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Improve Your Speed, Balance, and Agility for Ice Hockey

Herkie / flickr

Athletes' Performance in Carson, Calif., trains nearly a dozen elite hockey players. Their strategies can help you succeed on the ice.

1. Schedule More Time for Rest

Many times, when hockey players return to their off-season training, they've had only 2 or 3 weeks off since the end of their grueling seasons, but that doesn't mean they're sitting around waiting to feel fully recovered. No, they're doing things in the gym to help their bodies recover faster.

"The first thing we're looking to do is prevent injuries," says Zac Woodfin, a performance specialist who works with professional hockey players at Athletes' Performance.

Anytime you're returning from a layoff, spend a few extra minutes on movement preparation, prehab and recovery. Simply moving more and loosen up tight areas will prepare you for more intense training in the weeks ahead.

2. Train for Your Sport

When do you run in your sport and when do you rest? Think about it. "If you go out and run 3 miles, that may not translate well to your game, Woodfin says. For instance, a line change in hockey is typically 45 seconds, so condition your body to maintain a high effort for that period with Energy System Development (ESD).

Here's a sample routine:

  • Run hard for 45 seconds
  • Rest for 90 seconds to 2 minutes.
  • Repeat 3-5 times. If your heart rate drops fast and you feel fully recovered, then add a repetition. So in this example, you would do a total of 6 sprints next, then 7, and so on.

3. Stand Up to the Competition

Since the ice is an unstable playing surface, hockey players should work on their ability to stay strong, stable, and balanced. So when an opponent tries to steamroll you, you'll be ready.

Woodfin suggests drills to improve your "postural stability," or stability through your hips, torso, and shoulders. Here's a drill that will help:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend at the hips and knees to lower your body into a quarter-squat position (about 6 inches down).
  • Straighten your arms out in front of your chest, hands together, elbows slightly bent.
  • Have a training partner try to push your hands to either side while you resist his force.
  • Keep your pillar tight and focus on maintaining perfect posture for 15 to 20 seconds.
  • Then switch, so you'll try to move his hands while he resists your force. Not challenging enough for you? Use a split stance, instead of shoulder-width apart, so one foot is roughly a foot forward and the other is a foot back.

Tags: Stability, Rest, Speed, Agility, Energy System Development, Injury Prevention, Balance, Sports Performance, Strength, Cardio, Hockey, Pillar strength