Lower Body Workout for Hockey

Lower body training is very popular in the hockey strength and conditioning world, and for a good reason too. Your lower body is largely responsible for your:

  • Explosive speed
  • Conditioning
  • Strength during puck battles
  • Agility
  • Reducing your risk for a lower-body injury

…among many other factors.

In this article today, I want to show you exactly how you can train the lower body using weights for hockey specific speed development.

Example Lower Body Hockey Workout:

A1: DB Goblet Squat: 4 x 5 – 30 secs rest

A2: BW Box Jump: 4 x 3 – 2 mins rest

B1: BB Good Morning: 4 x 5 – 30 secs rest

B2: BW Broad Jump: 4 x 3 – 2 mins rest

C1: DB Split Squats: 3 x 12  – 30 secs rest

C2: Seated Calf Raises (with a 2-second pause at the bottom): 3 x 15 – 2mins rest

*Perform A, B, and C as supersets with the given rest after each exercise.

In the video demonstration below, Kevin does a couple of extra reps of a few exercises, just to give a good demonstration of the exercises — so make sure you’re checking the reps above and not going exactly from the video.

DB Goblet Squat

The DB goblet squat is a great exercise to target the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, core, and upper back very effectively.

One of my favorite things about the DB goblet squat is its versatility for both beginners and advanced lifters.

If you’re advanced, you can just keep grabbing heavier dumbbells and becoming stronger and stronger.

But, what I really like is how the DB goblet squat improves beginners technique in the squat automatically by correcting their posture.

When you start a beginner with a bar on their back in many cases they feel like they are going to fall backward during the squat, but, when you have them hold something in front of them their back muscles immediately have to turn on in the right way to support that weight.

In turn, they naturally keep a great posture and hit lower depth right away — all while doing an exercise that’s excellent for all-around hockey development.

Box Jump

Box jumps are supersetted with the goblet squat utilizing a contrast method approach to training (more on that below).

Their main utility here is to provide you with an exercise for vertical power development.

I know some of you may be thinking “Isn’t the goblet squat vertical power?”

No, the goblet squat would be considered vertical strength development, especially with that heavy of a load and that low of a rep range.

Power development requires low load, high-velocity movement.  Thus, a bodyweight-only box jump perfectly fits the bill.

We know from sports science literature that vertical power-based exercises are great for explosive starting speed and acceleration — two major components of high-level hockey performance.

This first superset covers both vertical-based strength and power development, keeping you deadly strong on the puck but also explosive whenever you need to be.

Barbell Good Morning

The barbell good morning will kick off the second superset. This exercise is a great way development horizontal strength development by using the bar to really load up the hamstrings and the glutes.

These muscle groups are arguably the most critical muscle groups in the body that need to be strong in order for you to prevent injury risk out on the ice.

Many hockey players have groin, hamstring, knee, and hip issues — all of which originate from having a strength imbalance within these muscle groups.

Use this exercise the give the body the armor it needs to protect itself against injury, not to mention both of these muscle groups are responsible for hip extension, knee flexion, and leg abduction — all important biomechanical movements to improve your stride length out on the ice.

Broad Jump

A broad jump is supersetted with the barbell good morning in a contrast training method as well.

It is set up very similar to the first superset except that the good morning is for horizontal strength development and the broad jump is for horizontal power development.

Horizontal (hip extension) strength and power expression are critical for both top speed and deceleration.

So, now between the first two supersets you have worked on your explosive starting speed, acceleration, top speed, and deceleration — incredibly powerful stuff here.

Some of you may be wondering why deceleration is a good thing, and the answer is very simple, deceleration is the key to improving your agility.

Agility is your stop-start speed, because of this, “stopping” is literally 50% of the equation. You need to have a deceleration strength to be able to stop on the dime and explode in another direction without any energy leaks.

This largely comes from your horizontal power and strength development, which is why we are knocking both of these down within this superset.

Dumbbell Split Squats

If any exercise was going to be touted the “catch-all” exercise for hockey players, it would likely be the split squat.

This exercise strengthens the entire lower body, improves hip mobility, improves ankle mobility, and ensures you don’t have any strength imbalances from your left side to your right side.

I have talked in the past about how it is one of the best lower body exercises in the entire game for hockey players of any level. I have not changed my viewpoint on that for a good reason.

The hockey players who run our programs get results. Period.

Seated Calf Raises

The calves are a knee stabilizer, so it’s important to keep them strong in order to prevent the common knee injury risks associated with hockey players.

Moreover, the calves help improve running performance and running performance helps improve skating performance. Training the calves ensures you don’t have any weak links in the chain alongside this step-by-step process.

In the workout, I recommend doing a 2-second pause in the bottom of the movement because due to a hockey players need to spend so many months of the year stuck in a skating boot it really destroys their ankle mobility and Achilles tendon flexibility.

Holding a pause in the bottom helps break these adhesions up which in turn will improve your movement quality and reduce your injury risk.  

Contrast Training Explained

The concept isn’t new — researchers have been studying it since the 1960s, and strength coaches and athletes have been employing it for at least that long — but I never run out of new applications for it.

I use it at various times, and with various modifications with all of my hockey athletes.

For hockey players, contrast training builds strength and power simultaneously.

It’s a great way to tap into high-threshold motor units for size and strength, I have also used it many times with success as a variation to improve body composition in athletes who need to lose some body fat.

And while you’re accomplishing those objectives, you’re also changing up your workout in a way that’s fun and challenging.

The key to contrast training is what is known as “post-activation potentiation”, or PAP.

PAP represents the idea that the explosive capability of a muscle is enhanced after it’s been forced to perform maximal or near-maximal contractions.

Basically, when you go from moving something heavy and then quickly change to something light (in the same movement pattern), your nervous system supercharges itself with an over-activation of motor units, muscle fibers, motor-unit synchronization, and a decrease in motor unit inhibition (the safety mechanisms of muscle contraction that can prevent you from lifting something heavy if your body deems it as dangerous).  

The easiest way to quantify contrast training is the increase in power you will attain.

When you do an explosive unloaded movement right after a heavy exercise that requires all-out strength, you teach your body to recruit more motor units for tasks like jumping, sprinting, skating, shooting, etc.

For example, moving from a loaded DB goblet squat directly over to a box jump is going to result in greater outputs in the box jump and therefore greater power output increases in your strength which will ultimately carry itself over to hockey for enhanced performance.

Another example you will see of contrast training being played out in real life is how baseball players are always swinging a weighted bat before stepping up to the plate, then when they grab the standard regulation bat, they can swing it harder.

This is how contrast training works if you go from loaded to unloaded, you create a PAP effect within the body.

Contrast training is also very effective for strength and hypertrophy gains. It’s not just a one-trick pony with the enhanced power output (it would be fine if it was a one-trick pony since power is one of the primary drivers for hockey specific speed).

If I had to use a very non-scientific definition, I would say that contrast training is one of the best “bridging the gap” programs you can ever do for athletes who want to translate their gym-strength into performance-strength.

We all know people who can lift heavy in the gym, and yet they struggle tremendously to have that strength translate out on the ice.

Contrast training bridges this gap and helps athletes translate their gym-strength into performance-strength that they can actually use in skating, shooting, and being explosive.

By loading the body vertically and horizontally with weight before unloading it to do box jumps and broad jumps (like you see in this workout), you are creating a PAP effect and therefore getting a higher quality training stimulus.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, training specifically for hockey requires a much deeper knowledge base than just picking a random set of exercises and performing them for random rep ranges.

It should all be very calculated and fit well not just within the workout but within the program and periodization as a whole.

If you’re ready to take your performance to the next level with the most advanced hockey training programming on the planet, join the Hockey Skills Accelerator program today and get instant access to all of the hockey training programming you will ever need to reach your ultimate potential.

Written by
Dan Garner
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