Regardless of what level you're playing - strength is a fundamental attribute for hockey players.
Almost all elements of on-ice performance rely on foundational strength. Whether it's a corner battle, fighting off a hit, or generating more force with each stride into the ice - strength is a physical pillar that should be a focus for all hockey players of the ice.
Saying this, we get a lot of messages from players who ask what they should do to get stronger when they don't have much equipment. Whether it's just living far away from a gym, being a cottage all summer, or traveling with varying access to equipment - we always tell players they don't need much to get a good workout in.
Recently we worked with a professional player playing in Italy and the closest gym was a 45-minute drive from where he was staying. With two dumbbells borrowed from a teammate, we designed him a program that led him to not only feeling his best in years - but also improving his strength from the off-season. Equipment or access to a gym should never be a barrier to getting in high-quality strength & conditioning.
While his workouts included bodyweight training, bands (a lot of band work), and light strength-based exercises, In this article we look at five exercises hockey players can do with just one dumbbell. These exercises focus on control and proper form, rather than speed, and can really challenge athletes. By only having one weight, a unilateral challenge is created that is extremely valuable to hockey players. This allows them not only to return balance to both sides of the body, but it also creates a more functional demand.
For these exercises, hockey players can use a dumbbell, kettlebell, or any household object that provides external resistance. Basically, we want to challenge our strength load capacity, so choose a weight that’s appropriate for you. This workout can be performed at home, a hotel room, the cottage, and really anywhere with floor space. Now there’s no excuse to skip workouts while on vacation or when you don’t have time to make it to the gym!
In each workout you perform, it’s important to hit all five movement patterns. In this workout we have a lunge, squat, goblet, push, and pull - so we’ll be doing all five.
Five Exercises Hockey Players Can Do With Just One Weight
While there is an exhaustive list of exercises you can do with just one weight, we've decided to break it down into our five favourite exercises that you could use as a entire workout.
Exercise #1: Goblet Squat
The Goblet Squat This is a great exercise for hockey players to enhance their lower body strength. While holding a dumbbell vertically with your arms bent towards your chin, sit back as much as you can through your hips, keeping weight on your heels and feet flat on the ground. Use your heels to force upwards through the glutes back to the standing position, and squeeze your glutes at the top for maximum results. Mind to muscle connection is important in this exercise. If you think about feeling this in your glutes, it will help you perform the exercise so that you do, instead of your feeling it in your quads for example. Don’t forget to keep your back neutral in this exercise.
Exercise #2: Half-Kneel Shoulder Press
The half-kneel shoulder press is another amazing exercise, where athletes can improve their shoulder strength while practicing stability through their core. To perform this exercise, start by kneeling on one knee, the other in a 90-degree bend with that foot flat on the floor. Hold the dumbbell in the opposite hand from the knee that is in front. Keeping the dumbbell in the same position throughout this exercise with your palm facing inwards, hold the weight above your shoulder, then press up. Focus on feeling this in your shoulder muscles, and keep your core tight for stability. Repeat on the other side after reps are completed.
Exercise #3: Single-leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
While focusing on stability, in this exercise athletes can start to challenge their hip hinge movement. The single-leg RDL is a great exercise for hockey players because it allows them to practice balance and focus on form. While keeping one leg slightly bent, hold a dumbbell in the opposite hand. Keep your back and neck neutral, and lower the dumbbell while simultaneously moving the same side leg backward. Meaning you are hinging at the hip. Keep your core tight to maintain balance, and as the leg comes down raise the dumbbell back to your standing position.
For added difficulty try to keep the leg that you are bringing backward raised at all times. So between reps don’t touch your foot to the floor. If this is too challenging, you can always keep both legs on the floor while still targeting the same muscles. Repeat on the other side when reps have been completed. Really try and focus on a slow and controlled movement in this exercise, rather than speed.
Exercise #4: High Plank Drag Through
In this exercise, start in a high plank with your dumbbell at one side beside your rib cage. Tighten your core and drag the dumbbell over to the other side using the arm furthest from the weight. It’s natural for the body to want to rotate in this exercise, especially in the legs and trunk, but it’s important to resist and stay strong through your core. Again, practice slow and controlled movements in this exercise.
Exercise #5: Weighted Deadbug
In this abdominal exercise, hockey players use their core strength to raise and lower the dumbbell while laying down. Laying on your back, hold both ends of the dumbbell using both hands, and lower and raise the weight keeping your arms straight. Simultaneously, by starting with your knees bent and at a 90-degree angle with the floor, lower one leg at a time each time you raise and lower the dumbbell. This exercise focuses on trunk stability as well as core strength. Make sure you are keeping your lower back flat on the ground, and that it’s not raising off the floor.
Turning It Into A Workout
Turning these exercises into their own workout is a great way of changing up your routine, or simply getting in a workout when you don’t have access to a gym - most people can find at least one weight around their house, cottage, etc.
The reps and sets are largely going to be dependant on the weight you have. If it's roughly an 8/10 in intensity, you should aim for around 6-8 reps, whereas a 5/10 might call for 8-12 reps. You want to choose as many reps as it takes to create that 8/10 intensity and feel like you could only really do 2-3 more reps.
Feel free to add on any of your personal favorite exercises to this workout. These are general ideas, but anything extra that you’d like to add is great. We have a helpful article on how to create your own hockey specific workout that you can use a general guideline.
Hockey players need to have strength in order to perform their best.
While bodyweight exercises can be great for practicing stability and conditioning, an external load is essential for developing strength - and these exercises can be performed anywhere. This one dumbbell workout is easy to incorporate on vacation, or at the cottage, and completely eliminates the no gym excuse while challenging hockey players.
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.