What do maintaining a low skating stance, changing directions quickly and shooting the puck hard all have in common?
You need strong, well-developed core muscles to perform any of these actions at a high level. In addition to heavy multi-joint barbell exercises and movements like med ball throws, hockey players should also use direct core work to build a stable center that doesn’t buckle under the demands of the game.
A good off-ice training program for beginners will include basic core exercises such as Pallof Presses, 1/2 Kneeling Cable Lifts and Chops, Ab Rollouts and Deadbugs. Once these movements no longer provide a significant challenge, it’s time to introduce more demanding variations into your workouts. Use these four advanced core exercises to build excellent core strength that carries over to the ice.
Begin in a regular plank position with a pair of Valslides under your toes. Keeping your body as straight as an arrow, slide backward and forward. Squeeze your glutes to maintain proper pelvic position throughout the movement. The farther back you slide, the more difficult this becomes. If your hips drop or you lose core control (as in, the curve in your lower back increases) at any point, cut the range of motion shorter. If that doesn’t fix it, stop the set. You should always feel that your abs are doing the work here, not your lower back.
If you don’t have Valslides, a piece of fabric on a smooth surface can provide a similar stimulus. Stronger athletes can use a weight vest and/or a resistance band to make this exercise more challenging.
Recommended sets and reps: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps
This tremendous exercise hammers the often neglected obliques. Placing your outside foot on a low box or bench, bring a rope handle up to your chest, then rotate your upper body while you reach toward the ceiling approximately at a 30-degree angle. Focus on keeping your ribs down and rotating from the shoulders, not the lower back.
Recommended sets and reps: 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps
Lying on your back, grab a light kettlebell (my athletes typically use a kettlebell that weighs 15-25 pounds) and reach into the ceiling. Allowing no movement from your upper body, extend your legs until your heels are an inch above the floor. Reverse the movement and bring your knees toward your chest. The key to correct execution here is to keep your lower back pressed against the floor at all moments of the exercise.
You can attach a resistance band around your ankles when the regular version of this exercise becomes too easy. The band provides extra resistance as you bring your knees up, forcing your abdominals to work harder during the concentric part of the exercise.
Recommended sets and reps: 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps
You can’t beat L-Sits for developing isometric core strength. This gymnastics movement requires great core strength, hip flexor strength, hamstring flexibility and shoulder stability.
That said, it’s the most difficult exercise on this list, and I’ve never seen an athlete who could jump right into using the rings for L-Sits unless they had some previous gymnastics experience. So, follow the progression steps in the video below to work your way up to using the rings.
Recommended sets and reps: 3-4 reps, each consisting of a 10-15 second hold
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