Top 10 Off-Ice Exercises For A Strong & Athletic Hockey Body

Top 10 Off-Ice Exercises For A Strong & Athletic Hockey Body

You want to get jacked and perform like a pro athlete.

And you don't have all day to read useless gym theories.

You just need to know exactly what to do.

Build your routine around these top 10 off-ice exercises, reach the pro performance standards listed, and you'll be on your way to the strong and athletic hockey body you want.

#10: 1 Arm Dumbbell Row

A thick, wide, python back never goes out of style. 

It's a dead giveaway – that dude lifts!

One-arm dumbbell rows mainly target the lats, but other upper back muscles also come into play. 

The biggest mistake I see is guys swinging the weight up and down uncontrolled.

Their biceps and forearms do most of the work, but they feel nothing in their back.

This is wasted effort.

Using strict form, learn how to stretch and contract the lat on each rep for maximal growth. 

Moderate body English is acceptable with advanced lifters who know how to stay tight and contract muscle using heavy loads. 

Pro performance: 10 reps with a dumbbell matching your body weight.

#9: Dumbbell Bench Press

When it comes to popular off-ice exercises for the upper body, the barbell bench press sits cozy on the throne.

So why would I pick the dumbbell bench press in its place?

Because I've never had an athlete complain about any shoulder problems with dumbbells.

Your arms are forced into a fixed position on the barbell bench, which can cause issues – especially if you don't know how to stay tight or tuck your elbows. 

With dumbbells, by using a semi-neutral or neutral grip, you can press from a more comfortable position and work around that shoulder pain.

The only major drawback of dumbbell benching?

It's harder to overload.

Since most gyms have dumbbells that go up in 5-pound increments, the jump from a pair of 90s to the 95s often proves to be too much. With challenging loads, you lose a few reps for every 5-pound increase.

Still, the benefits outweigh the cons:

You lift over a greater range of motion, which produces better chest pumps. 

And your shoulders stay healthy in the long run. 

I'll take those, even if it means using a somewhat lighter load than what you can lift with a barbell, any day.

Pro performance: 10 reps with a weight totaling 1.2x body weight.

#8: Glute Ham Raise

While the hamstrings are involved to some degree in any multi-joint lower body exercise (squat, deadlift, split squat...) you perform, for maximal strength and muscle gains you must train them directly. 

Enter the glute ham raise. 

Curling your torso up from a horizontal position using nothing but the muscles of your backside takes (and builds) tremendous hamstring strength.

This short video explains why I prefer glute ham raises over Nordic curls – another bodyweight hamstring exercise that has gained popularity in recent years.

While well-trained athletes can usually jump right in with regular sets of 6-10 reps, many guys don't have strong enough hamstrings just yet.

If that's you, use band assistance to make the concentric (upward) phase easier.

Over time, your goal is to ditch the band and get proficient at owning the full range of motion without help.

Beyond 10-12 regular reps, the same rules of progressive overloading apply as on any other lift: 

Add weight. Hold a plate in front of your chest and bang away.

Pro performance: 20 bodyweight reps.

#7: Chest Supported Row

The problem with many upper back exercises? 

Guys use bad form and momentum to move heavier weights. 

By letting your forearms, biceps or lower back take over, you can lift more.

Too bad it does NOTHING for your upper back development.

Chest supported rows stop that mindless heave-hoeing. 

Since your body is locked into place against the bench, cheating becomes much harder. 

Now you're forced to stop ego lifting and pick lighter loads that give you the best pumps and training effect in the right muscles – mainly in the mid-upper back around the shoulder blades. 

A lot of people do these with dumbbells but beyond a certain point, overloading the movement becomes tricky.

So switch to an EZ or Swiss bar when that happens. 

Also, the upper back responds favorably to increased time under tension. 

So, in addition to using different implements to vary the training stimulus, hold the top position for 3-6 seconds on regular sets or do countdown sets as explained below. 

That will pack some much needed muscle on your back!

Pro performance: No strength metrics here.

Focus on a smooth execution and getting a tremendous pump. Loading is secondary.

#6: Weighted Dip

Despite producing great chest, shoulder and triceps growth, weighted dips don't get the love they deserve.

Probably because they are hard

Much easier to hop on a pec deck or seated shoulder press machine, mindlessly pumping away through your three sets of 12 as you ogle that hot blonde in tight leggings doing RDLs over at the power rack. 

That's not good enough and you know it.

Follow this simple three-step plan to turn into a weighted dip machine:

#1: Get lean, so moving your body through space becomes easier.

#2: Work up to multiple sets of 10-12 bodyweight reps. This is your foundation. Shoulder at elbow level at the bottom, minimum.

#3: Add external load and get freaky strong.

Use different hand positions – regular grip, neutral grip (parallel bars), close-grip, externally rotated grip (hands facing out on V-bar) – to decrease the beating your shoulders take. 

Pro performance: 1 rep with 1x body weight.

#5: Snatch-Grip Deadlift (5s. Eccentric)

Weak, underdeveloped glutes, hamstrings, and spinal erectors... 

Every hockey player who seeks out my coaching suffers from this same issue.

Your run-of-the-mill personal trainers and physical therapists try to "awaken dormant glutes" by having you go through 20 sets of bodyweight glute bridges or do miniband walks around the block.

What a crock! 

The single best exercise to bring lagging posterior chain muscles up to snuff is the snatch-grip podium deadlift.

Standing on plates, blocks, or an aerobic stepper adds 1-4 inches to the range of motion compared to standing on the floor. 

This increased ROM hammers your backside, especially the spinal erectors. 

Most athletes, at least initially, won't have the mobility and body control to perform quality reps elevated on a podium. 

The next best thing is to reduce the range of motion by elevating the bar on blocks, then get closer to the ground as your mobility and control improve over time. 

Once you have got the technique and timing down pat, it's time to pull from the floor as you pile on the plates.

And here's a neat twist to supercharge your results...

Take five full seconds to lower each rep under control.

This produces incredible spinal erector pumps and makes your lower back bulletproof.

Pro performance: 5 reps with 2.2x body weight.

#4: Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

One of the classic off-ice exercises, Bulgarian split squats produce tremendous single-leg strength and stability.

Elevating the back leg also turns it into a flexibility exercise by stretching out the hip flexors – a chronically tight area in hockey players.

Many athletes do this lift with a bar on their back which places the lower back into hyperextension, thereby setting themselves up for future back issues.

It also causes a dangerous situation if you miss a rep because you can't just dump the bar behind your back (your rear leg is there, remember?).

The only bar I recommend using on Bulgarians is a safety bar where you grab the power rack uprights or safety pins for extra stability.

Also known as a Hatfield Bulgarian split squat, this variation lets you overload the legs without having to worry about balance.

Pro performance: 5 reps with 1.5x body weight.

#3: Weighted Chin-Up

Pulling your body from a dead hang over the bar with 100+ pounds hanging off your waist...

How often do you see that? 

Outside of my athletes and YouTube fitness dudes, I've never seen a guy chin with more than two plates at a public gym.

That's unfortunate, because weighted chin-ups are an excellent back and biceps builder. 

It also separates men from boys. And ripped guys from fatties. 

Unlike in the bench press or squat, you can't post impressive strength numbers at 18% body fat.

Every ounce of excess fat you carry on your frame makes weighted chin-ups harder. 

Want outstanding relative strength performance in this lift?

Then stop stuffing your face with Hershey Bars!

Pro performance: 1 rep with 0.7x body weight.

#2: Squat

No hockey player is a stranger to squats. 

You've likely gone down and up with a bar on your back thousands of times.

But few athletes ever squat RIGHT.

"Deep squats hurt your knees" and "Your toes shouldn't go past your toes" are two persistent myths that have damaged more knees and ruined more athletes than anything else I can think of.

This video explains why the "knees over toes = dangerous" argument is absolute bullshyt.

Still think half-squats take the cake?

Then I urge you to read my book Strength Training For Ice Hockey where I break it all down with scientific studies. 

It's true that squatting over a limited range of motion improves jumps and sprints in relatively strong athletes.

But it does nothing for beginners and weak guys. 

First, you get STRONG over a full range of motion.

Taking your full squat from 185 pounds to 365 pounds will do more for your game than shaky, shallow knee bends at 405 ever could. 

Once you're moving respectable loads, you can squeeze short squats into your routine to increase strength at joint angles more specific to sports. 

Until then, no half-squats for you!

Pro performance: 1 rep with 2x body weight.

#1: Trap Bar Deadlift

The high-handle trap bar deadlift is the safest lower body exercise for maxing out and should be a staple in any off-ice routine. 

Thanks to a more upright body position and more natural hand position, the trap bar is the perfect deadlift variation for non-powerlifters.

It doesn't beat you up too much. 

And you can move some huge loads here.

It just feels RIGHT.

Pro performance: 1 rep with 3x body weight.

Reach the pro performance standards on all ten off-ice exercises listed, and there's no way you won't have a lean, muscular, athletic physique.

For context, I have hit (and in many cases surpassed) every single one of these performance markers.

Now go ahead and do likewise. 

To access the most effective strength program ever created for hockey players, click 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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