5 Best Off-Ice Exercises to Skate Faster
“What are the top 5 off-ice exercises to get faster?”
That’s by far the most common training question I hear from hockey players and coaches.
So with that in mind, let’s look at the 5 best off-ice exercises that will help you turn on the jets and blow past opponents.
(If you’d rather watch than read about these TOP 5 dryland exercises… Check out the video below.)
Skating fast is all about how much force you can generate through your lower body and how quickly you do it.
For building general leg strength, you need to put some serious work in at the squat rack.
Keep in mind that by squats, I’m not referring to wall squats, high-rep body weight squats or any of that nonsense certain people peddle on the Internet. I’m talking about moving heavy weights over a full range of motion.
Obviously, I’m not saying you gotta throw three plates on the bar and get crushed by it if your current squat max is 200 pounds. Always pay attention to your lifting form.
Just had to throw that in there because otherwise someone, somewhere would think I advocate lifting big weights regardless of your form. Absolutely not. You must first learn how to perform a squat – or any other strength movement – correctly before you earn the right to load it up.
Also note that when I talk about squatting heavy weights, you’re not limited to just using the barbell on two legs. Hockey players (and athletes in general) need adequate single-leg strength and stability to perform at a high level, so unilateral squats like various split squats and lunges definitely have their place in a well-rounded off-ice training program.
Just hammering your quads with a ton of squats won’t be enough to maximize your speed.
You also need to develop the musculature on the backside of your leg. The glutes and hamstrings have tremendous potential to contribute to a more powerful skating stride.
I have seen plenty of hockey players with big thighs but below average strength in the glutes and hamstrings.
Not only will this imbalance between the thigh muscles and the posterior chain make you a slower skater than you have the potential to be, it’s also one of the key reasons why an athlete will strain his hamstring when sprinting or changing directions.
Different variations of deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts should be on the menu for every hockey player to take their hip extensors from underdeveloped to strong.
#3. Power Cleans
Now that you know the two main ways to gain general lower body strength, let’s switch our focus to the other important aspect of the speed equation:
Explosive leg power and how to develop it.
Power cleans are a proven exercise to improve your ability to get your body moving from a standstill which translates to increased first step quickness on the ice.
In a previous video, I explained the benefits and disadvantages of power cleans (and Olympic lifts in general). If you haven’t watched it yet, be sure to check it out below.
To recap, if you have access to quality in-person coaching and also possess the requisite hip, ankle, thoracic spine and wrist mobility to perform power cleans safely, then by all means, use them in the weight room.
If not, then you should stick to the next two off-ice training methods on this list.
Over the years, I have noticed that the guys with the biggest power clean tend to have the highest vertical jumps as well.
However, if you’re only performing vertical jumps, box jumps, depth jumps, and other similar movements, you’re leaving speed gains on the table.
Because these exercises all take place vertically, meaning straight up.
Skating is a horizontal (forward) activity, not a vertical activity. How much force you produce is important, but the direction of force production matters as well.
To cover all your bases, be sure to perform unilateral and bilateral horizontal and lateral jumps in addition to any jumping that takes place vertically.
Last but not least, we’ve got sprints.
A big mistake hockey players make with their sprint training is they run strictly in a linear or straight-ahead fashion. We’re not training for a track and field event here, we’re training for hockey which includes quick stops and starts in multiple directions.
To develop true game speed, focus on shorter distances of say, 10-30 meters. Also include various change-of-direction and agility drills into your speed sessions because these simulate what happens on the ice.
Finally, I will add the disclaimer that skating technique plays a huge role in how well you skate. If your skating sucks because of bad technique, then no amount of off-ice training will make up for it.
That covers our list of the most effective ways to gain speed through dryland training.
Of course, we use a ton of different exercises and methods in addition to the ones mentioned here.
But since you asked for my top off-ice exercises to skate faster, I wanted to give you the best of the best. Build your off-ice training program around these 5 staples and watch your skating speed hit new highs very soon.
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