While nothing can replace actual ice time, many off-ice, plyometric drills can help improve a player's skating during the season and in the offseason.
Let's start by defining Plyometrics... Plyometrics, originally called "jump training" or plyos, are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals, intending to increase power, defined as speed and strength. Plyometric training
focuses on learning to move from a muscle extension to a contraction in a rapid or "explosive" manner, such as in specialized repeated jumping. Athletes primarily use Plyometrics to improve performance, and are a perfect complement to a hockey player's on-ice training.
Below I share several of my favorite off-ice, plyometric drills players of all ages can do to improve their stride and explosiveness.
1. Diagonal Lateral Lunges - The diagonal lateral lunge is one of my favorite off-ice drills as the technique and body positioning most closely align with a player's proper stride technique. The diagonal lateral lunge requires the head and chest to be up, a deep knee bend, with a full extension and explosive push-off from the opposite leg (the push-off leg). It's a simple drill that hits all the muscle groups required for a powerful, explosive skating stride.
The video below, courtesy of HockeyTraining.com, illustrates how to do the exercise properly. Click the button below to play.
2. Standing Broad Jumps - The most significant benefit of standing broad jump training is that it improves the reaction of fast-twitch muscle fibers throughout the body. Like other plyometric exercises, effective broad jumps require your leg and core muscles to contract quickly so you can generate maximal force with each leap.
As illustrated in the video below, courtesy of Fitness Blender, you can do this in a small area, and it requires zero equipment. Click the video to see a proper demonstration of the exercise.
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3. Box Jumps - Box jumps are a great core exercise to enhance muscle tone and gain explosiveness, endurance, and power. Box jump training has many advantages. It works more than just a single muscle. Box jumps engage your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Jump from the floor up onto a box or another elevated surface that is stable. CrossFit provides an excellent illustration in the video below. Click the video below to play.
4. Alternating Leg Bounds - Alternating LegBounding is a very high-force activity; it is a powerful tool for improving speed from 5-20 meters or mid-acceleration. It will also make you more potent in explosive movements, such as changing directions and powering off one leg, such as a hockey stride. Simple Speed Coach provides an illustrative video below on leg bounding.
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5. Tuck Jumps - Tuck jumps are a type of plyometric movement that can increase the rate of muscle contraction, increase power output, enhance muscle performance, and ultimately improve athletic performance. Below, courtesy of Less Mills, we see a great instructional video on performing the Tuck Jump properly.
These are just a few of our favorites that can be performed by anyone, anywhere, and anytime without needing equipment, a gym membership, or an expensive trainer.
Putting it altogether
IMPORTANT: Before hitting these high-intensity plyometrics, stretching and warming up is imperative to prevent injury. We have included hyperlinks to web videos for the warm-ups in case you are unfamiliar with them.
1. Jumping Jacks: Start with 5-10 minutes of light aerobic exercise to increase blood flow and elevate your heart rate.
3. Hip Flexor Stretch: Stand in a lunge position with one foot forward and the other leg extended behind you. Lean forward while keeping your back straight until you feel a stretch in the front of your back hip. Hold for 15-30 seconds on each side.
4. Hamstring Stretch: Stand straight with one foot slightly in front of the other. Slowly bend forward at the hips, reaching towards your toes while keeping your knees slightly bent. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
5. Quadriceps Stretch: Stand straight and grab your ankle or foot behind you, pulling it towards your glutes. Keep your knees close together and maintain an upright posture. Hold for 15-30 seconds on each leg.
6. Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall with one foot in front of the other and hands on the wall for support. Keep your back leg straight and your heel on the ground while leaning forward. Hold for 15-30 seconds on each leg.
Remember to perform each stretch slowly and gradually increase the intensity, never forcing any movement. Additionally, listening to your body and modifying or skipping any exercises that cause discomfort or pain is crucial.
Off-Ice Program - 3 days per week
I would run the following program 3x per week (Monday, Thursday, Sunday, or any other combination of days that allows for 2 days of recovery before the next session). When running these exercises, take approximately 60-90 seconds of recovery time before starting the next set of reps. two days is a good recovery time between plyometric workouts.
Resting your body is essential for muscle recovery and injury prevention. If you do not allow yourself enough time to rest between plyometric workouts, you may experience fatigue, soreness, and even injury.
Diagonal Lateral Lunges - Do 3 sets covering approximately 30 yds of distance in each set.
Standing Broad Jumps - Do 3 sets with 6 broad jumps in each set (for a total of 18)
Box Jumps (or Drop Jumps) - Do 3 sets with 6 box jumps in each set (for a total of 18) - if you don't have a box, substitute box jumps with the Drop Jump - see the video for Drop Jumps here
Alternating Leg Bounds - Do 3 sets covering approximately 30 yds of distance in each set.
Tuck Jumps - Do 3 sets with 10 tuck jumps in each set (for a total of 30)
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