The 20 Best off-ice Exercises for Hockey Goalies
The demands on the modern goalie are intense.
They can no longer just be positionally sound – they need to have the strength, power, and athleticism to not only match the speed of the modern game, but to dominate against it.
There’s a new era of goalies, and they’re more focused on off-ice training than ever before.
And while we see more goalies starting to take their training more seriously, we still see goalies using either old school exercises, following players' workouts, or getting into random gimmicky exercises.
That’s why we built the Relentless Goalie Program – to give goalies the exact playbook they need to enhance their performance. But today, we wanted to take a dive into the best exercises goalies can do to improve each facet of off-ice training from strength, power, core, and mobility.
So let’s dive in!
Skip to: Strength Exercises for Goalies
Skip to: Best Power Exercises for Goalies
Skip to: Best Core Exercises for Goalies
Skip to: Best Mobility Exercises for Goalies
Best Strength Exercises for Goalies
Alright so let’s start with why you’re probably here. You want to know what the best exercises are for goalies to do in the gym.
These are the strength-based exercises that are staples in all of our goalie’s workouts, including the Relentless Goalie program.
They might not be anything revolutionary, but they are the exercises that are the absolute best for goalies to develop the strength that translates to the crease.
#1: Reverse Lunge
The lunge pattern is essential for all athletes.
We’re always trying to get in at least one lunge-based exercise per workout, and that’s truly the minimum.
The Reverse Lunge is our favorite for goalies because it intentionally loads the glutes on the way down – and that’s what we’re trying to develop, the glute strength that will allow for more powerful pushes around the crease.
A lot of goalies think of this exercise as a phase 1, light weight/high rep, style exercise – when in reality we often push goalies to load this up and really start to develop some strength.
#2: Goblet Squat
Okay, this isn’t exactly another sleeper pick – but the Goblet Squat is truly undefeated.
Almost universally, the best athletes are the best squatters. It’s rare that we’ll see an elite goalie that isn’t also an elite squatter.
This doesn’t mean weight (although we encourage goalies to load up heavier with this one), instead we want to focus on movement quality. Complete control for as much depth as possible is the goal.
If you want to own and refine your movements in the crease, you better focus on owning your movements here with this squat.
#3: Lateral Lunge
This exercise is more “goalie-specific” than the rest, because we’re starting to challenge our strength in a lateral context.
Obviously everything from a shuffle to a cross-crease push is a lateral demand for goalies, and this is why we place such an emphasis on this in the gym.
We often start our goalies with an exercise called the Lateral Weight Shift which helps them to refine their movements and loading patterns in this lateral position.
Then we move to this lunge variation, which should be considered essential for all goalies. Not only does this exercise challenge the lunge muscles, but also loads up the adductors and challenges strength through a long range of motion. All super valuable things for goalies.
#4: The Lawn Bowler
This exercise is a little bit more unique, but we wanted to include a stability focused exercise on the list.
So many goalies are focused on “tightening up” their movements in the crease, but then they fail to develop the foundational stability they need to truly refine their movements.
This is one of our favorite all-time stability exercises.
Our goal is to reach as far as possible outside our body here, while stabilizing not only at the ankle but the entire body – eliminating any small movements or shakiness.
#5: Face Pulls
Alright let’s look at our first upper body exercise – and this is definitely a sleeper pick.
Goalies constantly play with their hands ahead of their body. In fact it’s one of the facets that goalie coaches teach first: get your hands off your body.
And while this is helpful positionally, it also puts a lot of strain on the upper body – creating that forward rounded shoulder position that can completely lock up the shoulders and upper back.
This exercise counter balances this by strengthening the postural muscles of the upper back that will help you better align your shoulders, eliminate imbalances, and develop the capacity to hold these positions more effectively and efficiently.
Alright, so we wanted to keep this to the top 5 strength exercises.
For us, these are non-negotiable in our goalie programs, and we’ve included these heavily in our Relentless Goalie program. But, while we’re here, we wanted to quickly share a couple more exercises that should be in your training as a goalie:
- Single Leg RDL – this absolutely should have been on our top 5 list, but we opted for the lawn bowler instead. The single leg RDL is the perfect exercise not only to challenge your single leg stability but also to strengthen your hamstrings, glutes, and the entirety of your posterior chain.
- Cossack Squat – definitely an exercise with an insane amount of value for goalies. Sometimes we use this just bodyweight for mobility, and then sometimes we use a light plate to challenge a goalie's ability to control those low ranges of motion. Either way, this exercise is absolutely huge in value.
- Incline Chest Press – when it comes to developing upper body strength, we really say that the best two exercises for any athlete is the chin up and the incline chest press. Even if the upper body might not seem like the “priority” for goalies – it’s still valuable to be developing full body strength.
Best Power Exercises for Goalies
Power is so insanely valuable for goalies.
Want to cover more ice with each push? Develop more power.
Want to be able to change direction and never get beat on 2 on 1s? Develop more power.
Want to make huge cross crease saves? Develop more power.
Want to play more dynamic in the crease? Develop more power.
We could keep going on this list forever. The truth is, the most most dynamic goalies in the game are the ones that have developed the power that will let them play more athletic.
The good news is, this is trainable – and with the right off-ice exercises you can absolutely find a noticeable impact on your performance in the crease.
So, let’s dive into some!
#1: Half Kneel to Lateral Jump
This is an exercise that should absolutely be in every goalies workout program.
We often hear from goalies who know they need to get more powerful and are just using “box jumps” to develop that power.
We literally never use box jumps with goalies. It’s not that they are useless, they just are nowhere near as valuable as exercises like this one.
Here, not only do you have the opportunity for a maximum contraction (which is the goal of a box jump) but you also need to express power laterally instead of vertically (far more applicable for goalies) and are starting in a position that you’ll find on the ice.
This is an insanely applicable exercise for goalies and should be used often!
#2: Half Kneel to Lateral Double Jump
This progression on the exercise above – and one that’s super valuable for goalies.
After completing the half kneel to lateral jump, we see a lot of goalies “land high” – where they’ve landed in a position where they’re no longer athletic or could generate more power.
This is something we see in the crease too – a lot of goalies will make one powerful push and then aren’t in a position to generate a second. Or have to waste time resetting & reloading to make another push.
This exercise aims to challenge that by having goalies land and then immediately be ready to make a second jump from the same leg.
This “reload & explode” concept is vital to success in the crease.
#3: Lateral Lunge to Push Off
So we mentioned the lateral lunge as a strength exercise above, but with an easy tweak it can become an insanely valuable power-based exercise for goalies.
We’re going to use the same lateral lunge movement pattern but when we get to the bottom of the rep we’re going to aggressively fire off and explode back to the starting position.
Because we do this loaded (even light) we put a huge demand on goalies to generate more power than they normally would with their own bodyweight.
We really want to emphasize loading up the hip here so that we can intentionally fire from our glutes.
Note: the demo above uses a stability pad to challenge ankle stability, but this isn't variation isn't the same power demand as what we're referencing here. You can go no pad, load up, and make this exercise much more power focused.
#4: Box Drive Throughs
Okay, so this is more of a sleeper pick – but we love it for goalies.
While the previous exercises were primarily focused on loading up the posterior chain and firing from the hip (which is essential for goalies) – this exercise has a different loading pattern and typically will activate more quad.
While this has value, we actually like this exercise because we want our goalies to focus on shifting from their quads to glutes (or firing from the hip). This exercise is often where a lot of goalies refine their firing patterns and intentionally feel that loading in the hip – which ultimately allows them to access more power.
So while this does put a demand on the quads (and stabilizing the knee while generating power) we really love this exercise to help goalies refine their movements to generate even more power.
Hopefully you noticed that all of the above exercises are unilateral – meaning they’re single leg exercises. We love unilateral exercises for goalies because you’re always expressing force from a single leg. Unlike a basketball or volleyball player who are jumping – goalies are only ever expressing power from one leg pushing off at a time.
Regardless of what power-based exercises you’re using, you should put a specific emphasis on this (and lateral express).
Best Core Exercises for Goalies
Core strength is hugely underrated for goalies.
Hockey players know the importance of core strength, but when trainers start working with goalies it seems they deprioritize core work for more mobility.
This is a huge mistake.
We can break this into two reasons:
- Resisting Contact. The reality is, as a goalie you’re going to get net front contact. Maybe its a player crashing the net off the rush, in which case core strength can prevent potential injuries – but more likely it’ll be the small bumps that players “accidentally” dish out. While sometimes this gets called, it often doesn’t. That’s why by developing core strength you own your positions and not lose body position when you’re run into.
- Owned Movements. Not enough goalies or trainers realize the importance of core strength in owning and refining their movements in the crease. Your ability to express power, find postures, or create stability, all come from your ability to brace your core.
So the obvious next question is – what core exercises are best for goalies?
Of course the basic planks are a great place to start, but we wanted to create a tailored list of some of our favorites specifically for goalies and core exercises we use heavily in our Relentless Goalie program.
So make sure you steal these for your own workouts:
#1: Tall Kneeling Pallof Press
You might have seen the original Pallof Press before. It’s a classic, and for good reason.
The Pallof Press is an anti-rotation exercise that challenges your ability to brace core against rotation by activating essentially all of your core muscles.
Not only does this variation eliminate planting with the lower body and force even more core stability – we love this for goalies because it puts them in a position they’re most commonly in on the ice. Adding this level of specificity allows goalies to get even more refined with their movements and positions and really find those braced positions on the ice.
We like to take this even further with the One Leg Abducted Pallof Press that even more closely mirrors on-ice positions for goalies.
Either way, make sure you’re not shifting your hips and stay strong against the rotation.
#2: Adductor Side Plank
We’ve all seen side planks before, they’re super valuable for all athletes.
While so much of core work is focused on the abs and anti-extension exercises, side planks challenge not only the oblique muscles but a wide variety of core muscles that are often overlooked.
This variation takes side planks to a whole new level while also adding valuable groin/adductor work that goalies need to avoid injuries.
We like our youth goalies to be able to hold this for a minimum of 30s and our elite goalies to be to hold this for at least 60s.
If you can’t hold either (we often see goalies who can’t break 30s) then make this exercise a priority in your training.
#3: Activated Bird Dog
This might not look like a traditional “ab exercise” but it develops total core strength.
Physiotherapists often call the basic Bird Dog (with both knees on the ground) one of the most valuable low back exercises possible – and we agree.
But we find that a lot of athletes can master the Bird Dog with a couple of weeks of training and then it becomes less valuable unless you’re making long holds.
Instead, we like to progress with this “activated” version.
This really challenges trunk control – which is so valuable for goalies to develop and directly translates to better body control in the crease.
#4: Weighted Deadbug
Crunches and sit-ups are literally nowhere near as valuable as the Deadbug.
Not only is this exercise a good “ab exercise” and challenges the anti-extension muscles, but it also teaches goalies better body/trunk control.
As we reach out, we naturally have the tendency to flair our ribs open. This exercise we’re intentionally challenging ourselves to eliminate by forcing our low back into the ground and keeping it there.
Oftentimes, we’ll start youth goalies on just a body weight version of this exercise. Once they can complete 12 reps without your low back lifting off the ground – we can progress to weights.
For our more elite goalies, we still struggle with this exercise. It looks easy, but when we really focus on perfect reps, we start to notice that we naturally want to flair open. Start light here and progress. Once you’ve found a challenging weight and can hit 12 perfect reps – start to add 3-5s holds at the bottom of the rep.
Best Mobility Exercises for Goalies
Goalies are obsessed with mobility and flexibility
From the massive cross-crease saves to a tighter butterfly – mobility has a direct impact on performance in the crease.
And, while all goalies know that they need to be stretching, most goalies get stuck on what stretches or exercises to actually do. This often leads to us seeing goalies going a couple of toe touches and groin stretches and calling it day.
In our Relentless Goalie Program we place a huge emphasis on active mobility and challenging goalies to both increase range of motion and control it. We’ve had dozens and dozens of goalies say that this type of mobility work has completely changed how they move in the crease.
So we figured we had to share our top 6!
#1: Activated Couch Stretch
Tight hip flexor and quads are insanely common in goalies.
Always playing in a low, squat-like position means that these muscles are both chronically overworked and shortened.
Combine this with a ton of sitting at school and work and it's a recipe for disaster.
While you’ve likely used some sort of lunge/hip flexor stretch in the past, we love this variation because it releases not only the hip flexors but also the quads. We named this the GOAT stretch for hockey players, but we really think it should be in all goalies' mobility routine as well.
#2: Standing Open the Gate
Range of motion is only valuable if you can control it.
This exercise is perfect for goalies to not only open up their hips, but also practice controlling their range of motion.
Make sure you’re actively flexing against your end range here and feel as if you’re “reclaiming” more range with every rip. This can be a battle but it goes a long way for goalies in restoring optimal range and improving hip control.
#3: Fire Hydrant to Pigeon
This is another awesome control/mobility hybrid exercise that our goalies love.
We consider this a Relentless Hockey Original because we haven’t seen it anywhere – but it’s insanely effective in improving both range of motion and control.
This is essentially two exercises combined. Our goal is to really flow through these exercises and create as much range of motion as possible here.
8 reps per side here often has a noticeable difference for goalies.
#4: Laying Internal Rotations
Talking about noticeable differences, this might be the single most impactful mobility exercise for goalies.
If you want to improve your butterfly, this exercise is a non-negotiable.
Internal hip rotation (meaning how your femurs rotate in) is an essential attribute for goalies to not only stay healthy and keep healthy hips, but also find and refine better positions on the ice.
We have two versions for this. One laying flat on the ground and another with our hips in air and glute squeezed. We typically like to start goalies laying flat and then progress to the hips up version as it challenges even more mobility and control.
#5: Half Kneeling Groin Rock
Alright, finally a groin exercise.
All goalies want to be able to do splits for those insane cross-crease saves, but then revert to groin stretch that just involves long holds.
Even if you could stretch yourself into being able to do the perfect splits – if you can’t actively control this position you’re setting yourself up for injury disaster. This is why we emphasize adductor/groin strengthening in our Relentless Goalie program and encourage goalies to always be improving their groin strength (here’s a Youtube video we created with the best groin exercises).
This is still a mobility exercise that will help you improve your ability to do the splits – but because we’re doing it actively, we’re really challenging your active control of this range.
You need to steal this exercise and add it into each training/mobility session.
#6: 90/90 Variations
Hip rotation is essential for goalies.
While this exercise is becoming more commonplace in fitness programs – it’s still an exercise that not a lot of goalies are familiar with, and is one they all struggle with.
This versatile exercise attacks mobility in-terms of both internal and external rotation at the hips and really allows you to lean into wherever is causing the most tightness. Often goalies will cramp in the upper glutes during this stretch - which is completely normal. This is usually followed by a release of the associated muscles, so while it might be uncomfortable upfront - it pays a lot of dividends.
We can start with just basic holds in this position, finding three different areas to “hangout in” and try to release. But the goal here is really to move to active flows that challenge that hip rotation and actively trying to improve dynamic range of motion.
90/90 variations should be considered essential for goalies to begin to restore proper hip function. While we linked the most basic variations above, here’s three other versions you can use (in increasing difficulty):
Creating a goalie workout program
If you’ve found a way to integrate all of these exercises into your training program weekly – then you’ll be ahead of 95% of goalies who are stuck doing either old school workouts or just grouped in with what players are doing.
You have unique performance demands, you should be training for them.
That’s why we created the Relentless Goalie program. To deliver the exact training that we knew would prepare goalies for the demands of the crease.
If you’re not ready to fully invest in your training – that’s okay. We encourage you to create a program with these exercises inside of them. We even created an article called “Creating the Perfect Workout Program” that can help you out.
Whether you want to get the game plan from us or try to create your own – we want encourage you to commit to off-ice training. It’s the work that will fuel your development and allow you to thrive in the modern high speed game.
Get out there & train Relentless!
Kyle is a Hockey Performance Specialist who’s worked with hundreds of hockey players from Peewee to Pro. A former elite hockey player, Kyle earned his degree in Kinesiology before becoming a Strength Coach that specializes in hockey performance. Today, he runs Relentless Hockey where he works with players across the world, including pros in over 20+ leagues including the NHL, KHL, and OHL.