Want to skate fast? Try deadlifts. How about building tremendous strength and power? Deadlifts again are a great choice. What about injury prevention in the low back? Yup, you guessed it, deadlifts.
Used as a staple exercise in the mid twentieth century, the deadlift has gone out of favor with many hockey players and team training programs in favor of easier exercises such as the leg press, smith machine, lunges, and a wide variety of step-ups/one-leg exercises.
While all of these exercises have a place in training (except the smith machine), the key thing that players should ultimately look at is getting the biggest bang for their training time. It’s important to work the body with basic, heavy movements that tax the posterior chain muscles (the hamstrings, glutes and low back) as these are the prime movers when we skate. If these are not strong, you won’t go fast. This is true for any athlete looking to go fast such as sprinters, bobsleders, speed skaters, hockey players, etc.
Squats and front squats are great exercises that should be a part of every players strength training regimen. Bulgarian Split Squats and glute ham raises are very important also in a players training. The deadlift however, is that one key exercise that I believe to be the basis of what all hockey training should be built around.
Why? Well for starters there are a million varieties of deadlifts. Barbell deadlifts, one-leg deadlifts, duck deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, snatch grip deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts, suitcase deadlifts, cross-over deads, KB deadlifts…etc. You could do deadlifts until you’re a hundred and not run out of training options with the loading, style of lift, training program, etc.
Secondly, the deadlift allows for heavy weights to be used. You are holding the weight, not putting it on your shoulders, and therefore players have an easier time loading up the bar and pulling a heavy barbell in training. Heavy weights equal more strength…strength is the backbone of power, explosiveness and speed. So, when players can pull a 500lb deadlift, chances are they can get to the puck faster than the next guy.
Thirdly it works so many important muscles for the hockey player such as the posterior chain, upper back, core and gripping muscles. Deadlifting provides great injury protection for the low back and core as these areas have to work a great deal in the movement of the deadlift. As hockey players need a strong low back and core to skate, check, shoot, etc. this is critical. The stronger these areas are, the better prepared you will be on the ice and less likely to sustain an injury. As an added bonus, deadlifts also help develop the postural muscles of the back and hip that aid in correct movements when skating, walking, running, etc.
As you can see I’m a huge fan of deadlifts and believe all players should integrate them into their training programs. In my book DRYLAND I list a number of variations of this exercise and explain in more detail how it is linked to speed on the ice.