Dr. Clint Steele, DC, CSCS
Two players, both are 6'1" and weigh 215 pounds. Player A has 27" thighs and a 17" bicep. Player B has 24" thighs and 19" biceps. Player A can squat 400 pounds and bench press 200 lbs. Player B has a hard time squatting 250 lbs but can bench press 300 lbs.
Which player looks better at the beach? Which player gets more looks from the girls? Which player probably has a better chance of playing hockey at the next level?
If your answers were in the following order Player B, Player B and Player A, I would say you are probably correct.
I can't tell you how many 14, 15, 16, 17 year old hockey players come to me complaining that they are not big enough and they want to gain muscle then begin by laying down on the bench to perform bench press. Don't get me wrong bench press is a great exercise but in my opinion it does very little to help a hockey player become a better hockey player.
I remember reading a story about Joe Sakic when he was playing junior hockey. The story goes on to tell of how Joe hit the weights one summer and gained quite a bit of weight, unfortunately is was almost all in his upper body. When he got to training camp he said he noticed that he was slower than usual and he wasn't as quick as he was used too. He immediately lost the weight he had gained and told himself he was not going to lift weights again. He later realized, after meeting a strength coach who knew what he was doing, that he was just training improperly for hockey. He did not gain "hockey" muscle and this affected his game adversely. Basically by gaining muscle in his upper body he was in essence carrying around a weighted vest on his upper body. Needless to say he did start back in the weight room focusing on hockey muscle and I don't think I need to tell you where he is now.What is Hockey Muscle?
Think of the major muscles involved in skating. Very simple, these are your hockey muscles. I know what you are thinking now "but I need big upper body muscles for checking," WRONG. "But I need upper body muscles for a hard slap shot," WRONG. "But I need big upper body muscles to move the forward out from in front of the net," WRONG.
Once again, the major muscles used in skating are the major hockey muscles and the same muscles you will need for not only skating, but also checking and shooting. Let me explain.
First let's describe the major muscles needed for skating. If you were to look in a full-length mirror, place your hand just below your chest and look from that hand down. See those abdominal muscles, those oblique muscles, if you turn around you will see your erector spinae muscles and associated back muscles, see those hip extensors (including your butt muscles and hamstring muscles), look at the front again and see those hip flexors and of course the quadriceps. Those are the MOST important hockey muscles you can have, not only for skating, but just about everything related to hockey!
If you don't already believe me then let me take a minute to try and convince you.
I don't think I need to do much to convince you that the muscles listed above are the skating muscles that you need to develop. Just about everyone can agree on that fact. Obviously the leg muscles are used for power and speed but also for balance. This is important to consider, as I will explain in a minute. The abdominal, oblique and back muscles are also very important to help keep your torso in its proper skating position and also for balance.The Test
Now lets consider a defenseman trying to push a forward out from the front of the net. Many coaches I have dealt with in the past few years will tell these defenseman to work their chests and their triceps in the weight room. Now don't get me wrong, my players all work their upper bodies in addition to their "hockey muscles" but to stress the importance of upper body strength over lower body strength or even to say that these muscles are just as important as your hockey muscles is just plain wrong. Don't believe me, go out and try to push someone out from in front of the net while standing on one skate. If your chest and triceps were SO strong then you should be able to do it, right? The answer of course is no. Now I want you to try and stand on both skates, with legs straight and try to push someone. This will make it a little easier but if the other player has any strength at all and has technique this will still be difficult. Now to ultimately prove my point I want you to stand on both skates and bend your knees. Now push the other player using your legs and upper body. This will allow you to now use all of your "hockey" muscles and will of course make this push a lot easier.
If you don't believe me go out and try it. You don't even need to be on skates, try it on dryland with a friend and see what happens.
Next month I will continue on this issue and actually give you a few GREAT exercises to help you develop these hockey muscles and then also give you some tips on what you can do outside of the weight room to ensure that you do gain this hockey muscle.
For hundreds of archived articles such as this one plus animated drills, video clips, expert advice, training programs and more please check out the members only area at www.betterhockey.com Membership includes all the above plus weekly e-mail updates that include the latest and greatest coaching techniques, drills, off ice and on ice tips and exercises, free subscription to Better Hockey Magazine and so much more. STAY AHEAD OF YOUR COMPETITION!!!! Join Today.