Strengthening Exercises for Hockey Players
The sport of ice hockey has always been a common sport within youth athletics and adults alike, especially in the Midwest like Minnesota. Hockey demands a ton from players including teamwork, speed, strength, discipline, and hand-eye coordination. The unique aspect of hockey is that you are skating on ice which requires players to be in a constant squatting position. When you are in a squatting position you are activating your quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, glutes, and abdominal core. Hockey is a game of quick transitions and bursts of speed. Therefore, the iconic quote from Herb Brooks holds true as he was training his 1980 men’s Olympic hockey team, “the legs feed the wolf, gentlemen.”
Ice hockey helps strengthen all areas of the body, but the focus is truly the legs and the core. It’s important to have a strong core to help support your spine. This blog will go through some common ice hockey exercises that you can use to help bring your game to the next level, and ultimately help to keep your spine free from injury. To make it accessible to all athletes these exercises require minimal equipment and can be done off the ice.
Planks: This exercise is more stationary and also referred to as an isometric exercise. First you will start in a prone position on the floor or yoga mat. Then lift upwards so you are balancing on your toes, forearms, and hands. Imagine your legs and spine are a connected straight plank while keeping your buttocks level with the rest of your body. Hold this position while focusing on your breathing and engaging your abdominal core muscles. You can perform this exercise for sets of 10-20 seconds and gradually work up towards 1 minute or longer. This exercise is great for strengthening your abdominal core muscles and stabilizing your lumbar spine.
Box jumps: For this exercise you will be jumping upwards onto a stable box, also referred to as a plyometric box. If you do not have a box, you can use the bottom of stairs or steps. First you will start by standing in front your box with your feet shoulder width apart. Next you will squat downwards while bringing your arms behind you. Then explode upwards with your legs like a compressed spring and swing your arms forward to help you land softly onto the box. Once stabilized simply step down and repeat. This exercise focuses on glutes, quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings. Box jumps are commonly used in plyometric and HIIT exercises due to its explosive technique.
Squat jumps: Squat jumps are similar to box jumps in sense that you are compressing your lower body downwards and then springing upwards with a burst of energy but different because you can quickly repeat without the need of stepping down from a box. Starting with feet shoulder width apart and squatting at the knees with your arms now in front of your chest to help with balance. Shoot upwards and swing your arms above your head for maximum elevation. Then land in the starting position so you are ready for another rep. This exercise also activates your glutes, quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings. Repeat this exercise as tolerated for sets of 30 seconds to 1 minutes with breaks in-betweens.
Lunges: Lunges are a great exercise as it has many variations to meet your specific workout. The basic lunge involves standing upright with your arms resting on your hips or out to the side for balance. Start with your dominate side with that leg taking a step forward and your back leg remaining in place. Continue bending both knees until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and you back thigh is perpendicular to the ground. You should end with your back knee a few inches above the ground. Most of your weight should be on your front foot and both knees should end being bent at a 90-degree angle. If you are having difficulty getting the correct alignment you might be taking your initial step too far forward or not forward enough. Once completed, return to the upright position and repeat with the opposite leg. As mentioned, this exercise has a ton of variations. When performing a lunge you can hold dumbbells at your sides or hold a barbell with or without weights on your shoulders. There are lunges you can perform off to the side rather than forward. These side lunges will target more of your inner thighs. Overall lunges target your glutes, quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings.
Burpees: The final exercise is a burpee. This exercise combines a squat jump and a plank. You will start in the same position as a squat jump but instead of springing back upwards after you land you will squat slightly lower and place your hands flat on the ground in front of you between your legs. In the same motion you will kick your feet backwards behind you into a planking position but only on your hands and toes. While in the planking position tighten your abdominal core muscles. Once activated, kick your feet forward and push upwards on your hands back into a squatting position to repeat the cycle. This exercise is more involved so take it slow at first and focus on your form and the landing points of your hands and feet. For a more intense burpee variation you can add in a full push up while on your hands and toes before returning to the squatting position. This exercise encompasses multiple muscles groups such as your upper and lower extremities, abdominal core, and chest.
These are some exercises that you can use to help strengthen and protect your spine and legs, while also giving you a competitive edge the next time you are sprinting for a loose puck or skating past the defender for a breakaway goal.