Improving power in the crease is essential for goalies to letting goalies play more dynamic in the crease.
It's no secret that miraculous cross-crease saves are a product of elite athleticism and Goalies who can express a massive amount of power. But these power demands aren't just called upon in last ditch efforts to make the highlight reel save - even the saves that look easy, are often because the goalie has utilized their power to get in position before the shot is taken.
Simply put, power is one of the most essential physical attributes for goalies. In this article we explore exactly how goalies can train to become more explosive and powerful in the crease.
Strength: The First Focus for Goalies
In order to be powerful, you must first be strong. Simply getting right into plyometric work and doing a thousand jumps, won't make you much more powerful if your legs look like a 6 year olds. We always focus on building strength into our programs first, to provide a base for which we can then develop power from.
It is important to first consider that power is quite simply a factor of force x velocity, meaning how fast you can express force or strength.
We could simply try to increase movement velocity,and that might lead to a little more power; however, increasing force output (strength) will lead to much greater power returns. In addition, by getting stronger first, your muscles will be better prepared to handle the demands of your velocity work.
Squats, deadlifts lunges, split squats and variations of these exercises are all ideal exercises to start with and don’t be afraid to go heavy with these as long as your form is solid. A good strength/ hypertrophy block will pay its dividends even if it may feel like a slow grind in the beginning.
We have a helpful for players looking to get stronger here.
Strength Throughout Entire Range
One area that goalies want to be sure to tackle is the bottom ends of the range of motion (ROM) of the exercise. Partial or half squats may allow you to handle more weight but it is not necessarily worth the compromise, especially for goalies.
While there's clear benefits for any athlete to train with full ROM, goalies often find themselves in these extreme joint angles on the ice and a powerful push is often developed from a high knee position on the pushing leg with quite a bit of hip flexion.
Deep pause squats, and cossack squats are great tools to teach goalies how to develop strength in these positions. The mobility that goalies spend time developing is great but mobility without strength can be a recipe for injury and won’t help maximize your power. The following are some exercises nicely compliment the major squat and deadlift movements for goaltenders trying to improve strength throughout the entire ROM
Lateral Goblet Lunge
Lateral Weight Shifts
Plyometrics and Speed Training for Goalies
Once we have developed out strength base, we can now get into the fun stuff and start to blend strength with speed, in order to develop power.
Initially making a conscious effort to begin to accelerate the bar as fast as possible when performing major strength exercises can help begin to train the neural pathways to the muscles to fire with maximal velocity. Plyometric work can start out with simple box jumps, landings and lateral bounds as these are some basic yet foundational plyometric exercises. Focusing on proper landing and then jumping mechanics should be the first priority.
Adding speed and rebounding to movements (for example where the landing of one jump becomes the beginning of the next) begins to train what we call the stretch shortening cycle (SSC). Without getting too far into the science, this SSC uses our reflexes to add velocity to the contraction of our muscles. Players often spend a lot of time training this SSC, and although it is important for goalies to train, may not require as much attention for goalies. Goalies often don’t have as much momentum into a push (with the obvious exception being a hard push one direction that needs to be stopped in order to push back the opposite way) as a great deal of hard pushes are generated when a goalie is already low in their butterfly and not carrying a ton of momentum in their movements.
Goalies should try to focus a greater emphasis of their plyometric work on lateral single leg movements starting from a low hip position, opposed to a ton of linear power and acceleration work. Lateral or 45 degree bounds, are staple exercises, as well as single leg box jump variations.
Box Step Offs to Landing
Single Leg Landing to Jump
Half Kneeling Lateral Bound
Lateral Hurdle Bound
Single Leg Power for Goalies
It is easy to look at a goalie and say they play the game on two feet, or are down in a butterfly on their knees. However when you watch almost any powerful push a goalie makes, you notice that this power is coming from one leg. While heavy squats and deadlifts are still the foundation because they often allow for the heaviest total load to be moved, single leg exercises are crucial if one wants to be able to perform the hard pushes goalies have to make.
There are different stability requirements from the foot, all the way to the shoulders with single leg movements, and without practice absorbing and generating force on one leg, it will be hard to produce maximal power on the ice. This is why only doing double leg box jumps and broad jumps should not be the only power work you do as a goalie, much the same as the way that a standard squat is not the only movement a goalie should do for strength.
For the most part, if you are a goalie doing a generic hockey team workout, enough single leg training won’t be a concern as players also need to be strong, stable, and explosive on a single leg. The adjustment would simply be a greater emphasis on lateral compared to linear movements.
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.