk of overuse injuries and increase your long-term potential. When an NHL team has a choice between two equal players, they typically pick the one who is more athletic across a broad spectrum.

Get Fit

The season might be a few months away, but don’t lose your fitness. No one wants to go into the new season and be dragging in the first few weeks. A fit player has more confidence in training camps.

Keeping up your base of aerobic and anaerobic fitness is key even if you’re not on the ice. For the summer off-season, two days of longer aerobic work build a good base and help you recover from the strength and power work. Another 2 days can be used for higher intensity intervals and circuit style workouts.

Use the summer to get an edge. If you’re fast now, you can get faster. The strong can be stronger, and the fit can be fitter. Imagine where you want to be at the start of next season and get to work!

3 Secrets to Quickly Improve Your Hockey Training

Yo and Steve Nash

Hockey players know that they while they need superior hockey skills on the ice, they also need to work off the ice to keep up with the competition. You can use your off-ice training time more effectively by adding these three steps to quickly get ahead of others.

Strength and Stability on One Leg

Part of developing athletic strength is the ability to apply force the same way you do in your sport. For hockey, that means you need to be able to explosively push-off of a single leg, stabilizing the hip and core as you do it. While common strength training like squats and deadlifts are a great start, they are bi-lateral exercises (they use both legs).  A great way to take your results to a higher level is to add some uni-lateral (single leg) exercises.

Training on a single leg might not let you lifts as much weight, but it will certainly lead to high levels of muscle activation while adding balance and stability to the mix.  Some ways to add single leg strengthening to your mix could include:

  • Single Leg RDL: 3-6 reps x 3-5 sets per leg
  • Bulgarian Split Squat: 3-6 reps x 3-5 sets per leg
  • Lateral Box Step Up: 3-6 reps x 3-5 sets per leg

Build Your Power Through Plyometrics

While basic strength training builds a foundation, you need to develop power to be more explosive on the ice. Power is the combination of strength applied with speed.  Olympic lifting and plyometric exercises are two great ways that both develop strength and speed.

One of the advantages of plyometrics is that they can be performed on a single leg to work on stability and balance at the same time. They also can be done focusing on movement in vertical, horizontal, lateral, and diagonal directions.  These are all things that build a better hockey player.

The list of potential exercises is long and includes any form of jumping, bounding, sprinting, and medicine ball throws. A few suggestions are:

  • Squat Jump or Box Jump: 3-5 sets x 5-8 reps
  • Lateral Jumps or Split Jumps: 3 sets x 5-8 reps per leg
  • Hurdle Hops: 3 sets x 3-8 hurdles (line them up in a row)
  • Clap Push-Ups: 3-5 sets x 5 reps
  • Kneeling Med Ball Chest Passes: 3-5 sets x 5-8 reps

Train Your Core to Transmit Power

Most hockey players recognize that a strong and stable core is important for performance and preventing injuries. Unfortunately, the majority of training time is spent on crunches, sit-ups, and a long list of their variations.

There can be a place for these in training, but excessive use can actually stress the spine more and create imbalances, all while ignoring key functions of the core. We have to understand that the core isn’t designed to create and initiate diagonal or rotational movement; its key function in hockey is transmitting forces from the lower body and stabilization so you can use your upper body.

Think of both resisting movement through the core as well as making it move. Then think of training in all directions. A few suggestions could include:

  • Pallof press: 8-15 reps x 3
  • Diagonal Cable Chop/lift: 8-15 reps x 3 per side
  • Sit-Ups: 10-15 reps x 3
  • Medicine Ball Rotational Throws: 5-10 reps x 3 per side
  • Side Plank: :30-:45 sec x 3 per side

Why Being A One-Sport Athlete Is Not A Good Thing

As a coach or parent of a youth athlete, we all want the same thing: To put them in the best position possible to be successful. We want them to have plenty of opportunities to be the best that they can be at whatever they decide to do.

Supporting your athlete is a great thing; however, sometimes that well-intentioned support can be detrimental to the athlete’s development. This applies to cases where coaches and parents pressure athletes into playing one sport. By focusing exclusively on that one sport, and even seeking private coaching, all in an attempt to get a leg up on the competition.

The Question

Should coaches and parents encourage their athletes to play only one sport or would it be better to play and develop skills across a diversity of sports?

Scenario 1

Before we can answer that question, let’s ponder this scenario: Your child enjoys math. They excel in the subject. In fact, they’ve even mentioned their desire to be a mathematician when they grow up. Does this mean your child should only learn math in school? Should they just not even bother with the other subjects like English, Science, Art, or Physical Education?

The answer is most likely, no. Instead, you’d want them to learn all of the subjects that any student their age needs in order to grow and develop.

Sports and athletics are no different from this school scenario. While focusing on one sport can get you much better at that sport, there are skills in other sports that are worth learning for any athlete.

Scenario 2

Here’s another scenario: When you’re applying for a job, what do you put on your resume? You list all of your previous experience. Employers are searching for a qualified individual with a range of experience and skills.

The number and past jobs, paired with your success in those positions, is an indicator of your quality as an employee. This same idea can be applied to sports. Playing one sport — like having one job — can limit you.

If you look at Olympic athletes, just about all of them played multiple sports early in their career before picking and focusing exclusively on one.

Olympians dedicate their life to excelling at one sport to the point of excellence. And if you ask them, the hardest part about competing at that level of competition is burnout. Without getting into the science and psychology of burnout, suffice to say that playing one sport can, and often does, get boring for athletes. Athletes can also burnout physically — playing one sport year in and year out can take a toll on the body. Using the same muscles to complete the same actions can lead to injury and exhaustion.

The Benefits of Being a Multi-Sport Athlete:

  • helps athletes avoid burnout.
  • forces athletes to use different parts of the body and learn new movements.
  • teaches athletes how to work with different types of people, navigate different team dynamics and learn new perspectives.
  • gives the body time to physically recover from the demands of the last sport.
  • gives your mind a break, so that when you return to your sport you are excited, engaged and prepared to give it your all.

At VSP South Bay, we believe that athletes should play as many sports as they want, and can, through high school. When an athlete is done growing, that’s the time to decide what sport to specialize in. If they do this, they will be a passionate, fierce, and well-rounded athlete.