HOCKEY: Five exercises to help you Battle in the corners

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.

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