Becoming Stronger on the Puck

By Peter Twist

Puck possession is an imperative piece to controlling and winning hockey games.

The ability to win the battle for loose pucks in front of the nets, along the boards or in the open ice will provide your team with a serious competitive advantage. The ability to control the power play, create turnovers on the penalty kill and own even strength play all add up to your opponent having less time on the puck and less ability to score. One way to improve a player’s ability to be stronger on the puck is to increase their core strength and balance skills.

Hockey success comes from great leg strength for high speed braking and changes of direction along with explosive rotary power for high velocity shots. Players with fast feet and powerful legs win the races for loose pucks and quickly transition to the attack. Players who develop standing core strength and explosive rotary power build the foundation for strength and power in both upper and lower body skill execution. Choosing exercise methods that develop a solid foundation by building the athlete from the inside out will provide great transfer to on ice performances.

The goal is to train full range (all 360 degrees) core stability in a standing position to strengthen the deep muscles that establish posture and drive skating patterns.  This approach teaches the core muscles and the joints to stabilize and contract in the correct order providing a strong stable base and more leverage for explosive force production for hockey specific skills. Think of this as “core-dinated” strength. Players that build a strong core are better prepared for both giving (force production) and receiving (force absorption) body contact.  This critical stabilization is trained at slow speeds initially to build the base and then trained at explosive speeds to improve power.

Core exercises that purely focus on the stomach are not enough to gain the stability or strength to meet the demands of today’s game.  You need to get athletes off the ground in standing positions and challenge them 360 degrees around activating everything from their chest to their knees.

Begin with core stability challenges on the floor before progressing to standing static holds.  Players are encouraged to establish a strong position with unpredictable partner pushes competing to stay stable. A standing Smart Toner static hold is a great exercise to build standing core strength and stability. Eventually exercises increase in difficulty as the athlete is challenged to remain strong on a single leg, just like on the ice.  Balance challenges can be added to continue to increase the core stability demand.  The outcome is a strong and stable core that can quickly react to regain balance after a check.

Many teams are motivated to play harder when they win puck battles but few parents, players or coaches enjoy witnessing injury. Body contact is part of the game and with player safety a primary concern, the development of a strong and stable core helps reduce the chance of injury and increases all aspects of on ice performance.

Peter Twist, 11 year NHL Conditioning Coach, is President of Twist Conditioning Inc that provides franchised Sport Conditioning Centres, Smart Muscle® Hockey training products and home study coach education.