Plyometrics—sometimes called “plyos” or “jump training”—is a strategy hockey players can use to improve agility training, which is a crucial performance tool. Including plyometric exercises in your hockey training regimen can boost your strength, speed, balance, flexibility, and dexterity.
Using maximum force in short intervals, plyometrics develops muscle in specialized ways; essentially, the nervous system is able to fire muscle movement more effectively and efficiently. Plyometric drills specifically target leg and lateral muscles—ideal for hockey players, who must be fast and agile skaters, and must continually launch off one leg at a time and push off to either side.
Plyometric Drills for Better Agility
Following a standard stretching routine, agility drills for hockey should include assorted jumps to enhance a player’s explosive movements:
- Alternate power skipping: From a standing position, lift one knee and spring up off the opposite foot, hopping into the air, skipping forward, and landing on the opposing leg.
- Side-to-side jumps: Place a small object or piece of tape on the ground. With knees bent, jump over the object side to side at a quick pace.
- Spring jumps: With knees bent, jump up and forward as far as possible, focusing on control in jumping and landing.
- Squat tuck jumps: Beginning in a squat position with knees bent and upper body straight, jump quickly and as high as possible with knees tucked into the chest before landing again in the squat position.
Agility training for hockey players can also be a safety tool. Building strength in the legs and ankles, in particular, can prevent injury on the ice.
Improve your Speed with Plyometric Exercises
Plyometric training also boosts speed and balance. Some drills to try:
- Single-leg hops: Standing on one leg, jump forward, backward, and to the side, concentrating on strong, precise knee bends and landings.
- Short sprints: Spread several cones (or objects) about five feet from each other. Starting at the first cone, sprint to the next cone and back to the first. Repeat with the rest of the cones, focusing on quick acceleration in both directions.
- Lateral shuffle: With feet shoulder width apart, stand with knees bent and forearms held up in front of the chest. Quickly shuffle right, and then shuffle left.
- One-leg stick-handling: Starting in a face-off position, lift one leg while balancing on the other. Stick-handle simultaneously in a synchronized motion.
While plyometric exercises don’t require any equipment, you can enhance them using props like small hand weights, resistance bands, and kettlebells. Box jumps (at various heights) can also amplify hockey agility training.
Strength and dexterity are key to a hockey player’s success. This is particularly true on the ice, where force and velocity can make all the difference. Plyometric drills in hockey agility training can lead to that success. But do them only a few days a week, in- and off-season, giving your muscles time to recover between training sessions; performing these rigorous, targeted movements too often could lead to injury in the short and/or long term.