I better bring some heavy hitting material today if I’m going to open with a headline like that, shouldn’t I?
Well, don’t worry about it. I got you covered.
Today, I want to discuss the findings of some hockey performance research done within the Journal of Strength and Conditioning in 2010.
Specifically, what type of exercises you can begin today that will have an immediate impact towards your on-ice skating performance, resisted sprints.
For those who don’t like diving into the research and just want brass tacks, let me tell you how it was conducted, who was involved, and what the results were.
Who: Eleven competitive ice hockey players from the English National League
How: The researchers utilized two different groups (Groups A and B we will call them) of hockey players and had measured all of their pre-intervention 25m sprint speed times.
Once a base sprint time was evaluated, Group A was to undergo a 10s heavy resisted sprint on-ice, whereas Group B was to simply rest during this time. Afterwards, Group B’s second sprint time did not change from their initial sprint time. But, that group who performed the heavy resisted on-ice sprints (Group A) did improve their on-ice sprint time and was also statiscally faster than Group B.
When the numbers were crunched, Group A improved their 25m sprint time by 2.6% with the execution of a single exercise. Don’t belittle that 2.6%, every last percent counts, 2.6% could be the difference between you getting the puck or not, you getting a goal or not, or you getting flattened into the boards or not.
2.6% is all you need against a same skill and ability opponent, I’ll take 2.6% all day. Especially when it includes immediate gratification.
On-Ice Hockey Speed Training
So, what’s the application here?
What can we do today to start getting faster?
Well, I’ve been saying that resisted sprints work for years, on or off the ice. On the ice, I’ll have my athletes perform a band resisted sprint drill, something like this:
Partner assisted on-ice resistance sprint: Start at the goal line, wrap a band around your waist and have a partner resist your sprint until the first blueline and then he lets go and you keep sprinting until the next blue line
5 x 1 with 75secs rest
That is an excellent on-ice drill to maximize your speed development within your speed workouts. Going from resistance into free-motion has athletes completely explode after the blue line.
Off-Ice Hockey Speed Training
Beyond the on-ice work, I take this training application off the ice. If you have been following me or following my programs, you know I am a fan of using sleds/prowlers during speed and conditioning work, and also a fan of the Contrast Method as we get later into the offseason in order to start maximizing speed and power output to peak the athletes for camps, tryouts, or the season.
Sled work, prowler work, and the Contrast Method all follow these similar principles. Take yourself from an externally, heavy loaded movement and then follow suit with a totally unloaded, body weight movement.
This type of off-ice work translates directly towards your on-ice speed, I’ve been doing this too long and have worked with too many (hundreds) hockey players for anybody to tell me otherwise. These tools are not only for conditioning, as most coaches use them, these tools are definitely applicable towards improving your acceleration and top speed capacity.
Here’s a couple examples of some exercises you can use in the off-ice training world (I’m assuming you have a greater access to grass than ice. If not, I’m surprised you have a computer with a working internet connection):
Partner assisted off-ice resistance sprint: Start at a pre-determined line, wrap a band around your waist and have a partner resist your sprint until the 15yd mark and then he lets go and you keep sprinting until the 25yd mark.
5 x 1 with 75secs rest –(Exact same idea as the on-ice sprint here)
Sled drag into sprint: Load a sled up with a light amount of weight, this should ideally never exceed 10% of your bodyweight for this type of purpose (speed/power development). Get in front of the sled and use straps or a TRX attachment so you can sprint forwards and hold the sled by two handles with your hands behind your body. Sprint as fast as you can dragging the sled until the sled hits the 10yd mark, where then your partner yells “DROP!” and you drop the handles into a free sprint for an additional 15yds.
8 x 1 with 75secs rest
The tools used here can be many and the exercise variations can be endless as well. I tend to go really easy with the speed work early in the offseason (0-1 session per week depending on the athlete) and progressively build the athlete up to extreme speed levels as the offseason progresses (up to 4 speed-only sessions per week, plus hockey specific Contrast Method work in the gym) and the principle of specificity gets a lot more narrow as the season starts to close in on us.