Workouts for Hockey Players: A Complete Guide to Hockey Training
As hockey continues to get faster and more dynamic, the physical demands on hockey players have never been higher.
Much like the evolution of the game on the ice, there’s been an evolution of training off the ice. Gone are the days of “body part” focused workouts, half-assed strength workouts, or going for the occasional jog.
Today’s elite players are training in a completely different way. They’re using integrative workouts to train kinetic chains, they’re refining their movement quality, they’re getting savagely strong while remaining lean, mobile, and quick.
The game has demanded it.
At Relentless Hockey, this is what we specialize in –the strength & conditioning that translates to the ice. In this article, we’re going behind the scenes to explore exactly how hockey players need to be training to thrive in the modern game. The same formula that hundreds of pros have come to trust and the process we know produces.
If you want to learn what workouts elite hockey players do, this is your article.
Let’s dive in.
The Perfect Training Split for Hockey Players
Let’s start by defining how often hockey should be training.
We’ll often get asked what’s the perfect split or training schedule for hockey players?
This is both an easy question and a challenging one.
Traditional training splits are typically broken into upper/lower, push/pull, or body part days (i.e. chest days). This serves bodybuilders or the average Joe well, creating a compounding overload stimulus on a specific area and then giving anywhere from 3 days to a week of rest – but for hockey players, it’s extremely outdated and is making players training far less effective.
All of our hockey workout programs, like all the NHL and NCAA programs we’ve seen, use a full body approach for hockey players. This is because we want to train the integrative chains that translate to the ice.
This is important because it allows us to challenge all of the movement patterns within each workout and begin to improve our capacity to utilize kinetic chains.
The caveat to this full-body approach is that we still emphasize different movement patterns on a particular day within a workout schedule. This where we’ll take a specific movement pattern and make the primary focus.
Let’s look at an example of this:
- Day 1: Squat + Push - in our primary block we could include a goblet squat with a horizontal press-based exercise like a Landmine Press.
- Day 2: Lunge + Pull - in our primary block we could include a reverse lunge with pull-ups.
- Day 3: Hinge + Push - in our primary block we could include a Trap Bar Deadlift with a incline chest press.
While we might go heavier, or create a more intense demand on these exercises in our first block, we’ll still be using all the other movement patterns (squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull) in the rest of the workout.
In summary, hockey players should use a full body split training that utilizes all the movement patterns in each workout.
This brings us to our second question, how often should hockey players workout?
This truly depends on the training priorities of the player, the time of year, and their training age/experience.
While some high-level strength coaches will have their players training 4 days per week (typically Monday/Tuesday, rest Wednesday, Thursday/Friday, rest weekend) – we see hockey players have more progress with just three strength workouts per week.
This allows for the addition of extra speed, mobility, and skill sessions to be added based on individual needs, but it also allows for greater nervous system recovery in-between sessions, ultimately allowing players to go harder each workout and be more fresh for important motor skill learning on the ice.
The perfect workout schedule for hockey players would include 3 focused lifts, 2 speed sessions, 2-3 mobility sessions, and potentially one extra conditioning session.
While these 8+ sessions suddenly sound like an intense schedule – let’s break it down:
- Monday - lift (60-75 min),
- Tuesday - speed session (30 min) + mobility session
- Wednesday - lift (60-75 min)
- Thursday - speed sessions (30 min) + mobility session (20-30 min)
- Friday - lift (60-75 min)
- Saturday - speed or conditioning sessions (30 min) + mobility session (20-30 min).
- Sunday - complete rest
This allows for on-ice skill sessions to be added without placing too much overload on the nervous system. This needs to be a priority for hockey players, because overloading the nervous system without adequate recovery will ultimately reduce output on lift days and reduce your capacity for motor learning on the ice.
Obviously this schedule would look intensely different in-season, but we pro teams still do 2-3 solid strength workouts per week in-season.
Ultimately, you need to find and create a schedule that fits your lifestyle and training goals. Some players will be better served focusing on power skating sessions or skill development in the off-season, and others need to place emphasis on getting stronger or more powerful. Either way, you need to seek clarity on what you need to elevate your game and create a schedule around that.
The Structure of a Hockey Workout
Workouts for hockey players are a lot different than the workout that the average Joe is doing in the gym.
This is for good reason. Workouts for hockey players aren’t singularly focused on strength or developing a muscle group; instead they need to be focused on developing the integrative systems that translate to on-ice performance.
While we explored the premise of body splits versus full body workouts in the last section, we’re going to focus on exactly what workouts for hockey players should look like. While exercise selection and intention (training focus, intensity, etc.) will vary both on the time of year and the individual training needs – this is the structure that should remain universal for hockey players.
The workout structure for hockey players should look like this:
- Dynamic Warm-Up
- Prehab & Mobility
- Strength & Power Blocks
- Extra Conditioning/Core/Mobility Work
- Cool Down
This isn’t just our opinion. If you get your hands on nearly any NCAA or Professional program, you’ll see them structured nearly the exact same way. This allows for Strength Coaches & Athletes to cover a lot of basis while putting integrative concepts together throughout a workout.
Of course, there will be some variance between in-season and off-season here. Often we’ll see programs that reduce or eliminate the athleticism work during the season. While ideally we want to lower the intensity of this work near game time, our philosophy is that we don’t want to eliminate the development opportunities throughout the season.
Before we get into a sample workout that we use in our hockey programs, let’s dive into each one of these sections to explore the intention and how hockey players can get the most out of each workout.
Prehab & Mobility
Prehab is essential for hockey players – but is often an area of their training that is skipped or quickly run through so that they can get to the fun stuff.
If you watch nearly any pro hockey player train, you’ll see that their prehab is approached with the same intensity and intention as their main workout. They know this is the stuff that matters.
Prehab can be defined as exercises that are done to prevent injuries. These are typically activation, mobility, and corrective exercises that aim to compensate or correct the imbalances caused by the demands of sport.
While these will often be custom tailored to a player's individual needs according to their postural imbalances or mobility restrictions, when it comes to hockey players – we share nearly all the same restrictions and thus have a lot of the same prehab demands.
It’s important to note, this is different from a warm up. We’ll typically have our players go through a ~10 minute workout before getting into their prehab work. This allows the body to be warm, primed, and ready for work – and ultimately allows us to better activate and mobilize specific muscle groups with this prehab work.
Athleticism & Speed training
Speed training for hockey players is a topic worthy of its own article.
In fact, we have explored this topic in Hockey Speed Training: A Complete Guide.
Because this is a small training block of speed training and not an entire workout – our goal is to focus on one common theme of speed/athleticism.
Some of these themes can include:
- Acceleration (linear, lateral, or both);
- Deceleration (including landing patterns);
- Lateral, curvilinear, & multi-directional speed;
- Linear speed;
- Change of direction capacity;
- Agility & reactive speed;
- Positional & postural focuses (landing, planting, absorbing & expressing, etc.);
- Athleticism & kinesthetic awareness development
This goes beyond just the classic “quick feet” or ladder drills and hones in on specific movement patterns that will translate to the various elements of speed that hockey players need on ice.
Within our workouts, we’ll typically have hockey players perform 3-5 drills all in a similar theme. This allows for players to really challenge a specific motor skill & enhance their capacity for better movement and refined mechanics.
Admittedly, for most hockey players this isn’t enough speed & athleticism training – but it does ensure that players are getting in highly targeted and intentional work throughout the week. We’ll also have our players have independ “speed days” where they’ll expand on this work with an entire workout dedicated to speed and athleticism.
- Hockey Speed Training: A Complete Guide
- The Best “Quick Feet Drills” for Hockey Players
- Drills for Hockey Players to Develop Explosive First Steps
Strength Training for Hockey Players
The “primary” focus of hockey players for any workout should be getting stronger and more powerful.
This is what hockey players most commonly consider a “strength workout” because we’re typically in the weightroom and using strength training equipment.
For hockey players, this section of the workout will typically be 2 or 3 “blocks” comprising 3-4 exercises each. These blocks are typically meant to be done in a “superset” fashion, in which all of the exercises in the block are done back to back before taking a rest.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t make these exercises “circuit training” – hockey players shouldn’t be going through exercises as fast as possible to create a conditioning response, but instead giving themselves enough rest time to hit each exercise with intensity and intention.
In this article, we explored the principles of how hockey players can create their own workouts, and some guidelines for exercise selection. Because our goal is full-body and movement focused training, we want to ensure that we’re getting all five movement patterns into each workout. These include:
- Squat Pattern
- Hinge Pattern
- Lunge Pattern
- Upper Body Push
- Upper Body Pull
While these can be broken down further into horizontal or vertical expressions, if hockey players can find a way to include all five of these movement patterns into each workout, their workouts will be better than 90% of other players.
- Creating the Perfect Workout for Hockey Players
- Complete Strength Workout for Hockey Players [Youtube Video]
- Top 10 Lower Body Exercises for Hockey Players
- Top 10 Upper Body Exercises for Hockey Players
The Finisher: Core & Conditioning for Hockey
We actually hate the term “finisher” in workout programs.
The fitness industry has adopted this term as a blanket phrase to justify wild and often obscene “conditioning sessions” that are really just intended to make people suffer through high rep work and leave them feeling sweaty and accomplished.
For hockey players, we want to skip the “finisher” mentality – and instead focus on finishing with intention and intensity.
Depending on the workout, this finishing block can be composed of three components: conditioning, extra core, or extra mobility.
Let’s look at how to make each component more effective.
While all of our programs have independent conditioning days, we’ll still use a short and intense block of conditioning at the end of some workouts. This work allows us to get in short burst and high intensity work and continue to develop the energy systems so valuable for hockey players.
This HIIT-based work is always intentional. We’re never just grinding for the sake of chasing breakdown/fatigue, but instead intentionally trying to build those energy systems.
While the best conditioning for hockey players is on the ice, short-burst and intense work at the end of a workout can be valuable.
When players think core at the end of the workout, they traditionally think of the bodybuilding “finisher” approach that crushes your abs with hundreds of reps to the point of exhaustion.
While most of our workouts have core exercises built into them, sometimes extra core can be valuable for a workout that is more movement focused.
Again, this work is designed to be intense and intentional – and because it’s separated from the rest of the workout we can use multiple core-focused exercises to build a synergistic effect. While some players will revert to high rep exercises here, our goal here is to find intentional activation in the core and really focus on creating that braced trunk position – all the value is in finding and challenging that squeeze.
All hockey players' workouts should end in some sort of mobility work.
It’s important to note, that just like the rest of the “finishing work” – this work needs to be approached with intention. After a tough workout, we’ll often see players just flop into some stretch positions and hangout with their buddies or on their phone.
While this is technically better than nothing, it’s still not nearly as valuable as getting intentional.
Here, we want to focus on using a warm body (both physically and neuromuscularly) to reclaim extra range. This is the ideal time for hockey players to use active hip mobility exercises. After a handful of active and intentional exercises, we’ll typically have players move to longer hold exercises and start to unwind the body.
For these passive stretches, we really want hockey players to emphasis two elements:
- Sinking into range – because we’re using longer holds (30-120s) we really want players to “let go” and sink into the stretch to reclaim flexibility and mobility. This is especially valuable in the hip flexor and ankles which hold a lot of tension but can release with these long holds (for example a Squat Hold works amazingly well here).
- Breathing – as we transition to the “cool down phase” of a workout, we want to see players get really intentional with their breathing. Slow and deep belly breathing with an emphasis on long exhales triggers a parasympathetic response – ultimately allowing your body to slow down and start the recovery process. Through all of our stretches we’re focusing on this breathing, and will occasionally even finish by laying with our feet elevated and just focusing on slow breathing.
Whether it’s conditioning, core, or mobility – each truly needs intensity and intention in order to be actually valuable for development. Just because it’s the end of our workout, doesn’t mean that it’s less important.
Example Hockey Workout
So now that we’ve explored what the structure of hockey workouts should look like — let’s put it all together in an example. This is a workout that’s been pulled from phase 1 our Explosive Power Program and adapted/simplified for clarity.
Repeat this series twice, really focusing on activation and range of motion.
Standing Opening the Gate [8 each]
Overhead Squat with Band [12 reps]
Banded Shoulder Dislocator [10 reps]
X Band Walks [12 each]
World's Greatest [6 each]
Runners Lunge w/ Rotational Reach [8 each]
1 Arm Trap Raise to Swimmer Hold [8 each]
Repeat this series twice, taking a short break to make sure you’re going into each rep fresh so that you can generate as much power in each rep as possible.
5 Yard Shuffle [20 sec]
Lateral Hurdle Bounds [12 reps]
Lateral Hurdle Bound to Hop [8 reps]
Diagonal Skater Bounds w/ 2s Pause [10 reps]
Repeat this block 3-4 times. Make sure that you’re doing the lunge jump immediately after the Squats. Choose a weight that is challenging for the final reps.
Goblet Squat [10 reps]
Alternating Lunge Jump [12 reps]
Alternating Dumbbell Chest Press [12 reps]
Adductor Side Plank [20 sec]
Repeat this block 3-4 times. Make sure that you’re keeping a consistent pace through all of the exercises. Make sure that you’re really activating your abs through all of these exercises.
Kettlebell Swing [12 reps]
Half Kneeling Lat Pull Down [8 each]
Palloff Press [10 each]
Bear Crawl [20 reps]
Repeat this 2-4 times. Make sure that you’re intentionally creating that “ab squeeze” and not allowing your ribs to flare open.
Slider Planks [10 reps]
Bear Crawl Slider Twists [8 each]
Side Plank [30+ sec]
Plank [60+ sec]
Complete this series 1-2 times. Really focus on slowing down the body, while also creating extra range of motion in each exercise.
Activated Couch Stretch [8 each]
Half Kneeling Groin Rock [5 each]
Scorpions [14 reps]
90/90 Hip Flows [5 each]
Additional Hockey Workouts
While Relentless Hockey workouts, like many elite Strength & Conditioning programs, integrate multiple components into one workout – hockey players should be getting in “extra” workouts depending on their development and training needs.
If structured properly, these three workouts per week can be more effective than most player’s 4-5 basic workouts.
Saying this, we still recommend players get in “extra” workouts depending on their schedule and development/training needs.
Sometimes extra work is better served on skill development (either on or off-ice), but all hockey players can improve in three key areas: speed, conditioning, and mobility.
That’s why we find it valuable for players to add intentional and intensely focused workouts that attack one of these key areas.
Let’s look at each and see how you can maximize your workouts.
Speed Workouts for Hockey Players
We explored some of the key tenets of speed & athleticism training earlier in this article, and if you’re looking to get a deeper understanding of speed training for hockey players – then this article is a must read for you.
Instead of taking a deep dive here, we wanted to go over three clear rules that hockey players should follow when it comes to doing speed training.
- Speed training is not conditioning training. Speed training is tough work. It has an intense cardiovascular demand and if you’re pushing the pace, many drills can quickly turn into “baggers”. We need to avoid this. Either do a conditioning session or do a speed session. Not both.
- Every speed drill should be approached fresh. This is so key that we want to reiterate it again. Speed training has an intense neuromuscular demand. To truly improve your speed capacity, you’re training your nervous system and movement mechanics and for this you need to be fresh. Take a second between drills to make sure you’re feeling fresh heading into the next drill.
- Every exercise should have a purpose. Make sure you know the purpose of each drill. There’s a lot of “speed coaches” who will setup random drills that look like obstacle drills. If you can’t understand the intention of an exercise, it’s likely not serving you – furthermore, being able to visualize or create the “on-ice feel” will support motor learning and on-ice transfer.
For our players, we schedule these workouts 1-3 times per week depending on the time of year.
Conditioning Workouts for Hockey Players
Hockey Players used to get in a jog in the off-season and hop on stationary bikes in-season and consider conditioning work done.
Those days are long gone.
While this style of training can be still valuable in developing an aerobic base, hockey players need to be developing the energy systems that translate into a shift, period, and game.
It’s no secret, the best conditioning is on-ice conditioning. But the second best conditioning is high-intensity interval style training.
Not only is the work the highest return on investment for your time and saves you the compounding stress of long conditioning workouts, but it’s also the most transferable to the ice.
Here’s our three rules for conditioning for hockey players:
- Make it intentional. Create a game plan before you start a conditioning workout and don’t quit on it. Conditioning work demands a relentless work ethic and the “what should I do next” mentality is going to leave you choosing easy.
- Short and intense is more valuable than slow and long. Chances are, you already have an intensive aerobic base. While there’s some use cases for longer/slower conditioning in the early off-season, 97/100 conditioning should be high intensity and interval based. This doesn’t just need to be in the 15-30s working time frame, and should include intervals that are in the 60-120+ seconds frame as well. But get intense.
- Don’t add it to rest days. If you’re doing conditioning work, you can combine it with shoot/skill work at home, a mobility series, and even adding a two-a-day. But make sure you’re not clouding your rest day with conditioning sessions that will prevent nervous system recovery.
Mobility Workouts for Hockey Players
All hockey players should be working on their mobility.
While some athletes can be prone to hypermobility, it’s extremely rare to see a hockey player that is “too mobile”. That’s why, when in doubt, we recommend all hockey players spend more time on mobility and look to fit additional mobility work into their week.
While most hockey players consider this “injury prevention” – improved mobility also comes with improved performance, including refining movement patterns, creating more range of motion to express force, and creating a longer and smoother stride.
This, paired with the obvious injury prevention benefits, is why all hockey players should be looking to add some sort of mobility training into their workout schedule.
While we take a deeper dive into this topic in the articles/resources listed below, we want to take the time now to look at how hockey players can add mobility into their schedule.
Mobility sessions for hockey players can be broken into three categories, all of which are equally valuable and should be used weekly.
- Intentional Mobility Training. These are series or entire workouts that are designed to improve the mobility of a player. This could be something like yoga that uses movement flows or just a series of exercises – but the entire intention of the session is to increase range of motion and flexibility.
- Active Recovery Workouts. These workouts combine activation, bodyweight, and mobility exercises to increase blood flow and improve mobility. These short workouts often have players in a very light sweat but have been shown to have huge recovery benefits (1). They can easily be added to your morning or off-days.
- Release & realign. This type of session utilizes both foam roller, active mobility exercises, and static stretching to improve flexibility and overall tissue quality. These sessions can be done post-hockey or before bed with the intention of creating a parasympathetic response and involve slowing the body down and releasing chronic tension throughout the body.
In future articles and videos we’ll be creating a deep dive and sample workouts for each of these styles of mobility workouts, but in the meanwhile you can read more about mobility training at the resources below.
- 5 Stretches Hockey Players Should Do Every Day
- Foam Rolling & Active Recovery Workouts for Hockey Players
Common Hockey Workout Questions:
We know it can be tough to find the exact answer to your hockey training questions. While we took a deep dive into hockey workouts and what they can look like, we still get questions from players ranging from deep periodization questions to basic training questions.
We figured we’d answer some common questions that hockey players ask. If you have a more intensive question or something that’s not answered here – just send us an email!
How often should hockey players be working out?
Hockey players should be working out roughly 3-5 times a week. Including 3 strength workouts, 2 speed workouts, 1-2 conditioning or mobility workouts. This will depend on the time of year and the player’s development needs.
What muscles do you use to train for hockey?
The glutes are by far the most valuable muscle group for hockey players when it comes to skating and speed development. This is true for the entire posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, calves, etc.) when it comes to skating – but the truth is all muscle groups are essential for hockey players.
This is why we focus on training kinetic chains as opposed to muscle group focused.
What are the best exercises for hockey players?
If we’re to answer this simply, the best exercises for hockey players include: Goblet Squats, Trapbar Deadlifts, Reverse Lunges, Single Leg RDLs, Split Squats, Cossack Squats, Incline Chest Press, Pull Ups, Face Pulls, Pallof Press,
The true answer is it depends on the player’s training needs – but even when we answer this hockey players still ask for the exact exercises they should be doing. If you included these exercises in your training weekly, you’d be ahead of 90% of other hockey players.
Are squats good for hockey?
Hockey Players should absolutely be using squat-based exercises in their workouts. This can & should include Goblet Squats, Front Squats, Box Squats, Asymmetrical Squats, and a wide variety of variations other than just the traditional Back Squat.
It’s important to note that hockey players should never just be using one movement pattern and aim to include hinge and lunge based movements in training as well.
What is a good hockey training program?
This question is largely based on your development needs.
This is why we created hockey training programs based on training demands like Explosive Speed, Size & Strength, and Lean & Agile as well as training needs like Relentless Goalie, Youth Development, and Weekend Warrior
If we’re not plugging our own programs – any good hockey training program should deliver structured strength & conditioning workouts that are built to prepare players for the demands of on-ice performance. No fluff exercises. No random exercise.
Your hockey training program should also have speed workouts, conditioning sessions, and mobility series.
At the end of the day, a good hockey training program is one that uses an integrative training approach to maximize development and prepare players for on-ice performance.
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.