Six Reasons Hockey Players Need Grip Strength

A critical observation I have made through the years of working with thousands of hockey athletes and networking with some of the top coaches in the industry is just how often handgrip strength is made an afterthought in program design.

Athletes and coaches disregard the importance of handgrip strength and don’t understand what unique benefits it offers the hockey athlete, and how grip training translates itself out on the ice.

Today, I want to point out in very clear terms why grip strength is essential for hockey training program design and outline exactly what you can do today to start taking advantage of this hidden performance booster.

#1: First Messenger

The body follows the hands, the hands don’t follow the body.

From the messages the nervous system sends to your body, it actually thinks your hands are gigantic.

How?

Neurally speaking, the hands contain more than twice the number of nerve endings than other areas of your body.
When you exercise and train your hands to increase their grip strength, you are, in fact, help to conditioning your nervous system as well.

This nerve force conduction is a fundamental component of athletic performance and is definitely a massive factor in both your shot power and shot release speed.

#2: Functional Strength

Our strength doesn’t mean much if we can’t use any of it.

Meaning, a lot of you think you’re strong…but you need lifting straps in order to try and demonstrate this strength.

This isn’t strength, this is assisted strength.

With very strong hands, you will make your physical strength and power more useable out on the ice (which will improve your performance) and the gym (which will improve your performance as a by-product of having higher quality workout sessions).

With stronger hands, you will be able to lift heavier weights using your back, legs, shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings — all incredibly important muscle groups for optimal hockey performance.

This is all very important to care about because what stops so many hockey athletes from getting bigger and stronger is their grip strength, and NOT the strength/power they can generate from these muscle groups.

Their inability to create an optimal training stimulus on these muscle groups from their weak hands is what holds them back, and adding straps to it doesn’t help because you can’t use this assisted strength in an athletic environment.

Put another way, if your legs and back can generate 400 pounds of force, but your hands can only generate 300 pounds…then in the real world you will only generate 300 pounds.

You will be cut off because your hands lead the body, and no the other way around.

Unfortunate, but true.

#3: Increased Muscle Activation

Through the nerve endings in your hands, you are able to stimulate the entire nervous system to contract more muscle fibers than it otherwise would have.

We have seen in the research that if you grip something very hard before you exert force, you are able to generate more force due to more muscle fibers being activated.

For example, if you grip a barbell very hard before you start your set, you can “stimulate” the nervous system to allow you to generate more force.

More grip strength = More muscle fiber stimulation for the entire body, not just the hands.

#4: Recovery Capacity

Due to the fiber distribution and capillary density of the hands, they have an extremely high recovery capacity compared to other muscle groups of the body.

For example, compare the soreness of your legs after some leg days to the soreness you get in your hands the day or two after some grip work.

Completely different right?

Your legs can have agonizing soreness, whereas you have probably never even had soreness in your hands in your life.

We can efficiently put this to practice as that means handgrip work is applicable both in-season and off-season, whereas, things like ten sets of ten of squats is something you would never even fathom during the season.

When you can train something that will impact all of the above (and below!) factors towards hockey performance and not pay nearly as a high of a penalty for fatigue management, why wouldn’t you do more grip work?

#5: Shot Power + Shot Release Time

Actions such as passing, wrist shots, and snapshots are almost exclusively a result of the amount of force you can generate within your hands, forearms, and upper arms.

Because of this, enhanced grip work will have a very obvious transfer to enhanced performance in these areas.

But, the slap shot is a much larger movement that incorporates the lats to a very large degree.

Luckily for us, one of the best bang for the buck shot power exercises in the entire game is the wide-grip pronated lat pull-up. And, almost everybody’s weak point within this movement is their grip strength and not their lat strength.

So, with more grip/forearm training we can have an immediate impact on our passing, wrist shots, and snapshots — but, when we get a stronger grip we are also now able to perform more pull ups which will have an immediate impact on our slap shot power.

With something as small and simple as added grip work, we create a ripple effect on all things shot power and shot release time.

#6: Self-Defense

Although we don’t condone or encourage fighting here at Hockey Training, your handgrip strength is something that can truly make or break your ability to win a fight out on the ice.

Without going into details behind the muscle physiology here, the stronger you can make your hands, the better chance you have to defend yourself if the time ever comes for you.

Final Thoughts

Hockey athletes need strong hands!

There is no way around it, and yet it is something you almost never see in the so-called “hockey specific” programs you see online.

Training your hands is one of the easiest training “hacks” you could ever start incorporating in order to have a total body hockey performance benefit.

Beyond this, you’ll also find you’ll have a lot of fun in the process. I always had fun training my hands and feeling from week to week how much lighter everything felt when I gripped it.

Although, just like all things in strength and conditioning, there is a smart way and a not-so-smart way to approach your handgrip training program design.

That’s why I created the Lighting The Lamp Hockey Training Program

This is a multi-month hockey specific handgrip strength program that is guaranteed to improve your shot power.

The best part?

It can be added to any program you’re currently doing right now, whether it’s the in-season or not.

Don’t let another day go by where you’re not taking advantage of all these benefits at such a low fatigue cost, get instant access today

About the author

Dan Garner

Dan (or Coach Garner) is the head strength and conditioning coach and nutritional specialist at HockeyTraining.com. He holds 12 of the top certifications in both training and nutrition, as well as a formal education in both functional medicine and health science. Dan specializes in hockey performance, having worked with hundreds of athletes from the youth leagues, right up to juniors, AHL, KHL, and NHL.

2 Comments

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  • Hi Dan,

    Thank you for the insightful article.

    My grip strength is currently too weak to lift heavier (dead lifts, single leg DB squat work etc) and to stimulate the right muscle groups for strength purposes I have to use straps. If lifting without straps I could not go heavy enough for the 3-6 repetition range. How can I at the same time develop grip strength and targeted muscle groups without using straps? Perhaps in-season is good to start but having said that I lack grip strength and endurance when going for longer reps in order to stimulate the primarily targeted muscle groups.

    What is the best way of developing grip strength without sacrificing too much of weight on the heavier dead lifts, DB single leg work etc.? I just bought your grip strength program and am incorporating that in my in-season training schedule.

    Thanks,

    OP

    • Hey there,

      1. Use the straps for your heavier work in order to effectively target the 3-6 rep range, this is fine for now.

      2. The best way to develop grip strength is to do post-workout grip work, which is EXACTLY what you will be doing with the Lighting The Lamp Hockey Training program. This will bring your grip strength up over time and then you will reach a point where you don’t need straps any more. 💪