Hockey Leg Workout For Strength & Muscle

Hockey Leg Workout For Strength & Muscle

"When my legs are stronger, I feel better on the ice and can skate faster."

I hear this comment from the athletes I work with ALL the time.

Stronger legs = better hockey performance.

No matter your level of play – NHL, college, junior, beer league, or something in between – beefing up your quads, glutes, and hamstrings translates to more goals, more points, and more success:

You take three explosive strides and leave your man staring at your taillights as you slingshot away on a breakaway. Forehand, backhand, top shelf, red light.

You pin the other guy against the boards in your own zone, the puck squirts loose, and you take two quick steps to pick up the change for an odd-man rush.

You park your thick hockey butt in front of the goalie, sit deep, and nobody can push you around while you deflect a snapshot from the blue line into the back of the net.

As my pro client Zach Redmond (133 NHL games, 2022 DEL Defenseman of the Year) once pointed out:

"Legs are money!"

So today, we'll make the cash register ring.

You'll discover how to develop meaty thighs and a powerful posterior chain.

And, at the end of this article, I'll share a full NHL hockey leg workout that packs on the gains in a hurry.

Let's start with a question I get a lot...

How Often Should Hockey Players Train Legs?

Before I answer that, let's talk about what NOT to do:

Training legs only once per week.

This is a MASSIVE mistake many athletes make. It kills your gains for four reasons: 

1. Lifting like a bodybuilder by splitting the body in parts and training the chest, arms, legs, back, or whatever once a week makes ZERO sense for an athlete.

You skate, run, jump using your whole body. Your muscles work in unison, not in isolation, on the ice. 

So why are you isolating them in the gym?

2. Strength is a skill just like shooting pucks or playing the guitar is.

What skill can you master by doing it once every seven days?

To improve a skill, you must do it frequently in a FRESH state.

Leading us to point #3...

3. You cram too many exercises and too much volume into that one weekly hockey leg workout, which leaves you super sore in the quads, hamstrings, and glutes the next day (often for 2-3 days).

Now your performance in speed workouts (sprints/jumps) and in hockey practice plummets.

You'll be a more tired athlete. But not a BETTER athlete.

4. Research and anecdotal experience amassed over decades has made it clear:

Higher frequencies (up to a point) increase strength more than low frequency.

Bottom line?

For optimal strength gains and fast recovery, most athletes should train legs 2-3 times per week.

I have some of my hockey clients train the wheels up to 4x/week in the off-season and the results are excellent.

Watch this video for more details.

What Are The Best Exercises For Hockey Players?

The best off-ice exercises all have a few things in common:

1. They target several muscle groups at once.

Multi-joint movements beat isolation exercises when the goal is to build an ATHLETE, not a bodybuilder.

Think: Squat over leg extension, bench press over pec deck machine, chin-up over lat pulldown, and so on.

2. You can continuously overload them.

More weight on the bar = more strength and muscle.

3. You have a high degree of stability.

Instability is the ENEMY of strength and muscle gain.

So no stupid BOSU ball exercises where you can't use anything heavier than a pair of 30-pound dumbbells because most of your effort goes into balancing your body on a wobbly surface!

For these reasons, hockey athletes should build their training programs around basic barbell, dumbbell, and bodyweight movements.

Such as...

Barbell: Squat, bench press, deadlift, clean, snatch.

Dumbbell: Bench press, overhead press, row, split squat, lunge.

Bodyweight: Weighted chin-up, dip, push-up.

But what if I could pick only a handful of movements to build a stronger and faster hockey player?

Check out the video below for my top 5 lower body exercises.

Hockey Leg Workout For Strength & Muscle

You should have a general idea of how to train for hockey by now.

Let's put some meat on the bones next with a sample strength workout, so you can see how the pros lift for real.

This workout is part of an off-season program I designed for Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Kasper Björkqvist when he was playing college hockey at Providence. 

I walk you through the full session in this video:

The workout takes place during the first week in Phase 2, which is our first heavy strength phase of the summer.

If you don't know what that means, read more about program design in my book Strength Training For Ice Hockey

Here's the workout with notes and technique cues:

1) Trap Bar Deadlift 3x5 240-300s.

This session begins with one of my all-time favorite strength exercises, the trap bar deadlift, for three sets of five reps.

Weaker athletes can get away with shorter rest periods of 3-4 minutes.

Once you're repping out 400+ pounds, that no longer flies. Each heavy set takes a toll on you, so cutting breaks short will cause your performance to drop, fast.

So take the full five minutes for full recovery.

2A) DB Reverse Lunge 3x6 75s.

After our main lift for the day, continue with a superset for the quads and hamstrings.

Grab a pair of dumbbells and perform six reverse lunges.

Rest 75 seconds and go to...

2B) Valslide Leg Curl 3x6 75s.

This one lights up the hamstrings big time.

Keep your ribs down and DO NOT let your lower back arch!

Just so you know...

Even many pro guys won't be able to do these off the bat with great technique. So take your time to perfect your form on two legs first.

Strong athletes can bang out regular reps all day long, so they'll progress to the single-leg version (and, eventually, to a resistance band for extra difficulty). 

If the jump from two legs to one is too much, you can do 2:1 reps where you lower with one leg and pull back up with two legs.

3A) Med Ball Adductor Squeeze 3x6 1-3-1-0 60s.

The session ends with a superset for the adductors and obliques, two overlooked areas in many hockey training programs.

Weak adductors are the #1 reason for groin strains.

That's where the med ball adductor squeeze comes in.

Same as with the Valslide leg curls, keep your butt up and ribs down.

Squeeze a med ball HARD between your knees for three seconds (that's the "3" in the 1-3-1-0 tempo), then bring your butt down for one second before the next rep.

Six reps, take 60 seconds off, then continue with...

3B) 1/2 Kneeling Cable Lift & Punch 3x6 60s.

Set up in a half-kneeling position with your feet shoulder width apart, and your outside knee up.

Using an overhand grip on a rope attachment, pull your lower hand to your chest, then straighten it.   

This makes the obliques (especially on the inside) work HARD to maintain good posture. 

Six reps here, 60 seconds off, then back to med ball adductor squeezes.

Three sets on each, and that wraps up this hockey leg workout!

For full off-season and in-season programs that get you jacked and blazing fast, check out Next Level Hockey Training 2.0.

It has produced more D1 college and pro hockey players, and World Champions than any other off-ice program available online.

More details about Next Level Hockey Training 2.0 here:

Yunus Barisik

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Yunus Barisik

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, specializes in making hockey players strong, fast and explosive. He has trained 500+ hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including T Nation, STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.

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