How Female Hockey Players Can Dominate in the Gym
Updated: May 21
Over the past 3 season, I've worked with over 120 elite female hockey players per season.
Between working as the Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Burlington Barracudas High Performance Program and working with various other university/pro players - I've seen a lot of hockey girls roll through the gym.
Through this, I've seen successful players seem to display the same traits & commonalities time and time again. While a lot of players & parents get wrapped up in physical attributes (size/strength/etc), I've yet to see glaringly obviously physical attributes of girls that progress to the next level.
Instead, how players approach their training appears to be a better predictor of success. I thought it'd be useful for players to explore and distill some of these traits to give girls serious about their game something to think about.
Trait #1: Elite Hockey Players Know Their Body
There’s a lot of discomfort around talking about girl’s bodies for the sake of extremes. Am I too skinny? Am I too fat? Your body shouldn’t be tied to your self-worth, but awareness of your body is a success key that allows successful athletes to optimize their bodies. While there's no one type of body that's expected of hockey girls, knowing what your body type and the elements you need to improve will allow you to optimize your body for greater performance.
Maybe you have a bigger frame, and being aware of this means training/eating to prevent extra lbs or you're the skinny type that needs place an emphasis on getting stronger and training to add muscle. Regardless, this starts with awareness.
Trait #2: Elite Hockey Girls Set Their Goals
All of the most successful players I trained knew the exact two or three goals they wanted to accomplish in the gym, and the impact these goals would have on their game. They routinely asked about how our training could help these achieve these (see point 4).
Whenever they deviated from our program or added extra work, they were doing things that would support these goals. Not sure what your off-ice goals are? See the previous point.
What do you need to optimize to become a better hockey player?
Trait #3. Elite Hockey Girls Have Elite Focus (on strength and performance)
It’s great you follow 30 different fitness models on Instagram, no doubt they can serve as inspiration (especially on diet) – but most of them aren’t battling for a division 1 scholarship or invite to a national team camp.
The successful female players I’ve worked with or know personally are typically intensely focused on their hockey goals and are on the pursuit of strength and performance.
Every successful player I know brings an intense focus on their training.
One of the demands of the game is strong, and a weak player will either:
a) be weeded out of the game playing against bigger, stronger girls (if you want to play NCAA especially);
b) get beat up, worn down, and injured.
To get strong you need to lift heavy weights. 150 reps of glute kickbacks or air squats won’t do this. You need to train purposefully like an athlete. Squat. Deadlift. Hip Thrust. Adding weight to the bar is the most tried and trusted method of getting stronger.
Trait #4: Elite Hockey Girls Learn, Ask, Question:
I found this trend after my first year coaching girls. The most successful on-ice players were the ones who communicated with me the most (Important note: this doesn’t mean the loudest in the room). These girls would ask questions consistently, typically during a break or after the session, with the purpose of learning as much as possible about their training and how they could get the most out of it.
Your most valuable development tools:
“How can I improve this _____”
“What can I do for _____”
If you’re just starting out, focus on learning movement. Movement is king. If you can learn high-quality movements, you’ll be safer in the gym and will begin building a bulletproof body on the ice. Starting out, it’s helpful to work with a coach (and ask him/her lots!) but there’s also tons of online content.
You can also take responsibility your own training by learning about strength & conditioning and the process from other players, coaches, articles, etc.
Trait #5: Elite Hockey Girls Work
This trait trumps the rest.
Typically, within the first session with a new team, I can pick out their best players. This isn’t some super-scout claim, it’s just the consistent correlation between talent and work ethic.
The most successful players are the hardest working players in almost every scenario. It’s difficult to find an elite player (who stays an elite player for very long) that doesn’t have an obsessive-like work ethic. Saying this, the level of work ethic is accelerated at every level, and the same level of work that made a Midget player successful, won’t be enough to be a successful junior player. I wrote a separate article about exponential work ethic here.
This undeniably appears to be the most consistent elite girls bring to the gym.
In conclusion, how many of these are you putting into practice now?
What you bring to training or practice is crucial to how much you’re going to get out of it. If you need help with these – reach out to your coach, they’ve made an investment in choosing you for their team, and want you to succeed. Also feel free to reach out to me personally. Regardless, pursue better daily.
Kyle Kokotailo, B. Kin
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, through his company Relentless Hockey, he works with players across the world, including pros in over 20+ leagues including the NHL, KHL, and OHL.