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Strength Conditioning for Ice Hockey

August 3rd, 2012

By Master Trainer, John Sinclair

Canada’s national sport is ice hockey. As a Canadian, I grew up playing hockey at an early age and still continue to play now that I’m 36. It’s a fantastic sport that requires speed, agility, quickness, power, strength and stamina.

ice hockey strength training sandbell steelbell weight vest

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Hockey has been referred to as one of the fastest sports to be played, with players skating in excess of 20 mph, and some NHL players reaching 30mph. According to physicist Thomas Humphrey skating is “the fastest way to travel on the surface of the earth on your feet.”

Not only is Hockey a Canadian passion, in some ways it is a right of passage. The reason I started playing the game was because all my friends were already doing it. Today, I am contacted all the time by parents wanting their children to start training in the off season for hockey at ages as young as seven. How things have changed? I was playing for fun, and now parents want to start learning how to improve their child’s performance to get an advantage over other kids.

When parents come to me I first ask if their kids are involved in other sports. I believe that kids need to become better athletes first, and then better hockey players. If the kids are having fun, then there is no such thing as training. Playing is training. This is why I think the SandBell is such a great tool for kids and aspiring college and professional players alike.

No matter what your age is and what outcome you want from training with the SandBell, as long as it is fun and relevant, the athlete will continue to want to play with it. Nothing can truly prepare you for skating like skating itself, but we can replicate the movements with the SandBell to guide proper positioning for the skating stride. A main issue that I see with younger athletes is the inability for to maintain a strong skating posture.

Ex. of bad hockey position

Ex. of good hockey position


Poor skating posture can happen as a result of sitting in a chair for too long without the opportunity to mobilize inactive tissues. For example, when the hamstring is crushed or inactive, it will begin glue itself to the adductors (groin). In the seated position, the hip flexor and quadriceps are shortened and without movement will also become glued and stiff.

Most of the injuries related to hockey that I see come from adolescent players that have torn groin or hamstring muscles. It could also be that they have recently had a growth spurt. The soft tissue cannot keep its elasticity at the same rate that bone is growing, creating unequal levels of tension. Thus, to prevent injury, young players need to improve their mobility.

Hockey Conditioning with the SandBell

The game of hockey requires changes of direction, stops and starts, warding, dodging, collisions, explosive quickness, agility, strength and power, and accuracy to shoot and pass all while on a frictionless surface and balancing on top two, thin steel blades. To say the game is physically challenging is an understatement.

Hockey is an amazing sport that requires all components of athleticism. Hockey players will need to be able to generate power with the trunk and hips to have a strong shot. They will also need to maintain shifts of up to 60 seconds. Therefore the coach will have to recreate movements that require speed, agility, quickness, strength, power, stopping, accelerating and changing directions rapidly.

Hockey players also need to resist and battle for the puck and to maintain space or control space against defenders or offenders. We call this warding. Warding can be a great way to develop strength to help them battle opponents for the puck. We will do warding for 3-5 seconds per repetition and then move to a different position to ward from. This random chaotic warding is crucial for our soft tissues and it is also more specific to the sport.

Watch the video below for examples of hockey specific drills that I use with the Hyperwear SandBell!

Click image to watch the SandBell exercises for hockey video!

To start training with SandBells to improve your hockey game, buy  SandBells of your own! Enjoy, keep your head up, and your stick on the ice!

Examples of hockey exercises with the SandBell

Warding with the SandBell

Exercise to improve trunk power

Hip mobilizer exercise 1

Hip mobilizer exercise 2

About John Sinclair

John Sinclair is a Master Personal Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Educator, Author and Mentor with World Health, the largest chain of health clubs in Western Canada. John serves as Director of Continuing Education and as a workshop presenter and mentor for the World Health personal trainers in Edmonton and Calgary Alberta. John has presented over 150 full day workshops for World Health and has 13 years of personal training experience.  John is a member of the Faculty for PTA Global.  You will find him travelling and representing the top vendors in the fitness industry, as he is a Master Trainer for ViPR, Power Plate North America, Technogym and Hyperwear.

John’s experience as a strength and conditioning specialist include coaching amateur and professional athletes in hockey, lacrosse, football, soccer, and basketball.  John is a Medical Exercise Specialist and enjoys working with clients that require unique strategies to help eliminate their pain and discomfort. John’s degree in Athletic Therapy enhanced by the education of PTA Global has provided an ability to train clients that range from sedentary to Olympic athlete.

Looking to improve your golf game? Read up on John Sinclair’s blog about using the SandBell to improve golf performance and accuracy

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