Hockey is a sport of intensity, physical contact, stamina, strength, and speed. Because there is such a high level of stress on the body during hockey competition, players need to work hard in the weight room to prepare their bodies for the demands of the game. In addition, they need to work intelligently and come up with a training plan appropriate to their goal, which is to perform better on the ice.

By including these five essential movements into your program, you’ll have a leg up on the competition.


It has become a cliché, but squats are the “king of all lifts.” If players increase their squats, they’ll reap many benefits on the ice.

The first benefit of increasing your squat is full body strength development. Overall strength on the ice allows you to hit harder, shoot faster, battle with more strength in the corners, and take care of business in front of the net. Squatting develops the hamstrings, quads, glutes, hips, and lower back, which are the crucial muscles used when skating. All things being equal, an increased squat means a faster skater with more powerful strides. Being able to skate faster will lead to increased performance.

For ill-prepared players, the end of the third period can be a time for dead legs. Players who are used to squatting relatively heavy weight will be more likely to have “fresh” legs because they will have adapted to an increased workload on their muscles. The same thing applies to practice. If you have “fresh” legs at the end of practice, you can mentally focus more on skill work and spend less time worrying about how tired your legs feel.

Squats may be most essential for goalies. Goalies are constantly in a crouched position. They’re always getting up from their knees when in the butterfly, driving from side to side while shuffling or moving with the t-glide, and recovering from rebounds. All of these tasks require strong leg and back muscles in order to perform these movements quickly and with the same strength at the end of the game that they had at the beginning.


The deadlift is another full body power exercise. It hammers your entire posterior chain, which consists of your hamstrings, glutes, and back. A strong posterior chain helps you remain upright and helps improve skating speed and overall leg strength in a similar way as the squat.

Grip, hand, and forearm strength are crucial for getting off a quick wrist or snap shot. By holding the bar during the deadlift, you train all of these muscles. It’s also helpful for an “enforcer” to have a strong grip in case of a hockey fight, where grabbing and clinging to his opponents’ jersey
could be the difference between a win and a mouthful of broken teeth.

The deadlift also builds up your traps, a muscle group at the top of your back. One key component of having big traps is that they act as protection for your neck, which is an otherwise vulnerable body part. In a sport with so much physical contact, it’s vital to remain safe. Having big, strong traps will help.

Weighted abdominal work

Hockey is played on a slippery surface while standing on very thin blades. Stabilization is a vital component of keeping yourself upright while skating and when taking on a hard body check. Your abdominals and obloques are the key muscles in creating this stability.

The reason that I say weighted abdominal work instead of just abdominal work is because some people have visions of doing hundreds of crunches when they work their abdominals. This won’t help you play hockey one bit. However, grabbing dumbbells, plates, a cable pulley handle, a jump stretch band, or anything else that provides resistance and doing abdominal exercises will help strengthen your abdominals. In turn, it will help you stabilize yourself on the ice.

Rotational movements

Like the weighted abdominal work, rotational movements will help you stabilize yourself on the ice by working your “core” muscles. They’ll also help you increase your shot strength. If you think about taking a hard slap shot or wrist shot, your legs remain relatively stationary while your upper body rotates, driving your stick into the puck and driving the puck toward the net. By increasing rotational strength, you’ll increase shot strength as long as your shooting form and technique are sound.

The best exercises for increasing rotational strength are sledge hammer swings, wood choppers with a cable pulley, medicine ball movements, rotations while holding a plate, and anything else that forces your legs to stay stationary while your upper body moves side to side.

Prowler pushing/sled dragging
Pushing the Prowler and pulling the sled are two of the greatest ways to strengthen the skating muscles as well as increase conditioning for hockey players. Pushing the Prowler requires you to drive your legs into the ground in order to get the sled to move. This is similar to pushing off of your outside edges when you’re skating at full speed.

Dragging the sled also has a similar effect. When you drag a sled, it takes a toll on your legs and posterior chain muscles. If you read about the importance of squatting and deadlifting, you’ll remember that having strong legs and a strong posterior chain have many benefits to a hockey player’s on ice performance.

These five movements will help hockey players of all levels achieve more success in their sport. Although they are sometimes overlooked, keep in mind that every program needs balance. You need to be benching and rowing and performing mobility work, pre-habilitation/rehabilitation, and flexibility training as well. However, these essential movements will give you the most “bang for your buck” on the ice.

I hope hockey players and coaches continue to educate themselves and start giving strength and conditioning the attention it deserves. It will help our athletes succeed and help the overall quality of the game. So get in the weight room and start performing these essential movements if you haven’t been already!

Cole Clifford is the owner and head trainer at South Shore Strength and Conditioning, a brand new facility thirty minutes south of Boston, Massachusetts. He is also the owner and head coach of Next Level Goaltending and works as a high school goaltending/assistant bench coach and a youth coach for various hockey organizations in Massachusetts. Along with his hockey experience, Cole is a competitive powerlifter, personal trainer, and a middle school social studies teacher. For more information, contact him at

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at