Great Hockey Exercises
Hockey is a fun and enjoyable sport, but it is very demanding on the body–requiring a good level of fitness if you want to be competitive. For this, you’ll need to know the best exercises to keep fit.
Good exercises for hockey players include strength training for improved performance, cardio exercise for enhanced endurance, and reaction and agility training for improved anticipation. While drills under each category can be performed in isolation, complete workout exercises incorporate all three.
The rest of the article will look at exercises for hockey players to help them stay fit and improve strength, speed, hand-eye coordination, balance, and agility. Also, be sure to read through our article describing why we think hockey itself is such good exercise.
Strength training exercises help hockey players to develop shooting, speed, and explosiveness. This is why they are an integral part of any hockey player’s workout plan and why this section gets the most focus in this article. By increasing your strength, you can improve your shot, puck control, and success rate in one-on-one challenges.
Most people immediately look at weights and bench pressing when the conversation is around strength training, but that shouldn’t always be the case in hockey.
The fittest hockey players who can get the job done don’t always have the biggest muscles on the team. If you commit to ensuring a strong core and upper legs, it will be challenging to ease you off the puck. Your strides will also be a lot more powerful.
The best strength training exercises for hockey players include swings, lunges, and squats. These exercises are a great way to improve your leg strength, and you can break into any of them whenever you have some space. You can go with different variations of the exercises when you can, introducing tools like tension bands, weights, and exercise balls when they are available.
As you feel more resistance, your core will do more work to help you maintain balance, hence achieving the overall improvement you are going for.
Other exercises like box jumps and deadlifts are also very useful for improving your glutes and legs’ overall explosiveness. As you build more strength in these areas, your first couple of strides when chasing a loose puck or trying to evade a challenging defender will be a lot more powerful. Are you a goalie? If so, you’ll be able to infuse more power in your side-to-side movements.
Your strength training exercise should also include some back, upper shoulder, and arm workouts to increase the power of your shots. You don’t have to make your biceps huge; you only need to add some explosive power into your back to get the leverage you need when leaning into a shot. For more examples over and above what we mention below, be sure to read our article covering youth hockey strength and conditioning drills to follow.
The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best ways to improve your lower-body, compound training to a new level. It is a valuable fixture in hockey players’ workout routines because the movement affects the same muscle groups targeted in lunges and squats, including spinal erectors, abdominals, calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quads.
However, it ensures a better targeting of the quadriceps and the core because the exercise challenges one leg and the overall balance.
This unilateral workout drill, which targets one side of the body away from the other, makes the improvement of side-to-side imbalances in your muscle easier. With these imbalances improved, you can maintain proper alignment and prevent injuries when bending or moving around during or after a game. You’ll also be less likely to fall when you are knocked off balance.
Injuries like those targeting the hip-flexor are common in hockey. Players are usually in the flexed position at the hips most of the time, which leads to tightness in the area over time. Bulgarian split drills work on the hip flexibility in the back leg as you lower yourself into the position for the exercises.
Additionally, in exercises like deadlift and squat, you will typically find one leg compensating for the other in certain stages of the movement. With the Bulgarian squat, however, each leg gets full attention and can improve on its own. Adding this drill to your exercise routine will improve your performance as a hockey player and ensure improvement to your overall fitness.
The primary tool you need for the Bulgarian split squat is a stable chair or bench. As you become more experienced, you may choose to increase the difficulty by adding kettle or dumbbells to ensure higher resistance. Here’s what you should do:
- Get into position two feet in front of the chair or bench, ensuring that your feet are hip-distance apart, your core is engaged, your chest and eyes pointing straight ahead, and your shoulders backward.
- Pick up your left or right foot and put it on the chair behind you. Your standing leg is the focus of the exercise, while the one on the chair is there for balance.
- Ensure that your feet are still maintaining a hip-distance or a bit wider.
- Engage your core, ensuring that your chest is high and your eyes are looking forward.
- Bend the knee of the standing leg, ensuring natural movement in the knee and ankle as you go through the downward phase of the exercise, without taking on the load with mostly the back of your leg.
- Switch the legs around after every dozen or two repetitions.
Here’s a video that covers this unpopular but highly beneficial exercise in more detail:
If you choose to go with the Bulgarian split squat routine, you should take the time to ensure proper setup and effective core engagement to avoid any injuries during the process. It would be best if you took the time to find the right foot placement and alignment to ensure you won’t end up throwing too much weight on the knees and cause injury.
You should avoid this exercise if you are only just getting started with strength training and don’t have decent lower-body strength, coordination, and balance. If you find it hard to maintain balance with other exercises in this category, such as standard lunges, you shouldn’t add the Bulgarian split squat to your workout routine.
Similarly, you should avoid the routine if you are dealing with any existing injuries to your knee and ankle. The Bulgarian split squat requires a certain level of flexibility and mobility, which you may find uncomfortable. If you get into position and start to feel any discomfort, stop the routine or try a different squat variation. You should also avoid adding weights or balls to the squat until you are ready for them.
Cardio training exercises are essential for ice hockey players because all the strength training exercises and the biggest muscles won’t count for much if you don’t have adequate endurance. To become a productive hockey player, you should be able to take short and explosive shifts more than those where you are just drifting around. Cardio exercises will come in handy here, as they will help you maintain an excellent energy level throughout a game.
Additionally, cardio exercises don’t require you to use any special equipment, and you can engage in any of them all year round—whether outdoors or indoors. Also, make sure to read our article going over why we think hockey is good for you.
There are few types of cardio training drills you can engage in as a hockey player. They are covered below:
Some popular running or jogging cardio exercises include running, static rowing on a machine, stationary bike riding, stair climbing, and more. Running and jogging are often the obvious options for traditional cardio exercises, but you should try to mix things up regularly by introducing sprints, stairs running, and so on. By changing your exercise pace, your heart and lungs will feel something closer to the challenge of a real hockey game.
Also, engaging in explosive sprints from a static position is an excellent way to build perfect muscle memory within your legs. If you play ice hockey regularly, you should try to gain access to a skating treadmill. This will help you build endurance while also working on your skating form at the same time.
By combining these tried and tested cardio methods, you can build the endurance you need to be at your best at the start of a game and also last until the end. You can increase your lung function, ensuring you can breathe easily throughout an hour of a game session.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of cardio where you regularly switch between high and low-intensity workout routines. It is usually four minutes of high-intensity workout, combined with three minutes of recovery. However, you can also choose to make it two minutes of high intensity and one minute of recovery.
The main reason why HIIT works is that it is excellent for your metabolism, and you are bound to see results quicker when compared to other traditional workouts.
HIIT is made up of different variants of traditional workouts, but some conventional exercises are more straightforward to incorporate into HIIT than others. Some HIIT exercises include treadmill walking and running, stationary bike riding, outdoor running and walking, swimming, and static rowing machine routines.
Metabolic sprints are some special types of running workout routines. This type of cardio training is best before you start a regular hockey season. Metabolic sprints often involve a range of quick runs spread over different lengths of time and distances.
Typically, each sprint should be for 30-60 seconds, with the same amount of time as recovery. These workout routines will focus on your leg muscles in a way that more traditional cardio routines generally won’t. Some examples of metabolic sprints include skipping, side shuffling, backpedalling, and straight sprints.
You need to warm and cool down properly when engaging in cardio training exercises. This should be the norm with all workouts, but it is more important here. You should warm-up for around five minutes, and the cooldown should also be the same.
A typical warm-up session will include minor cardio and some light stretching. You’ll also need to stretch properly when you are done with the workout to eliminate any lingering soreness.
You should earmark at least 30 minutes for the cardio workout you choose for a day if you are to reach your goals. However, as you become more used to the routines, you have to increase the allotted time to ensure you are continually improving your stamina—if you are committed to ensuring you can last through games.
If you choose HIIT workouts, you may not hit the half-hour mark because those are a bit more demanding. Don’t go beyond what your endurance can allow by much. It would be best if you worked your way up slowly until you can complete more HIIT sessions before getting exhausted. Don’t forget to talk to your physician to know what type of cardio should work for you and which ones to avoid.
Hockey is a game that demands quick decisions and super-fast reaction times. Winning or losing a game comes down to the speed of decisions and reaction. This is why reaction and anticipation exercises are an integral part of every hockey player’s training. With regular application, the training sessions will contribute to improved fitness and help develop muscle memory that can click into gear during games.
There are different types of agility and reaction training exercises, ranging from lunges, side-to-side lateral sprints, stickhandling drills, and so on. Some of these exercises look very basic, but they can deliver outstanding results.
Some of the best reaction and agility training drills you should incorporate into your workout routine as a hockey player include the following:
The partner chase drill is one of the most popular exercises in reaction and agility deployed in hockey (and other movement-based sport). Some people don’t regard these drills as useful because the predetermined patterns rarely play out during a real game. However, the drill’s focus is only to help you sharpen your reflexes to react better in the melee that is a hockey game.
As you’ve guessed from the name, you need a partner for this exercise. Map out a distance for the partner to begin a sprint, and then face him starting at a specific distance (keep it as realistic as possible). Switch up the distance from time to time and allow the sprinting partner to go off script sometimes to simulate a game situation as closely as possible.
This is another drill where you need a partner. One partner should move as fast as possible in any direction they choose. At the same time, the other follows as closely as possible by reacting and staying agile for the duration of the session. Each session should be around 30 seconds, repeated as many times as possible.
Your partner for this drill should ideally also be a hockey player or at least a fit sports person. This way, you can get the best from the training and even switch roles occasionally.
This is another partnership drill where your partner has to point to the corner you have to touch before returning to the center. To get the routine correctly, your hips have to face the partner at all times. This is regardless of where he has pointed and where you are running to.
The partner also has to point in a new direction just as you are reaching the starting position, and you have to take off without stopping. Each set should last a minimum of one minute with 30-second rests in between.
We have looked at different categories of workouts for hockey players. Below is an example of how you can combine these drills into a workout routine using some of the exercises we’ve discussed above and other similar ones.
- Do three split squat jumps and return to stance three times per leg with zero seconds of rest.
- Do three squat jumps eight times, with 90 seconds rest between each rep.
- Do three broad jumps six times without any rests between the reps.
- Do three single-leg hip thrusts eight times with 90 seconds rest between each set.
- Do four lateral reaching lunges five times per leg without any rest.
- Do eight mountain climber burpees with only 90 seconds of rest.
You should do all three exercises in a row as supersets, going back and forth between the exercises. Don’t forget to apply the recommended rest breaks. This workout routine is great because you are not bound by any constraints.
You can get into the routine anywhere you can find a little bit of space. So, whether you are at home or in a hotel room, you can comfortably complete the sets and continue to improve your speed.
- Do four wide pronated pull-ups (grip) eight times with 60 seconds rest between each rep.
- Move to four DB Cuban press, done 10-12 times with 60 seconds rest between them.
- Do four BB Pendlay rows of 9-12 sets with 60 seconds rest between the sets.
- Do four medicine ball Russian twists of 20 seconds each, with 90 seconds rest between each one.
- Complete the routine with three DB Farmer’s walks of 30 seconds each with 90 seconds rest between them.
The first two parts of this routine should be done together as closely as possible. The exercise will help you improve strength across your rotator cuff, lats, and grip, which are vital for more challenging shots. Improving those areas can also help with shot accuracy, which is why the routine should feature once a week within your timetable.
- Do three BB front squats eight times with 60 seconds rest each.
- Do three DB stiff-legged deadlifts with a second pause when stretched. Repeat it eight times with 60 seconds rest in between sets.
- Do three BB close grip bench press (incline) twelve times, with 60 seconds rest across sets.
- Do three wide pronated pull-ups (grip) eight times with 60 seconds rest between each set.
- Do three seated DB power cleans eight times with 60 seconds rest between each set.
- Do three prone incline reverse DB superman eight times with 60 seconds rest between each one.
- Do three DB Farmers walk of 30 seconds each with 60 seconds rest between each one.
- Complete the routine with 3 Side V’s six times per side with 60 seconds rest between each rest.
You should rest a minimum of 60 seconds as you move between each exercise. This routine works well because it is a total body workout that can help ensure all-round performance enhancement for hockey games. The design and the prescribed number of sets means the training will make you better in different areas, but you can expect to see the most improvement in your structural balance.
It all translates to more strength on the puck, and you’ll also avoid some injuries common in hockey. This workout routine should be part of your timetable, but you should give it more time during those weeks where you can’t get to the gym or engage in other more specific workouts we have mentioned above. Since it is a total body workout, no muscle group will get neglected.
We’ve seen some hockey workout drills and some routines above, but these may not appeal to everyone. How can you create yours? Here are some tips that should guide you:
Pro hockey players have the best physicians around telling them what routines are healthy and which ones are dangerous. It would be best if you got the same for yourself. Talk to any qualified physician with experience working with hockey players at your level.
The discussion will cover all your past injuries and any special body situations to recommend exercises and drills you can or cannot do. Talk to other players you know for physician recommendations if you don’t have one already.
Once you have a clear picture of what kind of workouts you can or cannot do, it is time to put together a timetable containing the exercises you’d like to practice every week. As we’ve discussed above, you should ensure your plan adequately accounts for strength, cardio, and agility training.
Pick exercises from these training categories that appeal to you and create your daily, and ultimately, your weekly routine. Your timetable should incorporate 40 minutes of workout per day.
You should include outdoor running at least once a week and also consider the number of games you play per week. If you played a game last night, going on a full-body workout routine or a 30-minute run outside the next morning doesn’t work. Intense workout sessions should not follow the day after full hockey games.
So, your timetable should cover all the technicalities required for a robust workout routine, but it also should be flexible enough to accommodate any unexpected occurrences. A routine like the full-body design we covered above can act as a good standby for days when your primary routine is disrupted for any reason.
If you are unable to create a unique fitness routine for yourself, you should consider talking to a hockey fitness coach for a bespoke plan. Your local bodybuilding or weight loss fitness coach won’t understand all the intricacies of a hockey workout plan. They may also advise you on routines that will only improve your muscle mass and fitness while hampering your overall performance.
When you have your timetable sorted, keeping workouts fresh by switching up exercises once in a while, changing your jogging routes, and so on. It would help if you also tried working out at different times during the day or splitting that 40-minute routine into smaller 15-minute chunks. If you need some help with variation, you can use apps to find new exercise variations that align with your overall timetable.
So, if you have HIIT on the menu, you can use an app to find some HIIT routines that can fill out the period. There are a ton of these apps on both the iOS and Android platforms. Look over a few and choose a couple you can work with.
As a hockey player, you can embrace tons of exercises and routines to maintain peak fitness and ensure excellent performance out on the ice. You need to create a clear cut timetable based on these drills and exercises, ensuring a proper balance between the major categories above. This way, you won’t only rely on practice games to improve fitness.
As is the case in most sports, the best and fittest hockey players continue their training off the ice. Regular exercise is the best way to improve explosiveness, fending off challenges, and staying injury-free.
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