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:
Switch the focus from your quadriceps to the “back of the leg” muscles. These muscles include your gluteals, hamstrings and calves.
Shift from two-leg training to single leg training. By doing this you are able to recruit more stabilizer muscles.
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.
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!
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:
5-Yard Lateral Shuffle -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
5-Yard Backward Shuffle -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
5-Yard Lateral Back Pedal -> 10-Yard Forward Sprint
5-Yard Forward 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 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
Speed is a major factor on the ice, have good acceleration and a good top speed will make you hard to catch on the ice and should help you get more shots on ice. If you feel like you’ve got rocks in your hockey socks try doing this exercise a few times a week over the summer. This is a special guest post from HockeyOT, they will be providing me with drills over the summer to add to the site and hopefully it will help you guys improve your game. If you are serious about getting fit for hockey check out there online hockey training program.
Get more Speed in your game Part 1:
For hockey you need to be more than just fast. You need to be able to repeat your fast performance on the ice again and again. Most players will play between 10-30 shifts in a game with each shift lasting 30-60 seconds. During each shift, you may reach top speed 2-5 times. Many players I have trained have good speed on a one-time blue line to blue skating test. When we make them repeat the test 10 times, however, their performance rapidly deteriorates as fatigue sets in. For these players, we focus on speed endurance training.
Speed endurance is the toughest aspect of fitness to train because the training hurts. You have to push until your muscles are loaded with lactic acid. Speed endurance training produces a hockey player who can go hard every shift of every period. A player with high levels of speed endurance becomes extremely valuable toward the end of each period, especially the third, and for overtime. One of the best ways to train for speed endurance is with interval training on the track in the off-season.
Interval training consists of short bouts of activity followed by short bouts of rest. For example, the athlete would run the straight away and walk the turn on a 400-meter track. We call this the variable acceleration 400-meter and the players hate it! For pro players, we will repeat this 5-10 times asking the players to try to repeat their performances as consistently as possible. This type of training requires the athlete to train with a lot of lactic acid in their muscles. Lactic acid is a by-product of the anaerobic metabolism required to do the variable acceleration 400-meter drill.
Increasing hockey speed is a never-ending pursuit for most hockey players… or at least it should be!!
Today’s game is much different than it used to be. The crack-down on “clutch-and-grab” hockey has really opened up the ice for the skilled athlete. We are seeing an exciting shift toward a high-speed, quick-paced game of skill and finesse… one in which slower athletes are being left behind… LITERALLY!
Any smart hockey player should recognize this change in the game, and should be constantly striving to increase his or her hockey speed. But in order to do that, you must first understand what makes a fast hockey player.
Hockey speed is composed of Technical Elements, and Physical Elements. Or in other words: On-ice Components, and Off-ice Components.
The on-ice components are things your skating instructor should be able to help you with such as utilizing a proper knee bend, obtaining a full extension on each stride, eliminating “head-bobbing,” striding at the proper angle, using your edges properly, etc…
The on-ice elements MUST be perfected in order to achieve optimal speed. However, there are three main off-ice components every player should develop that will GREATLY ENHANCE his or her ability to generate speed on the ice.
The three main off-ice components are as follows:
Agility & Footspeed
Increasing leg strength will allow for deeper knee bends, which make for longer and more efficient strides. It will also help to improve balance and stability in battling and checking situations.
Becoming more explosive will improve that quick burst of speed, and allow you to win more races to loose pucks. Races are won or lost in those first three strides!
Improving Agility and footspeed will allow you to take more strides in a shorter period of time. This, combined with an increased stride length, will complete your speed equation––allowing you to take a greater number of longer strides.
There are many ways to improve on these three main off-ice components. Here are three exercises that I think should be included in any solid hockey training program:
SQUAT FOR LEG STRENGTH: This video shows the main key points for executing a proper squat. Squats are a great exercise to increase overall leg strength!
PLYO BOX ROUTINE (AND VARIATION) FOR EXPLOSIVENESS: The first video explains what plyometrics are, how plyometric training can contribute to increased hockey speed, and shows a sample exercise routine using plyometric boxes. The second video shows what to do if you don’t have plyometric boxes available to you.
DOT DRILL FOR AGILITY AND FOOTSPEED: This video shows my favorite off-ice agility drill. This drill is cheap to set up, and only takes about a minute to perform, so there’s no excuse not to do it each day!
Increasing hockey speed is a complex task, with on-ice and off-ice variables. Go to a well-qualified skating instructor to help you nail down your on-ice components, and participate in a hockey specific strength and conditioning program to improve your off ice components by increasing your leg strength, explosiveness, and agility––starting with squats, plyometrics, and the dot drill. Combining on ice and off ice development will help you to improve your speed quickly and effectively this summer!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jeremy Weiss owns and operates a hockey drills and skills blog. He has a degree in Exercise Science and is a Certified Personal Trainer. Jeremy recently combined his fitness knowledge with his hockey background to develop a hockey-specific, strength and conditioning program called the S3 Formula. More info on this state-of-the-art hockey training system can be found on Jeremy’s Hockey Development page