In the strength and conditioning world, it’s very rare that you ever have “constants” in application. Meaning, you shouldn’t try to make all squares fit into a circle.
We are all unique in our biochemical and biomechanical make-up and should be treated as such.
But in most cases, this refers slightly more to the program design structure itself through individual prescriptions for volume, intensity, and frequency needs – and not necessarily through exercise selection.
In a nutshell, the body has 7 primary movements that should be in your program in one way or another all the time:
- Vertical pulling (Chin ups, pull ups, lat pull down)
- Horizontal pulling (BB row, chest supported row, T-bar row, seated cable row)
- Vertical pushing (DB shoulder press, BB shoulder press)
- Horizontal pushing (DB bench press, BB bench press)
- Posterior chain loading (Deadlifts, snatch grip deadlifts, GHR, snatch grip 45-degree low back ext.)
- Some squatting variation (BB back squat, BB front squat, DB goblet squat, hack squat)
- Abdominals (V-Ups, reverse crunch, hanging leg raises, side V’s)
Those exercises shouldn’t be viewed as a “do these only” list of movements, just some common examples I use in my programming on a regular basis.
Those exercises also obviously are in reference to your resistance training work, and not your speed, agility, or conditioning which all include many bodyweight-only movements as well as medicine ball work.
Since the uniqueness of a hockey training program is mostly in reference to the application of volume, intensity, and frequency – this gives me an excellent opportunity to clue you in on what are some of the most beneficial exercises possible for hockey players.
Exercise #1: Bulgarian Split Squats
Bulgarian Split Squat (Iso Hold Variation)
The Bulgarian Split Squat is an exercise that I have been using with my hockey players for years, simply because it checks so many performance-based and injury-prevention based boxes for hockey players.
Underdeveloped VMO from a long in-season?
Tight hips from always being in hip flexion out on the ice?
Tight calves from being stuck in a skate boot for the last six months?
Tight groin from an imbalance in on-ice skating work and minimal structural balance training?
Knee pain from a structurally imbalanced quad and overly tight IT band?
One leg stronger and more explosive than the other?
Need to get faster, more conditioned, and prevent more injuries?
The Bulgarian split squat checks all these boxes, not to mention it’s also a GREAT exercise for traditional lower body strength and muscle building purposes as well.
You’re hard-pressed to find any exercise with that is as well-rounded and as hockey-specific as the Bulgarian split squat.
That being said, if you have pain doing this movement or you don’t have the mobility to properly do it, here’s the progression you would want to go through:
Weeks 1-3: Front foot elevated DB split squats.
Weeks 4-6: Standard DB split squats.
Weeks 7-9: DB Bulgarian split squats.
Using this progression, you will build the necessary strength and mobility required to eventually be able to safely perform the Bulgarian split squat – and therefore get the benefits of this superstar in the hockey training world.
Exercise #2: Sprint Variations
Push Up Sprint Variation
Utilizing many different sprint variations within your speed and conditioning programming is something that is going to have a direct transfer over to the ice when incorporated properly.
I want you to think outside the box here as well, I utilize over a dozen different sprint variations in the speed and conditioning programming here at HockeyTraining.com. Here are a few that are great for hockey players:
Back Pedal Sprints
Back Pedal Sprints help train defensemen to be able to better explode into a forward stride and more efficiently overcome the inertia of their backward momentum.
Horizontal Single Leg Start Sprints
The Horizontal Single Leg Start Sprints teach athletes to be more explosive and energy efficient with their lateral skating strides and also (since you switch legs every set) eliminates you always having a “dominant leg”. Now you’re explosive no matter where you are or what foot is planted on the ice.
Horizontal Cross Over Sprints
The Horizontal Cross Over Sprints effectively mimics the standing rotational power and movement skills that so many wingmen use when receiving a pass from the defense in their own end before turning around and skating as fast as possible out of the zone.
All of these examples (and many more) in combination with the fact that sprints allow you to train the exact anaerobic energy systems you will be using out on the ice for your sport specific speed and conditioning make it a must for any logical hockey training program.
If this wasn’t enough, utilizing sprint in the offseason as opposed to just always hammering away on laterally based skating movements will pay large dividends towards keeping you structurally balanced and reducing your injury risk.
Remember what I said earlier about hockey athletes having an undeveloped VMO due to the in-season?
This is a direct cause from too much skating, and not enough smart programming to keep us safe.
Knowing this, hockey players need to have a heavy focus in the off-season on developing the VMO with the time that they have before they are back into playing again.
Developing this muscle is going to create a more balanced musculature which will convert itself into a greater ability to be faster and prevent injury.
Sprinting helps this process along as it is not a lateral movement. When thinking movement mechanics and imagining what I’m talking about here, picture where your toes are when you’re skating forward.
They point out slightly to the side as you press your blades into the ice and explode from there, this “toes pointed out” motion is what is creating the imbalance within the quadriceps.
Sprinting, on the other hand, your toes are much more forward – I don’t know anybody who runs like they skate. Except for ducks, they do that.
When running, the toes are pointing forward which recruits much more medialis and hamstring into the movement while still not totally neglecting the lateralis (which is what becomes over-developed and dominant if all you do is repeat the lateral motion all the time).
The difference in muscle recruitment pattern in combination with the sprints force production capabilities is giving us a lot of reasons to start sprinting immediately if you aren’t already.
When you increase a hockey athlete’s ability to create force in locomotion, it will enable him to transfer it into a greater stride length.
Sprinting is one of the most explosive things an athlete can do and when you increase their sprinting speed, you will also be increasing their skating speed. Period.
It’s a rare occasion in strength and conditioning where you can brush a broad stroke across a large audience and say “do this”
But the research behind these movements in combination with the experience I have applying them to hockey athletes completely compels me to write an article such as this. If you’re not doing these movements, you’re missing out.
If you’re looking for more hockey specific exercises that will help your performance out on the ice check out our full programs on our Hockey Training Programs page.