Tell anyone who has ever played hockey that goalies are different, and they will look at you with an expression like “duh, I know.” But I am not talking about the whole standing in front of a hard, frozen, rubber puck traveling at bone-crushing speeds kind of different. I am talking about the differences between how skaters train and the specific ways goalies need to train to excel.
Some argue that goalies need to be the fittest players on the team (usually it is goalies arguing that), and it may be true. The goal here is not to debate who is more fit; the goal is to show where goalies and skaters have similarities in their off-ice hockey training and where hockey goalie training needs to differ.
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Both goalies and skaters need to be great athletes. They need flexibility, stability, strength, speed and stamina. They need durable hips—this is a vulnerable area of injury for both goalies and skaters.
So goalies should still do Single-Leg Squats, stretch their hip flexors, do core Planks and, yes, even run 300-Yard Shuttles with the skaters for stamina training.
Goalies should also train their upper bodies with pushes and pulls. They should use the cable column as a way to improve upper-body strength with an element of torso and lower-body stability.
So there is little we do with skaters that we don’t also do with goalies. Priority number one is making them great athletes.
Goalies spend more time on the ice moving laterally within a confined space. Although a skater may make lateral moves during his forward progress, like stepping around a defender as he carries the puck up the ice, a goalie spends more time moving in a pure lateral pattern.
Goalies also play the game while standing and kneeling, which engage the muscles of the hip, knee, ankle and even torso in a slightly different fashion than skaters.
The lateral plane of movement requires more lateral hip strength, so we train that from both a standing and kneeling posture.
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Hip Internal Rotation
If goalies want to use the butterfly as a tool for stopping the puck, they need sufficient hip internal rotation. You may think it’s the knee that needs mobility to have a wide butterfly flare, but the knee simply does not move in that plane—if it does, you are in big trouble. The butterfly is a function of hip internal rotation.
If a goalie with insufficient hip internal rotation tries to use the butterfly as a tool, he will most likely develop either hip or knee pain as a result, possibly even damaging the labrum of the hip or the meniscus of the knee.
So we stretch the hip internal rotators without forcing them.
Learn more about mobility training for hockey goalies.
There may be hockey goalies out there who have not strained or tweaked their groins, but they are few and far between. If you ask a group of goalies which injury put fear into their hearts, they would say, “tearing my groin.”
At times, either out of necessity or via brute force (such as a player falling on an outstretched leg), the muscles of the groin (the adductors) are stretched to a most unnatural length. Proper training allows goalies to get up after this and continue playing rather than crawling off the ice and into the dressing room.
We manage this element by making sure that hockey goalie training includes lengthening of the adductors while under tension. We also use this technique to improve mobility and get goalies deeper into the splits.
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Goalies are on the ice for the entire game, so they often think they need lots of endurance. This leads them to believe (wrongly) that they need to do long duration cardio training of 60-plus minutes.
Although goalies do not have the same shift demands as skaters, they are still repeat sprinters who need to go hard and then recover quickly before the next onslaught. As a result, we do interval training with them, but we work in more lateral patterns, putting more load on the muscles they need on the ice.
Here are some of the exercises I use specifically for goalies:
- 1/2 Kneeling Lateral Crease Push
- Knee Recovery + Lateral Hop
- Supine Hip Internal Rotation
- Eccentric Adduction
- Micro Hurdle Step Over + Weave
That should give you an idea of similarities and differences for goalies. The quarterback does not do the same training program as the o-linemen, nor does the pitcher do the same training as the shortstop, so it follows that the hockey goalie should not follow the same training program performed by skaters. But goalies definitely don’t need to be standing on stability balls, juggling live penguins and reciting the stats from every single start Tretiak ever had. They are different … but not that different.