Since hockey is such a physical game, you would think to hone your skills, build the key muscle groups for skating and stick-work would take a lot of strenuous physical exercise. Yet you stumble on this blog, claiming you can improve your hockey game by being a couch potato?
Sounds too good to be true, right?
For good reason! If you are a guy or gal who’d want to couch luge their way through summer, you probably wouldn’t be a hockey player to begin with.
Fuel Up, Hydrate and Check with a Physician
Before you rush into an extensive fitness program, check with a doctor to make sure your body is fit enough for all or a portion of the exercise described here. Make sure you drink lots of water (especially on hot, humid days) and eat a balanced diet. Wheaties are strictly optional.
Cross-Training with Summer Sports
Summer offers hockey players with lots of great opportunities to build strength in your arms, shoulders, legs, chest core and glutes. Your glutes might be critical to your couch sitting activities, but a strong set of buns are critical to skating, shooting and passing the puck. It helps when you’re screening an opposing goalie, too.
Enhance your aerobic/respiratory health, with opportunities to cross-train with sports like:
- Ultimate Frisbee
Take as many opportunities to exercise your heart, lungs and get the blood and breathing flowing during the summer months. If you need to lock up the couch in the basement, don’t be afraid to do so. Or just live in a tent in your backyard. You’ll build up quickness and your potential to outskate your opponents to the puck.
Dryland Fitness Programs and Gear
There are lots of dryland exercises you can do if you have the right gear, and find a park, or you’re your backyard if there’s enough space.
If you need some inspiration, or help with some effective off-ice training exercises, the HockeyShot Off-Ice Training program has a comprehensive training program, and it’s free!
In the summer months, you don’t want to be inside a gym to exercise, there are lots of outdoor exercises you can do for:
- Warm up your body and prepping your muscles - 10-15 minutes
- Speed exercises, otherwise known as Plyometrics - 30 minutes
- Power/Resistance training to strengthen muscles - 30 Minutes
- Cool-down training – Another 15 minutes
You might be in a summer hockey league, but if you can’t find an ice surface, there are some great Synthetic Ice options or All-Star Dryland Flooring Tiles you can install in your basement, once you store your couch in the garage.
Get Your Golf On
For hockey players playing golf is a rite of passage. If you are a fan of Canadian NHL teams lately, you are all-too familiar with the importance of golf as an off-season sport. Playing golf is a great way to bond with teammates, and use your upper body strength in a different way than you do on the ice.
Many current and former NHLers, including Wayne Gretzky , Marc Messier, Alex Ovechkin, Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby are avid golfers. There are many hockey/golf training camps for kids and teens who are looking to build both their hockey and hockey skills.
Summer Exercises for Goalies
Dryland training isn’t just for forwards and defensemen, there are lots of great exercises for netminders too. Goalies need flexibility as well as strength. Building fast reflexes, strong legs and upper body are all areas you can work on if you’re a goaltender.
Goalies need to work on their stability, so your core muscles need a good workout. If you’re looking to add some dryland workout gear, doing isometric hold exercises, and using a Slideboard with stoppers can help you practice your butterfly, stacking the pads and standing on your head. That last one you can do on the couch if you need to.
Shooting and Passing Practice
Spring and summer months are ideal for practicing your shots on goal, or passing to a line mate. Practicing your shots in your driveway, on a dead-end street or an under-used tennis court is a great place to hone your sniping. If you need some tips on how to make a great wrap-around shot or transfer your weight, you’ll find great advice from hockey coaches here.
If you want to take a slap shot like Jeremy Roenick, (on net, not to the face) or a snap shot like Joe Sakic, there’s lots of daylight outside to take shots at targets or a Shooter Tutor. If you want to protect your sticks, and prevent them from splintering on a regular basis, a shooting pad will give you better slide for your shot. It’s about the closest thing to an ice surface you can get outside, and you can build up some flex in your stick.
Passing practice is easy if you’ve got a group of friends playing road hockey, and a dry land puck. If you have some friends with wild shots, and you just painted your garage door, a net with a backstop will save you from the dog house. Or from running up the street every time a shot goes wide.
If your friends have to go home when the street lights go on, a passing rebounder can let the good times roll for another couple of hours. Or until your Mom (or significant other) calls an end to your fun.
Stickhandling practice is doable on synthetic ice or with a shooting pad. With the right amount of space, and some inanimate obstacles, you can set up an effective deking course. Once you’ve graduated past basic puck management, graduate to toe drags, puck lifts and use a hockey ball for high speed stick magic.
Stickhandling is a skill that is often taken for granted in the sport. When you have the puck at game time, you don’t want to wish you spent more time last summer practicing receiving passes, protecting the puck or faking out a goalie.
Summer Time Exercises for Improving Skating Techniques
There are some great exercises which will build up your calves, core and thighs. You can do these inside on a rainy day, or as you are watching your son play soccer. You might get some funny looks now and then, or you might start a new trend.
These exercises include:
- Wall sits
- Side planks
- ne-legged squats
- Push on a weighted sled across your yard or up the street
- Work with a medicine ball
- Plyometric exercises
All of these exercises will give you some great explosive power for when the new season rolls around. Stronger legs for a strong stride, and a strong core, arms and shoulders for a powerful shot. If you want to build up rapid acceleration off the hop, the most powerful skating muscles you need to work on are the same ones you are sitting on right now – your glutes.
There are an amazing number of skills you can work on during the off-season for skating:
- Backward skating
You might have had sore ankles or shaking knees after games last season, but with the right off-season exercise regimen, you’ll be walking strong after games next season, hopefully with that cute hockey fan from the third row that gave you a ""Standing O"" after you scored the winning goal.
Hockey Training for Growing Tweens and Teens
If you (or your former ""rink rat"") are growing through the years between 14-15 for boys, or 12-13 for girls, you should tailor your off-season and in-season training accordingly.
During growth spurts, kids are growing into their adult bodies, and are at the height of their clumsiness. Specialized hockey training can help these hyper-hormonal beings to improve their:
Fortunately, most of the players on the ice will be going through growth spurts at the same time, so everyone will feel a little awkward and gangly. Once a growth spurt has subsided, experts say you can shift from an all-skill focus back into power and strength.
For all hockey players, including forwards, defensive players and goalies – summer is not the time to laze around on the couch or a hammock outside. Adopting these skill, power and strength exercises will improve your game when next fall rolls around, not to mention how it will make you look in your bathing suit.
You can make a lot of improvements to your game and your physicality without spending a dime. Yet if you make some strategic purchases, you can train more effectively all year round. The improvements in your fundamental skills will seem priceless:
Take a leadership role with your other hockey playing friends and family members. If you all get on a consistent exercise program, and work on building a consistent skill set, you can all chip in to buy the gear you need to improve your game.
If you need further inspiration for keeping disciplined to an off-season training program, look to Connor McDavid. If you put in enough time practicing your skills, you’ll be forgiven for the odd power-nap on the couch now and then.