When thinking about what could be one of the best leg exercises for hockey I think about early on in my training. I was someone that was easily dooped by fancy devices, video programs, and basically whatever I witnessed someone with any strength doing. In university I remember going to workout at the campus gym and seeing lots of leg presses, cable flys, and bench presses. Actually I remember seeing two guys spotting the ends of the bar for a guy that had 4 plates on each side while he proceeded to move the bar 2 inches max, with the guys on the end struggling to get the bar back on the rack.
That was about the time I realized that I needed to take the time to learn about proper training methods and techniques. I also continue to put the time in to learn as much as I can to help anyone I can that finds this site a helpful resource.
That’s why when people ask me what one of the best leg exercises for hockey to improve speed, strength, and power I always think of one exercise. It’s my favorite exercise to program, but one of my least favorite to actually do. Which is probably a clear cut sign that it’s a worth while exercise.
So if you aren’t currently doing the Bulgarian Split Squat or the Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS), then I’d strongly recommend that you try it out.
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats
What I’d suggest first is to get a bench or a chair and place one foot (laces down) on it. Your other foot will be placed slightly ahead of your body, so that you can lower yourself down until your front leg is at a 90 degree angle. Use that same leg to push yourself back into the starting position. Once you get the technique down and you’re comfortable with your own bodyweight, then you can start adding some weight with dumbbells in each hand.
Check out the video demonstration below from Mike Robertson of Robertson Training Systems of what could be the best leg exercise for hockey:
I usually leave the dumbbells hanging at my sides, but having them up at your shoulders definitely provies an extra challenge.
Why I think this is the best exercise for hockey:
1. Single Leg Training
I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence here by saying something like, “If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past 5 years then you’ve probably heard of single leg training”. Single leg training isn’t anything new, but the benefits of it are starting to really shine bright over that of bilateral training exercises like back squats because of the lack of weight being placed on a person’s spine.
I liked when Mike Boyle explained it. Basically he said if a guy can single leg squat 100lbs, then he should be able to, in theory, back squat 200lbs. The benefit of the single leg squat is that it gets the same amount of work placed on it, without the spine being under that much stress.
2. Works on Balance
One of the things that gets me is the amount of gimmicky things used to help a hockey player’s balance. I think the bosu ball has been overused as well as those balance boards that are more suited to a rehabilitation center. The Bulgarian split squat, or the Canadian split squat as they call it in Bulgaria, works balance in the simplest way, by standing on one foot and using it to do work.
3. Hip Flexibility
One of the ongoing issues with hockey players is the amount of hip flexor injuries. Your hips are in a flexed position for such a long period of time during the game that over time they become tight. This doesn’t even take into account the amount of sitting people do during the day that just adds to this issue. So while one leg is doing the work, the other leg that’s placed up on the bench gets the benefit of working on its range of motion through full extension.
While I’m a huge advocate for exercises like the front squat and the deadlift, this exercise is just as good at adding lower body strength. It may even be better in that bilateral exercises can let people “favor” one leg and let it do just a little more of the work than the other leg. That’s why single leg training is so awesome, there’s no way to cheat, unless you’re doing it on your own and not getting your leg deep enough so that it’s parallel with the ground.
So if you haven’t been using this exercise in your hockey training already, I would strongly recommend you start adding it into your workouts. Start by adding it as a supplemental exercise and use only your bodyweight for reps of 10-12. Once you have the technique down and you’re comfortable with your own body weight, then grab a set of dumbbells and try sets of 8 reps with each leg.