The Best Exercises for Hockey Players

Feb 6, 2016 by

I asked NHL athletic therapist Jon Geller to answer a question I often get asked, “what are the best exercises for hockey players?” Here is his response.  

The Best Exercises for Hockey Players

kobe hockey

Guest post by Maple Leafs athletic therapist Jon Geller

Sorry, I tricked you. Well not really, but just in the way you think. Let me
elaborate. I have been extremely fortunate over the past seven years to have worked for two of the
proudest franchises, and largest hockey markets in the NHL. I am a Certified Athletic Therapist and
Strength & Conditioning Specialist. I am also certified by the International Youth Conditioning
Association (IYCA) as a Youth Conditioning Specialist. Presently, I am the Assistant Athletic
Therapist for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I get asked all the time: what is the best exercise for
young hockey players? How can my kid get a faster shot? What’s the best way to work on speed?
What’s the best way for my child to add muscle? My answer to usually all of those questions is the
same: make sure your child isn’t playing hockey year-­‐round, and get them involved in different
sports. Simple, isn’t it? Hopefully, the rest of this article will shed light on exactly what I
mean by that.
From the time that I have begun working in professional hockey, the average age of the players in
the NHL has dropped. The speed and sheer strength of the players has also increased. Every summer
during development camp, we welcome a host of new, young players into the organization. What’s more
impressive then their size, speed, and strength, is their history of injuries to date. The
competition, and pressure to get on the top teams in minor hockey causes most to think that they
should be playing hockey year-­‐round and taking part in summer training programs. This combination
is a recipe for overuse injuries and burn out.
Hockey is a sport that requires, amongst many things, anaerobic power (short burst explosiveness),
agility, vision, balance, flexibility, strength, and power. We can break each of those aspects out,
and be as scientific as possible in terms of specific training programs, or we can allow children
to simply play other sports during their off-­‐season.
Allowing your children to participate in other sports during the off-­‐season will provide numerous
benefits. It will first of all let them get out of the cold, dark arena. It will expose them, and
you the parent, to a different group of friends. It will get them outside (depending on the sport)
in the sun during the summer. It will force them to practice particular skills for the sport they
are participating in, which will, in turn, help them with hockey. Most importantly, though, having
time off from hockey will make them look forward to the start of their next season.

baseball slide

To expand on my last point, every sport has key attributes that are unique to that sport. I will
provide a few examples of how different sports can have great carry-­‐over to hockey.
Baseball requires concentration, hand-­‐eye coordination, and the ability to generate power to hit
the ball. To throw a baseball, one needs to possess good vision, tracking, accuracy, shoulder
flexibility and strength, as well as the ability to generate power to throw the ball with high
velocity. In order to catch a ball, one would need good speed, agility, vision, tracking, and
hand-­‐eye coordination. Soccer requires speed, endurance, agility, vision, coordination, balance, and power.

Professional soccer players, aside from the goalie, can run up to 10
kilometers during a 90-­‐minute match. Your child will not even realize that they are running that
much because they’re having so much fun. Without giving all the technical biomechanics, generating
force/power to kick a soccer ball, is the same way we would generate force to take a slap shot.
Same exact concept for throwing a ball. Get the idea? I used to think having strong arms and chest
would help me have a harder shot, and although it certainly may play a small factor, it definitely
is not the most important.
Martial arts require discipline, balance, flexibility, and power. Performing a high-­‐kick would
require one to balance and stabilize on one leg, while generating force from the ground, up, and
transferring through their core, while powerfully kicking with the other leg. Again, we can
correlate this mechanism with skating.
Before placing your child in a structure weight training program, please ask
yourself the following question: has my child mastered fundamental movements? Can they roll, crawl,
squat, balance on a narrow base, walk, run, skip, shuffle, hop, leap, bound, throw, and catch? If
the answer to any of those is no, most structured weight training programs will not address these,
and further, place fitness on top of a poor foundation of movement – placing unnecessary stress on
their bodies. This is why, I believe, we see the impressive resume of injuries we do from young
athletes entering professional hockey.
All of the above-­‐mentioned attributes are vital for hockey. The best part
about these is that your child won’t even realize they’re working on them, and I can guarantee that
they won’t achieve the same results by working in the gym. Above all, let your child enjoy their
time away from hockey by doing the things they love,
with the ones they love.

Jon Geller is Assistant Athletic Therapist for the Toronto Maple Leafs and has worked with the Hamilton Bulldogs and Montreal Canadiens.



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