"What are the top five exercises to get faster for hockey in your opinion?"
It's a question I get asked all the time. Since this is such a common question, I figured I'd put together an article detailing five great methods I use with my players to improve their skating speed.
1. Squats and Deadlifts
The easiest speed gains for beginners come from heavy multi-joint lower-body strength exercises. Bilateral barbell variations of Squats and Deadlifts should be a staple in any hockey player's off-ice regimen.
Barbell Squats and Trap Bar Deadlifts are our most common leg strength exercises, but we rotate between several variations of each. These variations include Front, Back, Box and Pin Squats, and Sumo, Trap Bar and Block Deadlifts.
We also do lots of single-leg exercises in both movement patterns to develop unilateral strength in the quads, hamstrings and glutes for a more powerful skating stride.
2. Power Cleans
I know some coaches will disagree with me, but we don't do heavy direct overhead lifts. Why? Because many hockey players lack the requisite thoracic and shoulder mobility for safe execution. Plus, hockey is a sport where the shoulders take a beating from heavy contact all the time. No need to aggravate the situation with our off-ice training.
Our preferred Olympic lift is the Power Clean from a hang position. Depending on the training age and lifting technique of an athlete, we also perform them from the floor or off blocks to induce a slightly different training stimulus.
While Power Cleans aren't potentially as problematic on the joints as Jerks or Power Snatches, lack of wrist mobility could become an issue when catching a Clean. In that case, stick to Clean Pulls and Clean High Pulls. In fact, I believe you could drop the catch from Power Cleans altogether and still experience many of the same benefits a full Power Clean has to offer (although that's a topic for another day).
One caveat about Olympic lifts, though. They're not for everyone. If you're young, have good mobility and access to quality coaching, you can do them. Got none of those things? Then stick to methods three and four below. You'll get similar speed gains while saving your joints and a ton of time you'd otherwise spend working on mobility and lifting form.
Lifting weights is only one part of the speed equation. For maximal speed development, you also need low-resistance, high-velocity movements.
Jumps, especially horizontal and lateral single-leg variations, are an excellent method for improving elasticity and change-of-direction speed that transfers over to skating.
Just don't overdo jump exercises. You can cause a lot of joint damage if you don't control jump technique and volume (defined as number of foot contacts per session and per week).
4. Change-of-Direction and Agility Drills
Because hockey is a multidirectional sport with fast stops and starts, running in a straight line alone won't maximize game speed. For that, you need also change-of-direction speed and agility exercises.
Some great examples of these include:
- Cone Drills
- Tennis Ball Reaction Drills
- Reactive Agility Drills
None of the exercises mentioned above will help much if your skating technique resembles that of a waddling Donald Duck.
To really boost your skating speed, you must skate. A lot. That includes multidirectional sprinting on the ice, as well as dedicated edge work and skating technique drills with a skating coach to maximize power, posture, balance, crossovers, cutting, etc.
Summing up, skating speed development requires a multifaceted approach both on and off the ice.
Many hockey players use just one or two of the five methods listed here. Knowing that your opponents leave plenty of gains on the table by being lazy and unfocused with their training gives you a terrific advantage when working on becoming the best skater you can be.
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