Leaps and bounds

A hockey player spends 45 seconds to a minute on the ice before going off for a rest. In beer league, shifts tend to drift a bit longer. During his shift, the player engages in many short sprints and changes of direction. There are also physical battles for positioning and puck possession, and sudden bursts of explosive movement when shooting.

The conditioning exercises in my book are designed to equip the athlete for all these requirements. Because skating is such a crucial part of hockey, there’s particular emphasis on developing the legs and core muscles for the sudden bursts of speed and direction changes that are inherent in the sport.

The type of training I’ve adopted is meant to unfold over the course of an entire summer off-season. After a summer of dedicated training, an elite competitor would arrive at training camp in top physical condition. The book states that the rigours of a hockey season will actually erode this player’s strength and power, because of the daily practices and quick succession of games.

In my case, my season will only feature one game a week and no practices, not enough to keep me in shape or wear me down, so I can continue my training between games throughout the season with the aim of improving my conditioning and raising my performance as the season progresses.

As promised in my last post, below is a list of the exercises I’ve pulled from the book, based on my self-imposed criteria that I must be able to do them by myself and with only equipment that I already own.

Base conditioning

Continuous aerobic conditioning

  • Exercise for 30 minutes, keeping the heart rate around 75 to 85 per cent of maximum.

Intermittent aerobic conditioning

  • Exercise for two minutes, heart rate five beats below maximum, rest for two minutes, complete six to 12 reps.

Adenosine triphospate phosphocreatine (ATP-PC)

(The system that provides energy for 10-second bursts)

  • Run full out for 10 seconds, rest for 50 seconds, eight reps.

Anaerobic glycosis or lactic system

(The system that provides energy for 30 to 45 seconds)

  • Run full out for 30 seconds, rest for two minutes, six reps.

Strength & power

Weight plate stickhandling

  • Place a 10 or 25-pound weight on a board and stickhandle it with the butt end of a hockey stick. Alternate between figure-eight movements, side-to-side as wide as possible and side-to-side quickly.
  • Develops abdominal, hip, and low-back rotation strength.

Lateral dumbbell raise

  • Self explanatory.
  • Builds the shoulders.


  • Typical squat with a barbell across the shoulders.
  • Builds strength in the legs, glutes and back.

Hockey lunges                                    

  • Like a normal lunge but you step outward at a 45 degree angle to mimic a hockey stride.
  • Strengthens various leg and hip muscles.


Stability ball, hockey stick push ups

  • Place a hockey stick across an inflatable exercise ball and perform push ups.
  • Develops full-body stability and shoulder stability as well as upper-body strength and power.

(There aren’t many balance exercises in the book that don’t require special equipment or a partner. Many of the exercises require a BOSU ball, which is like an inflated exercise ball that’s been sliced off at the top and a flat bottom installed on the hole. In the future, I may look at breaking my rule number one by getting a couple of these.)


Ladder footwork drills

  • A ladder is placed on the floor and various footwork patterns are executed by stepping in and out of the squares. These include crossovers, single and two-footed hops.

(The book uses a nylon ladder that’s designed to lay flat on the floor for this type of exercise. I don’t have one of these and using a real ladder would be treacherous so I just perform the footwork on the garage floor or outside in the absence of any markings, trying to be precise and quick with my movements.)

Backward depth drops into drop steps

  • Stand on a box, drop down onto both feet then quickly turn and take a few sprinting strides in that direction. Repeat in the other direction.
  • Develops explosiveness and improves movement skills specific to turning from backward to forward.

(I’ve been doing a ton of these because, as a defenceman, I’m forced to perform this manoeuvre many times a game. And as I’ve aged this is the manoeuvre that gives me the most difficulty. It makes me feel like I have the mobility of a river barge.)

Single leg drop

  • Same as above except drop onto one leg and use it to push off in the opposite direction.

Agility and reactivity

Two in, one out

  • A lateral movement drill performed over two short hurdles placed side by side four feet apart. The athlete starts outside the hurdles, moves laterally in between them then steps out. The knees are kept high. Each foot steps in the middle then one steps out before the athlete changes direction and repeats the process.
  • This develops quick, light feet.

(It sounds complicated but it’s really just quick lateral steps with high knees. I do it without the hurdles because I don’t have any.)

All the other drills in this section require a Bosu ball or are designed to be done on ice, mostly with a partner.


Vertical jumps

  • Stand in one spot, bend the legs then jump up with as much force as you can muster, driving the arms up.
  • Develops vertical leg speed and power.

(This can be done with resistance. The book shows bungy-type straps pulling the athlete down. I’ve seen footage of players doing this with a barbell across their shoulders.)         

Zigzag lateral bounds

  • Bound forward at a 45-degree angle, leaping with one leg, landing on the opposite one then pushing off in the opposite direction.
  • This builds stride length and power.

There, that was tedious but I wanted to explain the various exercises so you can better visualize what this is all about. It really is a lot of leaping, hopping, shuffling and jumping ... kind of like what kindergartners do when they’re turned loose in the gym.

My next blog will summarize my second week of training and the results. Keep your eyes peeled for a humourous anecdote. Thank you for reading this post all the way to the end. You qualify for a draw for a free apple.* 

* I lied. Providing free apples would violate my rule No.1