5 Hockey Speed Training Tips

This is a guest post from Kevin Neeld

In my 18 years as a player and on-ice instructor and now as an off-ice specialist, I have seen countless players get cut and/or lose their competitive edge because they can’t keep up with the speed at that current level. While everyone’s speed potential is a little different, the truth is that every player can improve his/her speed if they train the right way. Below are 5 off-ice training tips to help you develop game-changing speed on the ice!

 Tip # 1: Focus on Short Distances (10-15 yards)

Hockey is a game of quick bursts of speed and changes of direction. It’s more about acceleration and deceleration than max speed. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you win the race around the rink; it matters that you win the race from the front of the net to the corner. Short distance sprints will help you develop an explosive first step and powerful leg drive, two key components in improving acceleration. The body positions during these distances also more directly replicate the forward lean or “acceleration angle” that you want on the ice, meaning there’ll be better transfer.

 Tip # 2: Train Quick Movement NOT Quick Feet

One of the first things every player is taught is to look at the chest of his/her opponent. This allows you to better track the player and not get mesmerized by puck movement, which will give you a better opportunity to separate the player from the puck. As a necessary byproduct of this, it means that the offender would be more dangerous if they were able to displace their trunk faster. In reality, this is just another definition of speed, but it contrasts the idea of “quick feet” being important. Many of the world’s fastest skaters don’t have quick feet. They have powerful strides. In contrast, I’ve seen a ton of players that move their feet really quickly, but don’t move very fast. When most people say they want quick feet, they really mean that they want speed (or acceleration, as noted above). It’s not just semantics; understanding the difference will affect your training. For example, many players default to using agility ladders as a means of developing quick feet, and they will. But the next time you’re around someone doing agility ladders, watch their chest as you would on the ice. It barely moves at all, and most people stare at their feet while they go through to make sure they’re placing their feet in the correct places. Quick feet, but not moving very fast and staring down-not exactly the best habits to develop! Tap dancers need quick feet. Hockey players need powerful legs. Toss your quick feet exercises in favor of some resistance training and your on-ice speed will skyrocket.

 Tip # 3: Don’t Confuse Speed Work with Conditioning

Explosive; not tired. That’s what I tell all the players I work with. Most players are taught to sprint, jog back to the starting line and sprint again. Unfortunately, this practice is very counter-productive. The goal of speed training (or acceleration training) is to perform maximal efforts to improve the maximal capacity of that physical quality. It is physiologically impossible to perform at your max if you don’t give your body adequate rest. Maximal efforts deplete stores of two substrates called ATP and Phosphocreatine that help rapidly produce energy. Max efforts also put a strain on your nervous system, which is a driving force in producing speed and power. All of these things need adequate time to recover between sprints. As a general rule, you’ll want to rest about a minute between sprints of 10-15 yards. You’re breathing should be fully recovered before you start the next rep, so if you feel like you need time to catch your breath, take it! Just keep reminding yourself, the goal is to increase MAXIMAL capacity through all-out efforts. If you’re breathing heavy through your sprints, you’re officially conditioning, not speed training.

 Tip # 4: Incorporate Lateral Starts

Hockey is not a linear sport. Even when players skate in a straight line, their legs are driving on a 45 degree angle to the side and their arms are swinging in a somewhat diagonal line. This is the major pitfall of simply stealing a track and field sprint program and applying it to hockey; it’s the correct preparation for the wrong sport. One way to make your speed training more hockey-specific is to incorporate lateral starts. These teach explosive leg drive in lateral/diagonal directions, very similar to what you need to do on the ice. A few examples are the side lunge(pictured below), lateral standing, lateral standing on outside leg, and lateral standing on inside leg.

 Tip # 5: Progress to Transitional Patterns

Building on the ideas of multi-directional movement and explosive direction changes, you can progress your speed training to include what I call transitional speed exercises. With these, you can transition in direction and/or movement pattern. These allow you to directly replicate many of the body positions and transitional movements that can make or break your expression of speed on the ice. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. 5-Yard Lateral Shuffle -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
  2. 5-Yard Backward Shuffle -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
  3. 5-Yard Lateral Back Pedal -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
  4. 5-Yard Forward Back Pedal -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
  5. 5-Yard Forward Sprint-> 5-Yard Backward Back Pedal -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint

Note that all of these are still performed within 20 yards of total distance, and most are within 15. The goal with these is to focus on being explosive through the starts AND transitions.

Following these tips will help you make more progress in less time and ensure that you’re off-ice training transfers to on-ice results. If you have any questions, feel free to post them below. If you’re interested in more tips like this, I encourage you to check out the three FREE hockey training videos available at http://Ultimate-Hockey-Training.com, which cover transitional speed training for hockey, hockey conditioning, and complete off-ice hockey training.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld is the President, COO, and Director of Athletic Development of Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ and the author of Ultimate Hockey Training, the most comprehensive off-ice training resource available today. Through the creative application of innovative training and injury prevention techniques, Kevin specializes in guiding athletes to optimal health and performance. For more information on training with Kevin, visit http://KevinNeeld.com

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Hi my name is Jeremy Rupke. My goal is to break every hockey skill down into easy to understand articles and videos. I explain everything step-by-step to help others improve. I'm active on Instagram, Facebook and more, you can follow through the links above.
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  1. Reply Jonn January 26, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    My 13 year old is the fastest on his hockey team peewee A. He can fly north to south. The coaches always say he needs to improve his lateral movement and stickhandling. They feel doing that, he has unlimited potential. Does your e-books help in improving lateral movement? Thanks for you time. Jonn

  2. Reply Abhinav July 23, 2012 at 11:04 am


    For this past month I’ve been doing the above excersises to increase my speed. I have seen some minor changes. My question is, when I am doing these excersises I don’t really feel I can push myself since the excersises are in short distances. Is there a way I can change this?

    • Reply Kevin Neeld November 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Hi Abhinav, It’s important to remember that you’re training maximum acceleration and deceleration with these exercises, NOT maximum speed. There will definitely be a transfer between the two, but the reason you’re feeling like you don’t have enough time/room to reach your full speed is because you don’t. There is a lot more to speed training than simply doing sprints. In order to move faster, you have to put more force into the ground, and do so faster. These qualities rely heavily on strength training and any training that makes the body more reactive (plyometrics, Olympic lifts, traditional lifting exercises with an emphasis on moving quickly). Hope this makes sense.

    • Reply Jeremy August 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

      The trick is to really push yourself, you need to put as much power into those short workouts as you can, take a quick break and then re-peat.

  3. Reply Jarod Palmer February 21, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Really liked the article. Very good point about the difference between speed work and conditioning. Well done Kevin.

    • Reply Kevin Neeld November 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Thanks Jarod. Always appreciate the feedback!

  4. Reply Erin February 15, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Another good way to increase your speed is to drop your hips anywhere from 2-5 inches, which will allow you to have a longer stride. You also should bend your ankles, because that will automatically put you in a good hockey stance. Then all you have to do is practice:)

    • Reply Kevin Neeld November 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      Erin, Great points. This works for a lot of players, especially novices that haven’t internalized their skating depth yet. While this is somewhat rare, it’s worth noting that “deeper” isn’t always better. For each player, there is an “optimal” skating depth that they should learn, and as you mentioned, practice…a lot!

  5. Reply IPv6Freely January 31, 2012 at 12:11 am

    But what about speed in general? I mean, for the player who is downright SLOW…

    • Reply Kevin Neeld November 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      As I mentioned in a comment above, there is a lot more to speed training than simply doing sprints. Sprints are just one piece of the picture. That’s the problem with quick articles like this; it’s easily digested information, but it can often leave people with the wrong impression. Even phases of our program where speed is the top priority, traditional sprint work still only comprises about 15 minutes of the roughly 90 minutes the athletes are with me. The other components of the program (soft-tissue work, mobility exercises, plyometrics, med ball throws, olympic lifting variations, core training, resistance training, conditioning, etc.) may not LOOK like speed training, but all the work is complimentary. I talk a lot about this stuff in these videos: http://ultimate-hockey-training.com/

  6. Reply Drillsetc December 1, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Kevin Neeld always provides great information.

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