How to Improve Your Hockey Shot Off the Ice
“How can I shoot harder?”
Chances are you’ve googled this question, asked your coach, or looked for exercises you can do that can unlock more shot velocity.
This is one of the most popular questions we hear from hockey players at literally every level of the game – and justifiably so.
Today’s goal scorers aren’t just pinpoint accurate snipers, they’ve got the velocity that absolute burns goalies whether it’s a one timer, slapshot, quick snapshot in the slot, or stepping into a shot off the rush – goal scorers let it rip.
The truth is – if you added more velocity to your shot, you’d likely score more goals.
And that’s why we created this article. Give players the exact exercises that they can do to unlock more powerful shot mechanics and generate more power into each shot.
Now before we dive in, it’s important to recognize that refining technique and shot mechanics is obviously the best way to improve your shooting. This is why even NHL players are shooting pucks in the off-season and spending thousands of dollars with shooting and skills coaches.
But it’s important to recognize that it’s not all technique.
Developing strength and power is what allows for the explosiveness of any shot. Essentially - you can’t refine an F1 car to be more efficient but then put in a Honda Civic engine.
In this article we’re going to be looking at the best off-ice exercises that hockey players can use to develop their shot. We’ll break this into three separate sections:
- Strength Exercises to Shoot Harder
- Power-Based Exercises for Increased Shot Velocity
- Mobility Exercises to Improve Shot Mechanics
So let’s dive in!
Strength-Based Exercises to improve your shot
Strength is the foundation of power.
Let’s understand this quickly.
Power is defined by the body's ability to generate force (strength) with speed. This means that hockey players need to be developing strength because it creates a more powerful engine to fire with.
This doesn’t mean wrist curls or weird “weighted hockey sticks” – it means developing the kinetic chains that hockey players utilize to shoot the puck.
Let’s look at some of our favorites.
We always say that the Pallof Press is possibly the single most valuable core exercises for hockey players.
Considered an “anti-rotation” exercise, we use this exercise religiously in our hockey training programs to challenge players' capacity to brace their core as much as possible. This has a few massive dividends including being able to fight off contact, get stronger on the puck, bulletproof the core, and most important for our case – shoot harder.
This is because this exercise is directly challenging the musculature responsible for shooting and the stronger core you have (especially in a rotational capacity) the stronger you’re able to express force.
This exercise can be done with either a cable or a band – and we’ll typically use it for 10-12 reps with a focus on completely eliminating rotation.
Half Kneeling Chop
The Chop is another favorite core exercise we use with hockey players. It challenges similar kinetic chains as the Pallof Press, but adds in actual rotation.
We love this in the “half kneel” position because it allows hockey players to really brace their core and lock in, while also challenging them to create the rotation from their upper back.
While this exercise even looks like a slapshot, it’s actually valuable for all shots – training those rotational chains that are essential to develop for a harder shot.
Again, this can be done with either a cable or band – make sure you’re squeezing your abs and getting strong.
Incline Chest Press
Do chest exercises help hockey players shoot harder?!
While almost all hockey players love bench pressing, push ups, and literally anything chest related – many players don’t actually realize how developing these “push muscles” are when it comes to shooting.
Visualize taking a hockey shot for a second.
Once you draw the puck back, you begin with an explosive push forward into the ice. This push generates flex into your stick and ultimately determines how hard you shoot.
So while some Strength Coaches claim that chest exercises are just for vanity (a.k.a. the beach) and don’t actually serve hockey players on the ice – we disagree.
Saying that, it’s important to a) recognize you’re not a gym bro or bodybuilder and your goal isn’t just to hit 225 for reps; and b) there’s higher value chest/push-based exercises for hockey players.
Enter the Incline Chest Press.
This is one of our all-time favorites for a handful of reasons. First, dumbbells allow for greater shoulder stability demand and unilateral strength development. Second, the incline allows for greater shoulder recruitment. Third, this puts less strain on the rotator cuffs and eliminates the compensations that a lot of people use to cheat their bench press.
You should be doing this exercise weekly.
Off Bench Row
If you’ve read our Complete Guide to Workouts for Hockey Players, you now that we’re big believers in full-body workouts and ensuring an equal ratio between push and pull exercises.
But we’re not just including a pull-based exercise to offset and balance our push-based exercise mentioned above.
Developing more pull-based strength will translate to a harder shot.
Let’s visualize our shot again.
You’re skating down the wing and stepping into a snap or wrist shot. Yes, you’re pushing into the ice to generate flex – but what’s your top hand doing?
It’s actually pulling to create more flex into the stick.
So the hockey shot turns from a double hand push, into an asymmetrical push/pull.
Alright, so we got a little technical here – but it’s important to realize that developing pull-based strength is vital to hockey players.
The Off-Bench Row is our favorite because it allows hockey players to really low up and get strong – while also having to brace their core to prevent rotation.
- Top Lower Body Exercises for Hockey Players
- Top Upper Body Exercises for Lacrosse Players
- Top Core Exercises for Lacrosse Players
- Hockey Training Programs
Power Based Exercises
Alright, so while it’s essential to be developing a strength foundation that will give you more fire power in your shot – you also need to be developing the capacity to express this strength as rapidly and explosively as possible.
Enter power-based exercises.
These are exercises that are done with a maximal contraction. This doesn’t be fast and sloppy – it means loading and exploding.
Every single rep should be max output – you really have to let it rip.
While many Coaches over complicate this with complex olympic lifts or using technology like force plates – the reality is that we see the best results with simple exercises done with this maximum rep intensity.
Here’s some of our favorites that we include in all of our hockey training programs:
We use this exercise with both our youth hockeys and our pros, and it should be considered an essential hockey training exercise.
It doesn’t look like much. Just pick up a ball and slam it down.
But in reality it’s training players to more efficiently and effectively utilize kinetic chains to generate power.
This exercise can’t be done in isolation.
It’s not just the arms – it’s triple flexion in the lower body (ankles, knees, hips) and core to brace and throw down the ball.
Most importantly it’s an exercise to challenge the nervous system to really “let it rip”.
Rotational Ball Throw
This exercise is insanely valuable for hockey players.
While it’s popular in baseball strength and conditioning – for some reason it’s underused by hockey players and coaches.
We love this exercise because it allows players to generate as much rotational power as possible.
We like to keep this exercise light (6, 8, or maximum 10lbs) because the goal of the exercise isn’t to challenge strength but instead refine the ability to generate rotational biomechanics and the ability to express force through these kinetic chains.
We like to make this a little more “hockey-specific” by adding a backwards undercross before releasing the ball – much like you would stepping into a one timer.
Landmine Rotational Press
Whenever a hockey player doesn’t have access to a ball or a wall to throw against – this is the exercise they need to have in their program.
While some players have likely used landmines in the past, this exercise isn’t as common but is insanely valuable in challenging the rotational chains. For this exercise, we typically start light and focus on utilizing the entire body to create that rotational expression.
The whole premise of this exercise is “load and explode” – we don’t want to crush our reps, but instead explode through each one.
Dumbbell Scoop to Rotational Press
This exercise is much more of a sleeper. While the above exercises allow for more intensity and power expression, we wanted to include at least one exercise on this list that could be done with just dumbbells.
This exercise challenges rotation in a unique way because it encourages players to start the rotation through their lower body and then at a certain point flex the core and fire into a press.
This can be done light, we’re focusing on becoming a more efficient rotator and connecting kinetic chains versus strength – just make sure each press is explosive.
Mobility Based Exercises
Can stretching help you shoot harder?
It might be a strange concept to most players, but the answer is – absolutely yes.
We’ll often see pro players, who have elite shooting capacity, start to say their shot feels smoother or cleaner early in the off-season when they start using the Relentless Off-Season program. It’s not because we’ve started strength or power work yet – it’s simply because we’ve been restoring mobility through their body.
Healthy range of motion allows for hockey players to create more wind up and range in their shot, while also allowing for more optimized movement patterns (not just in shooting, but literally every component of hockey).
This isn’t just the “wind up” of a slap shot.
We’d say probably 9/10 hockey players are restricted through their upper back and have limited t-spine rotation – ultimately reducing their capacity for rotation.
This is why our programs focus on improving mobility each workout and on off-days.
While we have full articles that dive into mobility & stretching for hockey players, let’s look at the top 3 exercises that we see improve shot velocity.
Restricted shoulders create restricted upper bodies.
We see a lot of hockey players who struggle to reach overhead with adequate mobility and can barely do this exercise with a hockey stick.
This means they do not have healthy shoulders – and while this might not seem like a real issue, this ultimately affects everything from arm swing to shooting mechanics.
When it comes to shoulder mobility, this is by far the easiest way to release through the entire upper body. Whether you feel this through the chest or the front of your shoulders (you’ll feel it most wherever you’re tightest) this is the perfect release through the upper body.
Grab a band or even a broomstick and get some reps in daily.
Thread the Needle
Like we mentioned before – t-spine (upper back) rotation is essential for hockey players.
Physical therapists often test t-spine rotation to assess spinal health and back mobility. A back/upper torso that can’t rotate is a bad sign.
This isn’t just for building a healthy body. If a hockey player is limited in their t-spine rotation it means that they’re: a) missing range of motion that they could be using to generate more force; and b) finding compensations to make up for this lack of mobility.
This exercise addresses exactly that range of motion by challenging your ability to rotate through your torso. Really try to pause at the top and bottom of this movement and feel yourself trying to actively create more range.
Create a squeeze in your arms to ensure you’re not cheating the exercise by creating mobility in the low back. We really want to feel the rotation in the upper back as much as possible.
T-Spine Book Openers
This is another rotational-based mobility exercise that’s insanely invaluable for improving your rotation.
By having your knee firmly on the ground for this exercise, you eliminate rotation in the lower back and challenge your range of motion in the upper-back.
We have our hockey players do this nearly every workout and it pays massive dividends after just a few sessions.
If we do a movement screen for a hockey team – chances are at least 80% of them are tight and restricted in the lower backs.
Because hockey players are notoriously tight in their hips and upper back – a lot of this spills into the lower back through overloading and compensations.
Needless to say, a tight lower back will also reduce your capacity for rotation.
When it comes to low back pain or mobility – this is the number one exercise we recommend to all of our hockey players, and built into all of our programs.
By keeping your chest on the ground, you’re forced to find mobility in your lower back. For a lot of players who say they have back pain or feel tight, even 1 set of Scorpions have them feeling immediately better.
Anytime we’re talking mobility with hockey players – we need to discuss hip mobility.
Hockey players have notoriously tight hips.
And while most of the focus on improving “hockey hips” is related to refining stride mechanics – if you’re missing healthy hip rotation, it’s affecting your shot.
This is because a lot of torque is coming from your lower body and hips when you’re rotating, and stuck hips will limit that ability for rotation.
We love the 90/90 Exercise, and it’s variations, for this exact purpose.
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 try to improve dynamic range of motion.
While we linked our favorite flow above, here’s two other versions you can use
90/90 Holds – this is the basic version you can just hang out in.
90/90 Hip Flow – this will absolutely make your hips cramp, but is insanely valuable for hockey players.
Wrapping it Up:
If you’re a hockey player that wants to improve your shot, you need to be shooting more pucks. It’s no secret that getting in reps and refining your mechanics is essential to become a sniper.
But the reality is that if you’re doing the right things off the ice, you can absolutely develop a more powerful and explosive shot.
This is why we build all of these exercises into our hockey training programs. If you’re serious about taking your shot, and your game, to the next level – we encourage you to get your training dialed in and truly make it count.
Start putting in the work & cheers to more goals next season!
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.