How to Gain On-Ice Speed with Off-Ice Training

how to improve hockey speed NHL article

by Jeremy Rupke on February 22, 2012

By Jarod Palmer, Minnesota Wild Player

Note: HUGE thanks to Jarod for writing this article for How To Hockey. This article is a detailed account of how he got his speed up to NHL standards. If you want to say thanks you can tweet this article and mention him https://twitter.com/#!/palmfisher

I have always been a hockey player with average speed.  As a professional athlete, I am always looking to improve my skill set, especially in finding my way “in” to the NHL. Last season, my coach sat me down and asked me what I thought was keeping me from playing in the NHL.  After a few wrong guesses, he told me that my speed, or lack there of, was not at the NHL level. Despite the amount of training I had done the summer before my rookie year, I had to agree with my coach; I was not fast. There was only one answer…I must have been training wrong.  I began my quest to successfully build speed in the following summer. I changed my training technique and became stronger, faster, and sturdier on my feet than ever before. Here is how I did it.

Changing Your Mind Set

In order to work your muscles “smarter” rather than “harder,” you must:

  1. Switch the focus from your quadriceps to the “back of the leg” muscles. These muscles include your gluteals, hamstrings and calves.
  2.  Shift from two-leg training to single leg training. By doing this you are able to recruit more stabilizer muscles.
  3. Train with little or no weight and focus more on speed than strength.

I’m happy to say that my new techniques paid off.  The very next season, I was noticeably faster and did get my shot in the NHL with the very same coach that gave me the great advice.

 Back of the Legs

Focus your mind on working the gluteals and hamstrings during all of your hockey exercises, especially sprinting and jumping.

  • One way to practice flexing the right muscles is by doing a wall set (sit in a chair-like squat with your back against the wall and hold).  Most likely your quadriceps muscles will begin to burn.  Without changing position, you can relieve the strain on the quads by tightening up your gluteals and hamstrings.
  • Think about sitting in that squat position with someone in front of you trying to pull your feet out from underneath you.  You would automatically flex your hamstring and glute muscles in order to keep your feet beneath you. This is what you want to flex during the exercise.
  • Make sure your weight is not on your toes but rather on your heels.  Try to lift your toes off the ground.  You might feel your lower back begin to pull away from the wall.  Counter this tendency by flexing your core and keep your back flat against the wall.
  • Your hamstrings and glutes should be tight during the entire motion of a squat. Try tapping your fingers against your hamstrings. This will help tell your brain to work those muscles.
  • When you are doing it right, your hamstrings will be hard. Believe me, this is as much of a mental work out as a physical one. It takes practice to get it right.

Wall Sit Video


Having troubles?  Try standing tall.  Now drop into a squat position as fast as you can and hold.  Your body weight should drop faster than gravity can pull you down because your hamstrings flex to pull your body downward.  Continue to flex the hamstrings and fire the glutes on your way up finishing with a slight forward hip thrust – thus forcing the glutes to flex as much as possible.  Getting the right muscles to fire during the squat motion took me several workouts.  Don’t get discouraged if it takes you some time.  Unless you are an Olympic sprinter, you are quad dominant.  You have to retrain your muscles to become “back of the leg dominant” and this takes practice.

 Stablizers

Every time you take a stride you balance on one blade until your other foot recovers.  Thus, single leg balance is key to becoming more stable on skates. Stand with one foot on the ground and do a four to five inch squat.

  • Your free leg should be bent with your foot slightly behind you.  Remember the “back of leg” principals learned above.
  • Your body weight should be over your heel.  To maintain balance, tighten up your core, keep your chest and head up with your arms loose.
  • Try to breath in on your way down and out on your way up.  Now try to do the same squat with no shoes on.
  • Progress in difficulty by squatting deeper each time.
  • Don’t worry about going fast. Focus on controlling your balance with core body strength. Use your arms as little as possible.

Want More?  Try kneeling on an exercise ball.  The pros can stand on the ball and do squats.

 Speed and Quickness

When attempting to develop strength, movements should be slow and controlled. When trying to develop speed, all movements should be done with speed and grace.  Do every exercise as fast as you can while maintaining control.  When you do a squat, try to go down quickly.  When you reach 90 degrees (more or less) change direction as fast as you can.  Doing squats in this motion works both deceleration and acceleration strength.  The muscle fibers work one way to stop your body from moving and another way to get it moving again.  You need power through both movements in order to be able to change direction quickly on the ice.  When doing jumps or lunges focus on landing soft, using your hamstrings to pull your body down quickly with your hamstrings and exploding upward with your glutes. Again, this is very challenging and takes time to get right.

Changing the way I worked my muscles was not easy.  My body wanted to revert back to over using the quadriceps.  My workouts were as challenging mentally as they were physically.  What kept me going were the results.  My hamstrings and glutes grew in size and strength.  I began to spring off the ground rather than push.  I felt lighter and more stable on the ice, which is exactly what I wanted. Without a doubt, training this way improved my speed and stability on the ice.

I hope this information helps you as much as it helped me.  Good luck!

pass the puck

Pass the puck share on Twitter or Facebook

Looking for more hockey tips?

Sign up to our newsletter for more tips, more videos, discounts on hockey training aids, and updates on new ways to improve your game
The following two tabs change content below.

Jeremy Rupke

Coach
Hi my name is Jeremy. I LOVE hockey and I am passionate about improving and helping others improve. 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. If you want to learn more about me you can read my about page. Thanks for reading and sharing!

Latest posts by Jeremy Rupke (see all)

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

gillard December 12, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Awesome article. this is just what i have been looking for i always love to be building up on everything all the time. thanks .

Reply

Jacob De Haro November 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Jarod, thanks a ton. Howtohockey.com has been a go to source for me since i started playing hockey only 5 months ago and my teammates are impressed with my progression. I credit this site and the articles Jeremy and his team put together for us! Your contribution is much appreciated!! oh and Go Stars!!

Reply

George Nemeth May 8, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I am 47, been off the ice about 15 years and returning this fall. I am in the best shape of my life and appreciate the time you take out to help others!

Reply

Brian Vesall April 12, 2012 at 10:11 am

A Fridley grad here, many thanks for the tips! My goal for the summer was to drop a lot of weight and work on my quickness. Best of luck this season with our Wild Jarod!

Reply

RobH April 7, 2012 at 9:30 am

Thanks, this is awesome! I’m 43 and a D level player looking to improve my endurance out there and I can’t wait to get cracking on these excercises (I have a game tonight so waiting until tomorrow) :)

Reply

Kate March 3, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Thanks so much for all the hockry tips! I suffered a really bad injury in AAA hockey and had to learn to skate all over again. I have been playing floor hockey quite a lot, but I can’t wait to get back on the ice and play again. I feel like I’m ready to try house hockey next season. Thanks so much!

Reply

Jarod Palmer February 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Hey guys I’m overwhelmed with the amount of positive responses to this article! I will definitely be writing more, maybe even on a semi-regular basis (but don’t quote me on that haha)

Reply

Jean-Pierre February 29, 2012 at 8:39 am

Mr Palmer these examples are great, is there a complete program around for young boys 9-12? Will exercises like these too improve speed help youngsters between
9-12 ?

Jean-Pierre February 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Very interesting article, i would like to know what program gave you that information.
Or rather where can i get the complete training program?

Reply

Jeremy February 29, 2012 at 1:27 am

The article was written by a player with a lot of experience in competitive hockey so the drills likely came from a variety of sources. If you are looking for a complete training program for hockey you can check out the HockeyOT program, the link is at the top of this article (highlighted in yellow)

Jean-Pierre February 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Thanks Jeremy, i did not see your reply.

Mike Sikora February 27, 2012 at 11:24 am

Thanks Jarod!

Reply

Jeff February 26, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Thanks Jarod for sharing your experience! This is something I completely want to work on, and I appreciate all of your tips. Nice to hear from the local guy too- Go WILD!

Reply

Michael February 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Thanks so much for this wonderful article! Thanks Jarod for sharing this with us! And good luck with your season. Also thank you Jeremy for building such a wonderful website and helping everyone by writing these articles. You make many many differences in the hockey players lives that read your articles. And Jarod may have just made a difference that decides if someone gets drafted or not. Thanks to both of you for your time and hard work!!

Reply

Gary February 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Awesome information, amazing what just a persons body weight can accomplish during workouts. Thank you Jarod for taking the time to share this, best of luck with your season. Jeremy, thank you for your top shelf resources.

Reply

fultron February 24, 2012 at 10:48 am

Great article, proud of my Miami Redhawk alumni making it in the NHL

Reply

Mark February 24, 2012 at 9:27 am

Thanks for the great article!!

Reply

Sam February 24, 2012 at 4:01 am

Oh this article is fantastic! Especially as a girl who plays with the boys, I’m always looking for a way to keep up to their speed (as nature already has me at a bit of a disadvantage), I’m hoping this will really help me out!

Cheers!

Reply

Deke February 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Thanks for a great article. I have recently become aware that I am also one of those quad-dominant people who tends to get onto the toes and consequently burns out fast. While doing some power skating form exercises/poses I realized that a deep knee bend doesn’t necessarily have to burn the quads if you can think like Jarod suggests. These exercises will really help make it habit.

BTW, it might sound stupid, but I never realized until recently that the push in the skating stride should begin from the heel, pass through the center of the blade, and finish with the toe. Add the 90 degree squat to that and the suggestions in this article now make total sense to me.

Reply

John February 23, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Excellent!!!!!!

Reply

Bill February 22, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I enjoy articles and content that can assist me developing dryland training programs for youth hockey players for 8 and 10 year hold. However I need to have a progression for kids up to 12-14 years old

Reply

Palmer February 22, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Kevin Neeld’s “5 Hockey Speed Training Tips” has some great exercises for off ice training. Also, if you’re looking for something challenging search Apollo Ohno speed skating training videos on Youtube.

Reply

Sterling February 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Great article. I was just trying to re-work my off-ice program last night so I can improve my speed so this was clutch timing. Thanks

Reply

Leave a Comment


{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: