Hockey is called the "fastest game on earth" for a reason. The game is characterized by incredible speed and power. Elite hockey players constantly seek to improve their on-ice performance by performing workouts designed to enhance these skills.
Summer is the best time of the year to focus on improving your performance with an off-season training program. Since you're not as busy with practices and games, you have more time to put in the hard work in the weight room that will build the strength and power you need to be a better hockey player.
This seems pretty obvious, but many hockey players aren't sure how to get stronger in an efficient way. I see many athletes performing 10 to 15 reps, which is more suitable for building muscle size than strength. Ideally, you should perform between two and five reps to stimulate strength gains. As you increase your max strength, you will improve at checking, staying balanced in the corners and gaining position on your opponent in front of the net. Also, the added strength sets the foundation for developing power.
Strength is great, but you need to be powerful to get faster, improve agility and increase your shot speed. Power is a measure of how fast you can apply strength, not how much strength you have. The faster you can attain max force, the more powerful you will be.
The best way to increase power is to perform exercises explosively. While some exercises like the Power Clean are inherently explosive, you can adapt any exercise for power production by performing a fast concentric phase. For example, on the Bench Press, drive the weight off your chest as quickly as possible. To accomplish this, you will have to use approximately 85 percent of your one-rep max.
To get faster, you have to increase lower-body strength and power. For hockey players, the best exercise to achieve this is the Squat. But before you start adding crazy amounts of weight to your Squats, make sure to refine your technique. Squatting with bad form—especially with heavy loads—is a recipe for spending time on the couch with an injury. Plus, with correct form, you will get more benefit out of each rep.
Everyone wants big Bench Press numbers, and that's fine, as long as you're equally, if not more, focused on improving your Row and Pull-Up numbers. Hockey players perform more pushing movements than pulling movements on the ice during the season, so it's important to focus on correcting muscle imbalances to prevent injuries. By performing two pulling exercises, like Rows or Pull-Ups, for every push exercise, you will strengthen your back, correct your posture from the constant forward bending you do when skating, and, incidentally, improve your Bench by strengthening your back.
Sure, going for a run will help your conditioning, but it won't help you get faster. On non-lifting days, find a football or soccer field and run sprints. It's best to sprint for 40 to 100 yards and rest for at least two minutes between sprints. This allows you to recover for your next sprint so you can perform with maximum effort. Keep speed training and conditioning separated in your mind. The focus here is to increase speed.
Remember that hockey is a game of maximum intensity in short shifts. To improve the way you play in these conditions, you need to train intelligently to maximize your time on the ice. Check out my max-strength program 1st Star Performance to get a leg up on your competition.
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