How Plyometric Training Helps On-Ice Quickness
To be a successful hockey player, you need speed and power. Plyometric training is used to create explosiveness in hockey players, because it increases the speed and power with which a muscle contracts—which translates to better output on the ice.
By making muscles contract faster and more forcibly, you increase leg speed [quickness] and stride length, which means you cover more ground with each step. [Can you see how this can positively affect on-ice quickness?]
Plyometric drills are composed of movements done quickly or explosively, including any form of jumping, bounding, sprinting, medicine ball throws, Olympic Lifts and low-weight resistance exercises. Players use such movements to teach their muscles how to fire properly so their bodies will move more powerfully and efficiently. Plyometrics not only work muscles, they also teach the nervous system how and when to produce force properly.
For lower body plyos in particular, a player should perform both unilateral [single leg] and bilateral [two leg] drills, as both are important in overall development of hip and leg power. Squat Jumps and Box Jumps are great basic drills that can teach proper loading.
A Lateral Jump is a single-leg plyo that crosses over to the ice naturally, because the body position is very similar to that of a hockey player's stride. Because it's a single-leg drill, it forces each leg to work independently, which will help even out muscle imbalances and deficiencies young players tend to have.
Once these basic jumps can be performed with efficiency, try multiple jumps over hurdles and boxes. Drills can include a pause between jumps or brief contact with the ground. When close to the season [or in-season], ground contact should be minimized, and quickness off the ground should be emphasized.
Depending on the exercises chosen, plyometrics can be performed two to four times a week in the off-season and one to three times in-season. A player should be able to perform reps without feeling fatigue. Speed and quickness are the goals, not muscle failure. Also, a player should always make sure he or she is conscious of form. Having proper guidance is a must—continuously doing drills with poor technique is dangerous and can lead to injury.
The following is an example of a plyometric workout:
Squat Jump or Box Jump: 3-5x5-8
Lateral Jumps or Split Jumps: 3x5-8 per leg
Hurdle Hops: 3x3-8 hurdles
Clap Push-Ups: 3-5x5
Kneeling Med Ball Chest Passes: 3-5x5-8
To see these exercises in action, check out Crash Conditioning's workout on STACK TV.
Adam Lockhart is the head strength and conditioning coach at Crash Conditioning in Calgary, Alberta, where many top hockey players and prospects train. His coaching strengths are in speed and agility training, as well as Olympic weightlifting. He has coached members of junior and university football teams and members of Canada's bobsled and skeletons teams. He has also trained other national teams in bobsled and skeleton, as well as international athletes in both track and field and Olympic weightlifting. Lockhart's personal background is in track and field, where he competed nationally in long jump, triple jump, 200m and 400m.