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.)

#1. Squats

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.

#2. Deadlifts

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.

#4. Jumps

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.

Why?

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.

#5. Sprints

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.

P.S. Discover the exact training system I have used to produce countless strong, jacked hockey players at:

https://NextLevelHockeyTraining.com

How to Get Super Strong on Single-Leg Squats

Having great single-leg strength is crucial for a powerful skating stride and balance in hockey.

Unfortunately, most hockey players neglect this area. Even if they use some single-leg or so-called "unilateral" leg exercises in their workouts, more often than not, they fail to get strong on them.

For the record, if you're banging away with a pair of 55-pound dumbbells on split squats, you're not strong.

We have females who can do a lot more than that.

Our strongest 17-year-olds can split squat over 300 pounds with the bar in the front rack position, and our slightly older guys can do around 350. Split squatting almost 2x your body weight? That is STRONG.

Now, you may be wondering how our athletes are able to build such impressive single-leg strength quickly and if you can replicate their numbers.

The answer is:

Yes.

As long as you stick to these 3 very important training principles:

(If you’d rather watch than read about how to build impressive single-leg strength for hockey… Check out the video below.)

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Jumps vs. Olympic Lifts: Which Are Best for Hockey Players?

Jumping and Olympic lifting are two common methods for improving explosiveness in athletic training programs.

Is one better than the other for hockey players? Or should you use both for complete power development?

Let's find out...

(If you’d rather watch than read about jumps vs. Olympic lifts… Check out the video below.)

Pros of Olympic Lifting

1. Improve First Step Quickness

How fast you can explode off a standstill or transition?

Most battles for a loose puck are won or lost over the first few steps.

I don't care how fast you can skate once you get up to top speed.

Fact is, if your first step quickness sucks, you won't be a very effective hockey player because you'll be chasing after the puck your entire shift.

If this is an area where your speed is lacking, you'll want to add Olympic lifts into your training sessions. They're a great way to build some serious pop over those first few all-important strides.

2. Increase Jumping Ability

Olympic lifts are the best way to build a higher vertical jump without actually jumping.

While a high vertical jump doesn't help you on the ice, it's one of the most common physical performance tests used off the ice.

Some coaches pay a lot of attention to how well guys fare in physical testing. So this is something to think about.

You don't want to be known as the guy who botched it with a 20" vertical jump on test day.

3. Fun and Competitiveness

While lifting weights isn't a comedy act, it's crucial that you enjoy what you do in training.

If you detest every waking moment you spend in the weight room, you'll never maximize your strength and power.

At our gym, we treat power cleans as one of our main lifts.

Guys get to move heavy weights in an explosive manner and compare their performance against everyone else.

It makes for a fun, competitive atmosphere which pushes everyone to show their best.

The only time I've seen similar levels of competitiveness is on days when we measure vertical jump performance.

Cons of Olympic Lifting

1. Can Be Difficult to Learn

How long does it take to get a raw beginner to jump and land properly on a vertical or hurdle jump? 2-3 sets? So a few minutes of total training time?

Contrast that with the Olympic lifts where it usually takes that same beginner weeks or months to become proficient.

While cleans and snatches aren't quite as technical as same people make them out to be - and I'm specifically referring to the hang and power variations of these lifts - not the full lifts used in Olympic weightlifting, there's definitely a learning curve.

And the time you have available certainly plays a role in deciding whether they're a smart exercise choice or not.

If I only have 5-6 weeks to work with a pro player in the summer and he doesn't already have great lifting form on power cleans so that we can load him safely, I'm just going to scratch the movement altogether.

I know some people will disagree with me here but jump training will make you just as explosive (if not more) than any Olympic lift variation.

And the risks are minimal.

Which brings us to the next point...

2. Require Great Mobility

Hockey players typically have horrible shoulder mobility thanks to spending so much time hunched over at the shoulders on the ice.

In addition, the shoulders take a beating from heavy hits.

You know what's the worst thing you could do with a guy whose shoulder mobility sucks?

EXPLOSIVE direct overhead movements.

Yes, that includes jerks and snatches. Which is why I no longer do them with my athletes.

I simply don't believe the benefits outweigh the risks on these two exercises.

Furthermore, getting into position when lifting from the floor and catching the barbell in a deep squat requires excellent hip, ankle and thoracic spine mobility - something many hockey players lack.

So all our cleans start from the hang position above the knees and we catch the bar in the so-called "power" position, which is different for each individual but somewhere between a half- and a quarter-squat.

And if that wasn't enough, catching the bar in a power clean requires great wrist mobility.

Again, some guys just don't have this.

So anytime they attempt to catch the bar, their elbows point down toward the floor.

They simply can't bend their wrists further to bring their arms parallel to the floor.

Pros of Jumping

1. No Weights Needed

A big benefit of jump training is that you can do it practically anywhere.

Vertical jumps, broad jumps, lateral bounds and long hops can all be done with your own body weight.

Buying a set of hurdles means you an also perform various hurdle jumps on one or two legs.

For more advanced movements like depth jumps you'll need a bench or box to step off. 

Also depending on the exercise, you might need some light dumbbells, a barbell or trap bar for loaded jumping.

Even then, the equipment needed for jump training is minimal and can be found in any gym.

2. Improves Reactive Strength

Unlike Olympic lifts, jumps can be used to develop reactive strength/elasticity.

There's no quick rebounding action in a power clean or power snatch like there is in a hurdle jump or forward bound.

With a hurdle jump (or any other reactive jump variation), a rapid eccentric muscle action is followed by a powerful concentric action.

Contrast this with the Olympic lifts where you accelerate to get the bar moving and then decelerate it to catch it. But there's no immediate switch from deceleration to acceleration which is how you improve reactive strength.

Why is reactive strength an important quality for athletes?

Because it correlates with change-of-direction speed and has been shown to be a key differentiator between slow and fast athletes.

Bottom line?

If you want to skate faster, work on your reactive strength.

3. Easy to Progress and Regress

With a power clean, the only way you can overload an athlete is by adding more weight to the bar or performing more sets and/or reps.

Jump training is more versatile.

You can start a beginner with eccentric-only movements like snapdowns and depth drops, then move on to vertical or hurdle jumps where you pause each rep.

After that, you perform these same exercises continuously in a rebounding manner.

Eventually, you can also introduce resisted jumps into the mix, combine jumps and sprints into a single drill, or focus on exercises that develop elasticity through shorter ground contact times.

There's a lot more variety and possible ways to progress and regress athletes compared to the Olympic lifts where external loading dictates much of what you can and will do.

Cons of Jumping

1. Very Easy to Abuse

The biggest drawback of jump training isn't the training style itself but how it's used in many off-ice training programs.

(I have written quite in depth about this topic in my Hockey Jump Training System.)

Because a set of five lateral bounds doesn't feel hard, it's easy to get carried away, thinking that you need to up the amount of reps you perform or cut your rest periods.

What so many coaches and athletes fail to realize is that jumping is a highly neural activity.

If you're huffing and puffing after a set of jumps, you're doing it wrong.

Still, I see so many athletes abuse jumps by going overboard with the volume that they don't get the power improvements they seek.

Not only that, doing so significantly increases your risk of lower back and knee overuse injuries.

Other than perhaps for a short preparatory period of very low-intensity jumping, there's no advantage to performing 10+ jumps per set.

At that point, you're not training for maximal power. You're doing conditioning work.

And there are much better ways to build up your conditioning that don't beat up your joints, such as hill sprints and sled pushes.

The Verdict

In my mind, out of the two options, jump training is safer IF (and that's a big if) it's used appropriately.

By appropriate, I mean scaling exercises based on an athlete's skill and experience levels, always focusing on excellent landing form and not rushing into more advanced exercises or methods before you're ready for them.

That's not to say I don't like Olympic lifting, particularly the power clean.

I use it with most (but not all) of my hockey players and I decide if it's suitable for an athlete on a case-by-case basis.

I believe an effective off-ice training program will combine both jumping and Olympic lifting for maximal power development - assuming that A) you have access to quality coaching on the Oly lifts and B) you have the requisite mobility to perform them safely.

If you don't have those, then stick to jumping.

P.S. For a proven training plan guaranteed to improve your first step quickness, visit:

https://HockeyJumpTraining.com

World Champions 2018!

Team Finland beat USA last night and won gold at the U18 World Championships.

So join me in congratulating my boys, goalie Jere Huhtamaa and forward Lenni Killinen, as well as the entire Finnish U18 National Team for bringing gold back home after last year's final defeat against the US.

That makes it two gold medals for Finland in the last three U18 tournaments. Not too shabby...

Off-Ice Hockey Training for Unstoppable Strength and Speed

If you are looking for off-ice hockey training advice online, I have good and bad news for you.

Let's start with the bad news:

Much of the information you'll find on off-ice hockey training via a quick Google search is published by "trainers" with zero expertise in training athletes.

I've seen too many websites and YouTube/Instagram channels where people's idea of dryland training consists of stickhandling a tennis ball while balancing on a Bosu.

Or performing 20-rep sets of box jumps.

Or doing silly ladder drills for "quick feet".

That nonsense has got nothing to do with improving athletic performance when the goal is to build a bigger, stronger, faster and less injury-prone hockey player.

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How to Get Bigger, Stronger and Faster for Ice Hockey

How can off-ice hockey training help boost your on-ice performance?

It's a question I hear all the time.

In this hockey training guide you'll discover how to add pounds to the bar, muscle to your frame, and improve your skating speed and power with dryland training techniques.

I have successfully used these same off-ice training methods and principles with hundreds of junior, D1 college and pro hockey players

Check out the video below to see some of them​ going after it in their off-season training​.

​Hockey Training Myths That Hold You Back

​After having ​coached athletes at all levels of competitive hockey for years, I'm still amazed how clueless many players are when it comes to sports performance training.

I'm sure you've heard most (if not all) of these disgusting hockey training myths that just don't seem to go away:

  • ​Your workouts should last two hours, minimum, to be effective
  • ​You can get strong and jacked by training only 20 minutes, 2-3 times per week
  • ​You should split the body in parts and have a leg day, chest day, back day and arm day​
  • ​You need XYZ supplement to build strength and muscle
  • ​High reps are better than low reps ​for hockey
  • ​You have to eat every three hours to keep your metabolism running
  • ​You should take each set to failure
  • ​Do hundreds of crunches and sit-ups every week to get a six-pack
  • ​You shouldn't train a muscle group more than once a week
  • ​If your muscles feel sore, it was a good workout
  • ​You should do a ton of cardio to get into hockey shape
  • ​You can't get stronger or faster in-season

​All complete and utter bullshit.

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The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your CSCS Certification

​Looking for information on ​how to get your CSCS certification?

So you can become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist?

Without wasting months of your life studying for the CSCS exam?

If so, you're in the right place.

LAST UPDATE: MAY 20, 2019

It has been 6 years since I originally passed the CSCS exam and have gotten recertified twice.

​About a year after successfully taking ​it, I wrote a detailed piece on how to nail the CSCS ​exam like a boss

At 3000+ words, it quickly turned into the best damn CSCS exam prep article (even if I say so myself) on the entire Internet. I still receive reader emails thanking me for the tips that helped them get their CSCS certification to this day.

One of the biggest issues I remember - shared by many candidates I've talked to - is that info on how to prepare for the CSCS exam is damn hard to find online.

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