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

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:


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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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