Strength and power training for hockey
Do you struggle to keep up on the ice?
Does your belly get in the way when doing up your hockey pants?
Is your shot just not what it used to be?
Well, getting stronger and more powerful can help.
Let’s be real…
There is nothing more awesome than watching Connor McDavid rip down the ice,
Or Tom Wilson lay out some poor soul,
Or Shea Weber take a clapper from the point.
These movements are all expression of strength and power.
These guys exert high levels of force and do it at lightning speed.
That’s what power is all about.
When you look at the best athletes in the world, there is no doubt that they can produce high amounts of strength and power.
That’s why we wanted to write this article.
To show you how you can take your game to the next level by increasing your speed,
Your movement on the ice,
And your strength on the boards.
Whether you’re a seasoned weekend warrior that wants to be a little stronger,
someone just looking to get back in the game,
Or even someone looking to use hockey to shed some pounds,
This one’s for you.
Why strength and power?
This is about to get a little nerdy…so stay with me.
Strength lays the foundation for power.
Power is the almighty quality.
It can help you skate harder,
And make plays quicker.
If you remember from grade 11 physics, power is a function of force and velocity.
P = F x V
The force (F) component is strength,
Since strength is the amount of force that can be produced by a muscle or a group of muscles.
So, if you make your F (strength) greater
Then your power will go up.
P = F x V
One of the factors that makes us stronger is the size of your muscles.
Take a look at Sydney Crosby’s tree trunk legs and tell me those aren’t for real.
The increased cross-sectional area allows for more force production.
So, again, force goes up and then power goes up.
When power goes up,
So too does performance.
A second factor that increases strength is simply the ability of the muscle to lift heavy weights.
Guess how you do that?
You got it….Lift heavy weights.
Heavy weights call upon a whole lot more muscle.
When that muscle gets called upon to produce more force,
It gets better at producing more force.
Once again, the “F” in the equation goes up.
And so too does performance.
One final thing to increase power for hockey performance is to actually train for power.
Since there is a “V” (Speed) in that power equation, hockey players need to do quick, explosive actions.
These explosive actions make the muscles better at overcoming resistance (strength or force, F) in less time.
More force in less time = better athletes.
Training for strength and power
We are going to break down this section into two parts – training for strength and training for power.
Each section will include hockey-relevant movements to optimize the development of each quality.
As mentioned above, in order to increase the “F” in the power equation, you need to lift weights.
Even if you’re doing bodyweight stuff, that’s fine!
You just have to use challenging variations that make you tired in the desired rep ranges.
When lifting weights, it’s best to focus on movement patterns that most likely relate to the sport and help prepare the tissues for what is inherent in the game.
Movement 1: push
The first type of movement is a push.
This is an upper body movement that uses the likes of the chest and shoulders as well as the triceps on the back of the arms.
Strong pushing strength can contribute to a stronger clapper from the point and being able to hold your own on the boards.
A few moves to perform for pushing strength include
Dumbbell bench press
Barbell bench press
Movement 2: pull
Pulling strength is essential for balancing out the legs as you skate.
Strong pulling strength in your arms can even make you skate harder…
Increased arm action = more powerful skating.
A couple moves to do for pulling strength include:
Movement 3: Hinge
The lower body needs to be strong to be able to skate fast.
The hinging movements strengthen the glutes and hamstrings on the backside of the body that can make or break your skating speed.
And having strong glutes and hamstrings is not only essential for hockey power, but it also helps in life,
Helping to prevent back pain and injuries,
Knee pain and injuries,
And helping you have the strength to keep up with your kids.
Plus, the core involvement in big exercises like deadlifts and squats closely mimic the demands of hockey.
Here’s what we mean:
When putting force into the ice, some of that force comes from the arms.
The core needs to be strong in order to transfer that force from the arms to the legs.
Plus, a strong core helps ensure that the force you produce gets applied directly into the ice.
A strong core prevents force leaks in your body that can make you slower and less powerful.
The hinge motions integrate core engagement with high force outputs in the hips and legs.
Sounds a lot like hockey to me.
Two of our favourite hinging movements include:
Movement 4: Squat
A good squat is a great way to not only get your legs strong and powerful but much like the deadlift, a great way to integrate some high-level core activation into your training.
Which really lends itself to hockey performance.
It’s not like your core just sits still while your putting force into the ice.
Your core is getting worked.
And the squat is no different.
Here are some squat options you can use:
Movement 5: single-leg
We wrote extensively about single-leg exercise here.
Much of what happens in sport happens on one foot.
Pushing off the ice,
The kickback Crosby deke
Don’t get me wrong, getting strong on two feet is important,
But getting strong on one foot is essential when training specifically for the demands of hockey.
Here are a few single-leg options you can use:
Getting more powerful
Again, strength lays the foundation for power.
Increasing your strength increases your power by means of the equation:
P = F x V
So, a bigger F means a bigger P.
But, to really increase your power, it’s beneficial to train the specific quality of power.
And that requires doing things fast and explosively.
It’s fun to move heavy weight.
But it’s even more fun to be quick,
That’s where power training comes in.
We’ll talk about three ways to train for power
Method 1: Throw stuff
Taking clappers from the point,
Rotating to change direction on the ice,
And giving a hard pass right on the tape,
Requires both upper body and rotational power.
These qualities are specific to hockey in that they happen in the same plane and in the same direction as what you see on the ice.
Here’s some great throwing drills to increase your upper body and rotational power
Rotational chest pass
Underhand scoop toss
Method 2: jump
When it comes to developing power for the lower body.
There is nothing quite like jumping exercises.
Some people call these “plyos”.
For our purposes today, what is typically referred to as “plyos” will be referred to as “jumps”.
Jumping exercises that closely resemble the skating stride,
Or that train the legs to develop power quickly and efficiently are the cornerstone of a hockey player’s bag of tricks.
Here are some awesome jumping exercises for hockey:
Method 3: complex training
The final installment in our power training arsenal is not an exercise but a method of training.
Honestly, this is the big daddy of power training.
It combines two highly effective methods of training for power and puts them into one super-training method.
It’s called complex training.
Complex training combines strength training with power training.
Here’s what you do:
Take a strength movement….deadlifts for example.
Take a power movement that uses a similar pattern of movement.
In this case, the broad jump is the hyperactive, ADHD-cousin of the deadlift..so use that.
You’ll do a heavy set of 3-5 deadlifts,
Rest 2 or more minutes,
Then do the power movement for 3-5 reps.
What happens is through a series of complicated physiological processes,
The broad jump will be potentiated and you will be able to jump further as a result of the prior strength movement.
How cool is that?
Another name for it is actually “post-activation potentiation” in that the strength movement potentiates the power movement.
Another way to use the complex training method is in the upper body.
Perform a heavy bench press movement.
Rest 2 or more minutes.
Then perform a rotational medicine ball throw.
The bench press will increase the power production of the throw.
So, to really take your power to the next level,
Combine your strength moves with your power moves,
And watch that power go to the peak.
We would be remiss if we didn’t give you some sort of outline to set up your workouts from one phase to the next.
Workouts need to change but the change needs to be structured and purposeful.
As in, the previous phase should set you up for the next phase and the current phase should be a progression of the previous phase.
This is a process known as periodization.
Another way to look at periodization is that it’s just structured variation in your programming.
So, to make your life simple and easy, we’ll break down what your off-season training should look like starting in April and ending in September.
In the very early off-season (April) you can do an introductory phase. An introductory phase would use 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps for strength movements and 1-2 sets of 3-5 reps for power movements.
In the early off-season (May-June) you can do a building phase. A building phase would use 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for strength movements and 1-2 sets of 3-5 reps for power movements.
In the late off-season (July-august) you can do a strength phase. A strength phase would use 4-5 sets of 3-5 reps for strength moves and 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps for power moves.
In the late off-season/pre-season (September-October) you can throw down a power phase. A power phase would combine the strength and power movements using complex training.
So you would do heavy sets of strength movements followed by quick and explosive power movements. Include 1-2 complex pairs per workouts. With the rest of your workout, use the “strength phase” guidelines but with a little lower volume – 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps for strength moves.
So, to summarize all this:
April = 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps (strength), 1-2 sets of 3-5 reps (power)
May-june = 3-4 sets or 8-12 reps (strength), 1-2 sets of 3-5 reps (power)
July-August = 4-5 sets or 3-5 reps (strength), 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps (power)
Sept-October = complex training for 1-2 exercise pairs per workout, 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps for the rest of your exercises.
And just so we’re clear, here is a sample workout for September-October
Sumo deadlift 3 x 4 paired with broad jump 3 x 5 (2 mins between exercises and 2 minutes rest after complex)
Feet-elevated push-up vs bands 3 x 4 paired with Goblet split squat 3 x 4 per side
Dumbbell chest-supported row 3 x 4 paired with swiss ball deadbug 3 x 8 per side
Bench press 3 x 4 paired with Medicine ball rotational chest pass 3 x 5 (2 mins between exercises and 2 minutes rest after complex)
Chin-up 3 x 4 paired with Front squat 3 x 4
Goblet cross-over step-up 3 x 6-8 paired with suitcase carry 3 x 30s per side
Whether you want to take your game to the next level,
Take your frame to the next level,
Or make your day-to-day life more fun and enjoyable,
Use the strategies in this article to add some strength and power to your training.
And if you want some help,
You can always check out our Highlight Reel Hockey Academy.
We not only take the guesswork out of your workouts,
But we’ll also coach you on how to move properly and eat right to make the gains on and off the ice that you’ve always wanted.
So, if you’re a former hockey player that wants to use hockey to get back in shape,
This program is for you.