Hockey is undoubtedly a demanding sport, both mentally and physically. Whether you’re an aspiring hockey player or a veteran of the game, knowing the proper regimes for weight training for hockey is vital. So what is the best way to weight train for hockey?
The key to weight training for hockey is to be consistent and ensure you incorporate all your muscle groups when weight training for hockey. A proper well-rounded workout will not only help improve your speed and strength, but it’ll also help improve confidence, both on and off the field.
While a split training workout (such as the focused chest, legs, and arms days) may work for a bodybuilder, this workout is less effective for hockey players. After making weight training a prominent part of my workout regime, I noticed a significant difference in my hockey and I’ve decided to help you too.
This article will guide you on an effective hockey weight training program, its benefits, and the necessary equipment needed. So, let’s get started!
What is Strength Training For Hockey Players?
While you may think being skilled in the game is all you need to be a good hockey player, the truth is far from it. To be a true master of the game, you must also train your body to build the stamina, flexibility, and strength required for hockey.
Strength training for hockey is exactly what the name implies - it involves training your body by lifting heavy weights to build strength and power.
Here, it’s important to remember that you should always refrain from lifting heavy weights from the start. The ideal way is to start with light weights and build your strength as you progress.
Important: You should strength-train your entire body for optimal results, especially during the pre-season.
Focused exercises that target your primary muscles are extremely crucial. While playing hockey, you mostly use your adductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus muscles. These are located mostly in your core, lower body, and thigh regions.
Ideal Time to Start Strength Training
The best time to start strength training is after you hit your adolescent growth spurt. For boys, this is 16 years, and for girls, it's 15.
Starting strength training too early is not recommended and can negatively affect muscle growth. During your early teenage years, you should primarily focus on staying active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
4 Benefits of Strength Training For Hockey Players
Not only does strength training help improve your body’s weight-lifting capacity, but it also has many other benefits as well.
Weight lifting for hockey players is crucial because it also helps you increase your confidence, on-field performance, and stability. It’s also vital for injury prevention, strengthening your core muscles, and hormonal balance.
Here are some of the benefits that strength training holds:
Increases Athletic Capabilities
As mentioned earlier, being a good athlete is more than being skilled in the game. Hockey players need to be quick on their feet and have fast reflexes.
Strength training helps you build power and speed, improving your athletic capabilities. Your core also gets stronger, which reduces back pains and improves overall strength.
You need strong legs and core muscles to sprint better, which is achieved through lifting weights and strength training. If you’ve got strong muscles, you’ll be able to hit the hockey pluck harder as well. Your drag flicks will be more powerful, and your leads will be fiercer.
A good performance on the field occurs when both your body and mind are in perfect sync with each other.
Strength training requires immense endurance and determination, which also helps strengthen your mind. And I’m not making this up. Research suggests strength training slows down the aging process and improves cognitive functionality among many other benefits.
When you convince yourself to do that 400-pound deadlift, you can also convince yourself to give your best on the field.
Prevents Injuries and Speeds up Healing
Not only does strength training improve your lifting capabilities, but it also largely helps improve your balance as well.
Improved balance means that there are fewer chances of you falling and getting injured. If you use the proper technique and the right form, your muscles increase proportionately, improving your balance.
Conversely, if your form is not right, you may injure yourself even before you get on the field. A proper trainer can help you fix your form during these exercises.
On the off chance that you do injure yourself, your recovery will be much faster as well. When you get your muscles used to the added stress of strength training, they can handle the pressure of injuries much more efficiently.
A lot of times, lifting light weights and strength training can heal muscle injuries as well, but in case you’ve got an injury, you must consult a professional.
Helps Balance Hormones
Whether on the field or on ice, good hockey players need to maintain their energy levels throughout the game.
Hormonal balance is a major contributor to your energy level, particularly the insulin hormone. Strength training helps improve insulin sensitivity which helps restore your glycogen stores faster after they’ve been used up during the game.
Your metabolism improves with improved hormonal balance, so you no longer need to worry about weight gain.
5 Strength Training Exercises For Hockey Players
Hockey strength training is similar to regular strength training exercises. The main difference lies in the frequency of these exercises and the time of the year. While some exercises are great during pre-season training, others are a better area of focus during off-season workouts.
A well-rounded hockey lifting program focuses on all muscle groups instead of specific ones. If you overwork particular muscle groups, your chances of injury may increase.
Here are some exercises you need to add to your weight-lifting regime for a good training session:
It may sound basic, but bench press is an important part of weight training for hockey. It helps build upper body strength, focusing primarily on your triceps, biceps, pectoralis, and deltoid muscles. These muscles are located in your chest and upper arms.
Lay down on the bench with your back flat on it. Make sure not to arch your upper back because you’re primarily looking for strength - not appearance. Lift the bar off its stand and lower it down to your chest. Now lift it back up in a controlled manner.
Repeat as many times as indicated in one set.
Personally, my favorite weight training exercise is the hang cleans. This exercise helps you train your entire body, from arms to legs. It engages your core and helps build your arm and leg muscles which will help you in hockey.
Hold the bar at a shoulder-width grip. Press your heels inwards and lift the bar to your chest, giving it all your strength.
Hold it up here for a second, then put it back on the ground and start again.
Who doesn’t love squats? They’re simple and very effective for stronger legs and thigh muscles. Squatting uses all the muscles in your hip and upper leg region - the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and flexors. Add some weights, and you’ve got a great strength training exercise.
Lift the bar to the shoulders and stand with your feet shoulder length apart. Now keep your back straight and go down till full squat position with tight lower back, then recover actively.
Repeat this as many times as the set requires.
Another exercise that significantly helps improve your speed during hockey is deadlifts. Deadlifts work like magic for hockey, and you’ll start feeling a difference in your performance after a few deadlift sessions. It focuses on the core and leg muscles, helping you gain strength and preventing injury.
Start with your feet shoulder length apart. Grab the bar with your arms a little further apart than your legs. Now, driving strength from your hips as if you’re pushing against the ground, lift the bar.
Make sure your back remains straight. Hold it in this position for a few seconds and slowly lower it. Repeat as necessary.
Chin-Ups / Pull-Ups
If you want to add force to your strikes, make pull-ups your best friend - trust me, you won’t regret it. This exercise helps tremendously with upper arm and shoulder strength.
For the Pull-up, Grab the pull-up bar in a pronated grip (palms not facing you) with your arms greater than shoulder-width apart. Now using all your upper arm and back strength, pull yourself up to the bar such that your chin is above the level of the bar. Repeat as many times as necessary.
For a chin-up, grab the pull-up bar in a supinated grip (palms facing you) and pull yourself towards the bar so your chin is close to the bar. Aim to get your chin higher than the bar. This exercise works your biceps and lats along with your forearms.
Which Exercise to Do When?
Even though all the exercises mentioned above are quite versatile, and you can do them throughout your training program, some exercises are to be focused on more during different seasons.
Ideally, during early pre-season, you should increase the frequency of:
- Bench presses.
- And deadlifts.
Whereas during late pre-season, focus more on hang cleans with other exercises.
During mid-pre-season, you should be focusing more on:
- Bench presses.
- And deadlifts.
You can alternate between mid-pre-season and late pre-season workout regimes for in-season training.
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5 Key Factors in a Hockey Player’s Strength Training Routine
While strength training is vital to a hockey player’s training routine, strength training isn’t as simple as lifting weights and doing squats. Many factors come into play, and it’s vital to consider them all when deciding on your hockey weight training program.
It’s important to maintain mobility in both your thoracic and hip regions. Focusing on bilateral and unilateral strength is also extremely important to minimize injury risks and maximize the benefits.
Concentrating on the following key factors will significantly help improve your strength training routine:
Hockey requires a lot of hip movement and flexion. Whether you’re passing the puck, tackling, or even contesting for the ball, your hips are being used. If your hips don’t have a good range of motion, this can add unwanted stress to your back, leading to injuries.
Add exercises such as spiderman, lunges, squat holds, or downward dog to your training regime to improve hip mobility.
For faster tackles and reflexes, having a good range of motion in your upper back is very important.
A mobile thoracic spine helps reduce the stress per cross sectional area and relieves unwanted strain from the tissues and muscles. This helps reduce the chances of injury. Adding T-rotations, spiderman rotations, and wall lat stretches to your workout regime can help improve your thoracic mobility.
Whether it be your legs, hips, or arms, maintaining bilateral strength in your body is vital for a good hockey game. Training your muscles to go into deep flexion is important for improving your range of motion and preventing injuries. For this, it’s important to maintain proper posture during your weightlifting regime. Improper posture during squatting can cause lower back injuries and reduce your speed during the game.
Unilateral focused exercises help ensure that both sides of the body get equal amounts of training. Incorporating exercises such as single-leg squats and forwards and reverse lunges into your regime can help make significant improvements to your workout.
Upper Body Strength
For upper body strength training, horizontal exercises such as push-ups and bench presses and vertical exercises such as military and shoulder presses can significantly help.
Strength Training Program For Hockey Players
Basic Equipment Required for Weight Training for Hockey
To properly strength train for hockey, the usual route is to opt for a gym membership and a personal trainer (if you can afford one). But don’t worry, if you don’t want to spend for a gym membership or a trainer; you can simply buy training equipment at home and start from the basics.
Here’s the equipment required for weight training for hockey:
Resistance bands are compact, affordable, and easy to travel with. They’re also extremely versatile, and you can easily incorporate them into most of your strength training workouts.
Do I need to say more? Dumbbells are an absolute strength training essential. If you’re a newbie, start with lesser weights and build up your dumbbell collection as you gain more strength.
Adjustable benches come in a wide range of price points. If you don’t have the budget for it, investing in a fancier bench is unnecessary. As long as your bench has an adjustable feature and is sturdy, it’ll do the job.
Bar and Weights
Invest in a strong bar and added weights for optimal strength training. From bench presses to deadlifts and weighted squats, the bar and weights will always be put to use.
For beginners, it’s best to initially invest in lesser weights and buy heavier ones as you progress.
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What Lifts Are Best For Hockey Players?
Deadlifts and weighted squats are the best lifts for hockey players. Deadlifts help strengthen your upper body and core, whereas weighted squats help you gain lower body strength. These exercises strengthen muscles and prevent injuries that could occur commonly while playing hockey.
Does Weightlifting Help Hockey Players?
Weightlifting significantly helps to improve a hockey player’s performance on the field. It helps build endurance and strength, which improves stamina, speed, and strike force on the field. As a bonus, it improves cognitive function and improves reflexes.
How Often Should a Hockey Player Lift Weights?
Having about 3-4 weight training workouts in a week is best. You already get a lot of cardio in during the game and from other stamina-building exercises. It is also important to note that training more than four times a week can overwork the muscle groups and increase the chances of injury.
Weight training is a vital part of your training if you want to be a great hockey player. It helps build stamina and endurance and greatly reduces the chances of injury. Make sure, when weight training, you equally train all your muscle groups. Putting more focus on one side than the other can lead to serious injuries.
Plus, if you can afford a personal trainer and gym membership, that’s great. But training in the comfort of your home is also possible if you buy the necessary equipment.
Will you integrate weight training into your hockey training workout? Comment below and let us know. Also, I’d love to know which strength training workout worked best for you and why.
- Strength Training and Insulin Resistance: The Mediating Role of Body Composition // NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7235686/
- Strength-Cognitive Training: A Systemic Review in Adults and Older Adults // Frontiersin: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.855703/full
- Cardio-Respiratory Endurance Responses Following a Simulated 3 × 3 Minutes Amateur Boxing Contest in Elite Level Boxers // NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6315673/
- Effects of plyometric training on endurance and explosive strength performance in competitive middle- and long-distance runners // NCBI: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23838975/
- Strength training can help protect the brain from degeneration // Sydney Edu: https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/02/11/strength-training-can-help-protect-the-brain-from-degeneration.html
Sergii is a professional weightlifter and National team member in the past. Competed in 94 kg w/c, won multiple medals on national competitions.
Nowadays Sergii is responsible for designing training programs, writing blog articles, doing live commentary of international weightlifting competitions, running different sport & fitness educational seminars, including Olympic weightlifting together with Oleksiy Torokhtiy all around the globe.