Build strength, balance and agility like the pros with these conditioning moves for ice hockey players led by the Los Angeles Kings coaching team.

If you’ve ever strapped on a pair of skates and spent time on the ice, you know that skating requires a great deal of balance, precision and coordination. For hockey players, the demands of the sport also require a whole lot of lower and upper body strength, as well.

Matt Price, head strength and conditioning coach for the Los Angeles Kings, shared a few dynamic warm-up moves, as well as three lower and upper body conditioning moves for weekend hockey players to add to their off-the-ice gym routine. These moves are also great if you want to build strength, or fire up your hips and core before your next workout.

Dynamic warm-up

Skipping series

“An important part of the dynamic warm up is activating the central nervous system,” says Price. “We get the players to move through very specific patterns that replicate skating and get the hips and the core really fired up, and also the lower body.”

This series of skipping patterns get the body moving through good flexion extension and adduction, which is crucial for the action of crossing of legs on skates.

  1. Forward skip
  • As you walk forward, bring one knee up toward your chest, while the other foot stays on the floor. Alternate knees as you move forward.
  • Keep your head and chest upright as you walk.
  1. Backward skip with hip opener
  • Walk backwards, drawing your knees up one at a time.
  • This time open up the hips by rotating your knee out and down as you return your foot to the floor.
  1. Lateral skips
  • Turn so you’re in a lateral stance, and bring one knee up then accelerating the foot back down to the floor as you move sideways, alternating knees as you go.
  • Focus on balance and form throughout.
  1. Cross-over skips
  • Continue skipping laterally but this time, as you bring your knee back down, cross your left foot over your right foot on the floor.
  • Alternate knees and continue bringing your left foot over your right.
  • Switch sides and skip the opposite way, bringing your right foot to cross and land over your left.
  • Keep the head still; all action should come from the hip.

Supine hip series

“This is a great exercise for opening up the hips, stretching the glutes, stretching the hamstrings and getting a lot of blood flow around the hips, important muscles for skating,” says Price.

  1. Hug
  • Lie on your back, legs out long.
  • Bring one knee to your chest, placing your hands on your shin and hug the knee back toward your chest.
  • Release and alternate legs, moving back and forth between legs.
  • Perform 10 reps on each leg.
  1. Ham
  • Straighten one leg toward the ceiling and flex your foot so your toes point back toward you.
  • Grab your calf and as you keep your leg straight pull it toward your forehead.
  • Keep your other leg flat to ground.
  • Alternate legs and perform 10 reps for each leg.
  1. Cradle
  • Bring one leg up, bend your knee and internally rotate the hip as you bring your foot across your body to sit on top of the opposite hip.
  • Pull your foot in toward you.
  • Hold each stretch a moment before switching legs.
  • Perform 10 reps on each side as you alternate legs.

Half-kneeling two-way lunge

Open up the groin and hip flexors with this dynamic stretch.

  • Come into a lunge and place your back knee on the ground. You can place a cushion or towel under your knee for comfort.
  • With your other foot in front of you, your knee should be bent at a 90-degree angle and should be directly over the ankle.
  • Keep your head and chest forward as you push your hips forward and send your front knee out over your ankle.
  • Bring the hips back, then step your front leg out to your side, keeping your back knee where it is, and rotate your hip to push the hips forward out to your side.
  • Perform 10 reps in each direction, then switch legs/sides.

Lower body strength training

Rear foot elevated split squat

“This is a really popular exercise with hockey players. It emphasizes single-leg strength, and moves the athletes through a large range of motion, so it really challenges their hip mobility,” says Price.

Perform 2-3 sets, 10 reps each set

  • Using a bench, step or chair, place your back leg up a little higher than knee height.
  • Start easy with hands at your sides to balance, and lower down into a single leg squat until your back knee is an inch or two from the ground. Keep your head and chest up as you squat.
  • Push through your standing leg to return to start and run through a few sets of squats.
  • After a few reps, change your arm position to target different muscle groups.
  • To work on balance, cross your arms over your chest and perform the single leg squat. Move through a few reps.
  • Take the hands over head to challenge mobility though the upper back, stability in the core and balance as you squat.
  • Perform 10 reps of each squat, and do two to three sets of squats.

Glute bridge

Perform the glute bridge first with both legs, then as a single-leg movement. “[This movement] works the hamstrings and the glutes to help with strong hip extension, which is important for striding the skate out,” says Price.

Double leg: Perform 10-12 reps for each set

  • Lie on your back with knees bent at 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor.
  • Drive your hips up off the floor toward the ceiling, digging your heels into the floor and squeezing your glutes as you rise.
  • Lower back down

Single leg: Perform 8 reps for each leg

  • To make it harder, bring one knee to your chest and hold it to your chest as you perform the glute bridge on a single leg.
  • Switch legs.

Upper body strength training

Push-ups with taps

“We’re all familiar with push-ups, but we’ve put a bit of a spin on it that is really helpful for players’ shoulder stability, and really engages the trunk,” says Price.

Perform 16-20 reps

  • Start in a high plank push-up position and engage the core, keeping your spine long.
  • Start with a basic push-up, then add the shoulder tap. Push up, pause and tap the right hand to left shoulder. Repeat and tap left hand to right shoulder.
  • Continue to push up and alternate tapping one hand to opposite shoulder.
  • Then, switch to knee taps. Push up, reach back with your right hand as you bring forward your left knee, and tap the knee. Repeat on opposite side, left hand to right knee.

Photo and video credit: Courtesy of the Los Angeles Kings