Strength & Power

The Top 10 Exercises for Youth Hockey Players

The Best Exercises for Youth Hockey Players: 

Whenever you hear the development story of an NHL player – they always talk about the importance that strength training & getting into the gym has had on their game. 

It’s no secret – hockey players need off-ice training to maximize their development. 

And while most players and parents know this, we still see players who are working with an old school personal trainer who doesn’t understand hockey or athletic development OR players that have fallen into gimmicky “hockey specific” exercises that involve balance balances and weighted sticks. 

With the sheer amount of training content on social media these days – it’s tough for young players to get a grasp on the exercises that they truly need to develop the strength that will help them develop as hockey players. 

We’ve been fortunate to work with thousands of hockey players (and have had enough more use our online Relentless Hockey Development Program) and have distilled the exercises with the biggest dividends for youth hockey players. 

That’s this list. 

This list isn’t meant to be a workout, but instead a buffet of options that you can choose from when building your own workouts. If you’re using each one of these exercises each week, you’ll be ahead of 90% of youth hockey players – so let’s get into it!

Exercise #1: Goblet Squats

Squats are insanely valuable for hockey players.

The squat is what we call a “fundamental movement pattern” that serves to not only develop lower body strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, but also refine motor control and improve movement fluency. 

We always like to say – a good squatter is a good athlete. Routinely the best athletes we see in the gym can perform flawless squats because it’s such foundational movement. For this same reason we make sure that we’re using some variation of squats with our hockey players in every single workout

Proper squat technique is crucial, so make sure young athletes start with bodyweight squats before adding any external resistance. Encourage them to maintain a neutral spine, keep their chest up, and push their knees outward as they lower into the squat.

Learning how to perform really clean squats at a young age is a phenomenal advantage as an athlete. 

Exercise #2: Push-Ups

This one might seem too obvious – but push ups are a classic for a reason. 

They are one of the single best exercises to develop the upper body and for youth athletes should be considered a “must do” daily exercise. 

Instead of having kids do high reps, which lead to burn out and ultimately break down of form – we like to have players focus on tempo. Once they can control their body for 10 perfect reps, we progress to Eccentric Push Ups which involve going 3 seconds on the way down (or longer) and then exploding up. 

This eccentric phase creates far more strain on the muscles and ultimately more strength/muscular development.  

Don’t sleep on push ups! 

Exercise #3: Reverse Lunges

The lunge is another fundamental movement pattern that is essential to master. 

Being a unilateral exercise (one leg at a time), it’s the perfect opportunity for hockey players to start training stability and connecting kinetic chains to become my efficient and effective movers. 

While most players start with Walking Lunges, we prefer the Reverse Lunge because it allows hockey players to: 

  1. Load up their glutes – allowing for better glute development & recruitment. Both crucial for improving skating. 
  2. Get strict with their movements – it allows players to focus on having nothing collapse inwards (knee, ankle, foot) and toes forward. 

We use this in our youth program weekly & encourage all youth hockey players to do the same! 

Exercise #4: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts

While we’ve looked at squats and lunges already, the last lower body fundamental movement pattern is a hinge

These are exercises that involve hinging at the hips and heavily rely on the glutes and hamstrings. These powerhouse muscles are what are most responsible for speed on the ice, so it’s a priority to be developing them in youth hockey players. 

We love the Single Leg RDL because it challenges these muscles, the athletes ability to hinge, and their balance and stability.  We really want them to perform this exercise as slow as possible, pushing their hips back and intentionally “feeling” their hamstrings before firing the hips forward on the way back up. 

We use this same exercise with our college and pro athletes, and it is insanely valuable. 

Exercise #5: Pull-Ups or Inverted Rows

Alright, our last fundamental movement pattern – the pull. 

Pull-based exercises are so valuable because they develop essential upper body strength. Most players crush out push-ups and focus on push based exercises – when in reality pull-based strength is insanely valuable. 

In addition to this, we’ll often see hockey players, even as youth athletes, who have the rounded shoulder posture from sitting and slumping forward. This posture limits the capacity for a lot of movement and range of motion and wreaks havoc on the upper body.  So while we encourage mobility exercises, we also encourage developing more back muscles to counterbalance this posture and restore the shoulders to a healthy position. 

While this might seem technical for youth athletes, all that you need to know is that pull-based exercises are insanely valuable and you should aim for doing 1 pull exercise for every 1 push exercise. 

Pull-ups and inverted rows are excellent upper body exercises that target the back and biceps. If pull-ups are too challenging for younger athletes, inverted rows offer a more accessible alternative. Both exercises help develop the strength needed for powerful shooting and passing in lacrosse.


Alright so those can be considered our “essential 5” that all youth hockey players need in their training. 

This is because we aim to include all 5 movement patterns: squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull in every single one of our workouts. While you can use variations of these exercises, we still want to have something similar to them in each one of our workouts. 

These next exercises we can still aim to get in weekly for youth hockey players. 

Exercise #5: Planks

For every single training session, we want to find a way to challenge core strength. 

Every single element of hockey from shooting power to getting strong on the puck or in front of the net demands core strength. 

While we use a lot of different core exercises in our hockey programs (each workout averages around 4 core exercises) – saying that the plank, while another “classic”, is still extremely effective for youth hockey players to develop the core strength they need on the ice. 

With our players, we really want to focus on creating an intentional plank and stay “active” by having them squeeze their abs and glutes. If a youth hockey player can hold this for over 90 seconds, we move them to a plank variation like the Superman Plank or the Slider Plank – both of which involve creating that braced plank position but with movement. 

#6: Activated Bird Dog 

This is another core exercise, and one that we love with hockey players of all ages because it challenges them to create braced kinetic chains and find full body stability. 

Physical Therapists often call the basic Bird Dog (with both knees on the ground) one of the most valuable low back exercises possible – and we agree. 

The Bird Dog (with a 5-10 second hold) is a great place to start for youth hockey players. Once they can master this without any shaking or collapsing we move them to the activated bird dog shown here. 

This really challenges trunk control and shoulder stability, two attributes that are vital for hockey players to get stronger on the ice. 

Exercise #7: Pallof Press

Alright, let’s continue with one more core exercise – but potentially the most valuable for hockey players. 

We use some variation of a Pallof Press in almost every one of our workouts, no matter what age the athlete.

This is an amazing "anti-rotation" core exercise and will help lacrosse players be able to create ultra braced positions on the field that let them play stronger and not get pushed around. In addition to this, by training our “anti-rotation” muscles – we actually train the muscles that are responsible for rotation. That makes this exercise essential for developing a more explosive shot. 

One key cue here to focus on is to really focus on bracing all of your abs, while also keeping the glutes and shoulders activated. There should be no movement throughout the body other than your arms.

To make it harder, you can simply add more band tension (taking a step out) or changing the position from standing to a split squat, lateral lunge, kneeling, or various other options.  

Exercise #8: Half Kneel to Lateral Jump

While we wanted to keep this article focused on strength training and what players can do at the gym or at home, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to share some power development exercises. 

We say this because we like to integrate power work into each one of our workouts – in fact, we build speed/athleticism, power, strength, core/mobility, and conditioning into each training session.

This exercise is one that we use religiously to teach hockey players how to fire more aggressively and utilize their glutes/hips to generate more power in their on-ice stride. 

While we see a lot of youth coaches putting players through box jumps, we see this exercise as 10x more valuable. It allows for lateral expression (more closely ), it allows for maximum fire power/power expression, and it’s far safer and more effective in developing power. 

This is an insanely applicable exercise for goalies and should be used often! 

Exercise #9: Medicine Ball Slams

When it comes to developing full body power, there’s no better exercise than a med ball slam. 

While this exercise might not exactly mimic an on-ice movement (although you could argue it create the same core flex as a shot) it’s insanely valuable for youth hockey players because it allows for a maximum contraction and lets the player really let it rip

This is super important for youth players – because they need the neuromuscular “practice” of firing with maximum effort.

This shouldn’t be done with a heavy ball, instead we want to encourage youth athletes to focus on the slam as much as possible, feeling their core braced, and generating a full body twitch. 

Exercise #10: Banded Pull Aparts

Earlier we talked about the value of pull-based exercises for hockey players – and this is another great example/ 

Banded Pull Aparts are a simple, yet effective, exercise for strengthening the muscles of the upper back, particularly the rhomboids and rear deltoids. These muscles are essential for maintaining proper shoulder posture and stability during hockey movements. We consider this exercise as essential for “bulletproofing” the shoulders. 

Hold a resistance band with both hands, palms facing down, and arms extended straight out in front. Keeping the arms straight, pull the band apart by squeezing the shoulder blades together until the band reaches the chest.


Alright, so hopefully this shines a light on some of the most valuable exercises for youth hockey players. 

It’s important for hockey players at this age to truly master the fundamentals movement patterns while starting to build foundational strength. 

We like to preach that the athletes who get ahead are the ones that “do the simple things, savagely well.”

And while there’s a ton of value in exposing youth athletes to different movement types and challenges, when it comes to strength/power work – we really want players to commit to doing the simple things savagely well.

Before we go, we want to encourage you to check out our Relentless Youth Development Program. We distilled thousands of sessions with youth hockey players into one training system that we know will build truly elite foundations and allow them to maximize their development now and in the future. 

If you have any questions about this or just any questions about youth hockey training in general – we always love to connect with players and parents, so don’t hesitate to reach out! 

Happy training!

kyle kokotailo hockey training
Coach Kyle

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.‍

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