These off-ice training for goalies tips will help you maintain your edge
By Chris Phillips
Updated July 18, 2023
Off-ice training for goalies plays a vital role in their development as hockey players. USA Hockey follows the Long Term Athletic Development principles as the basis of their program. These principles will assist in creating a more consistent training regimen.
Today’s training programs should not be based on how hard the program is, but what your objectives are and how you’re progressing. When training for a sport, the program should be devised with the following in mind:
- Is the program age specific?
- Is it based on meeting the demands of the sport the athlete plays?
- Are proper techniques being used?
- Does the program include fundamental movements that progress to more complex ones?
- Does the program address injury-prevention exercises that relate to the sport?
Should a Goalie Train Like a Skater?
Now that we covered some of the basics, here’s where it gets tricky. Both goalies and skaters play the same game, so can they train the same way off the ice?
Skaters are on the ice for no more than a minute. In comparison, goalies are on their feet (and knees, belly, or back) the entire game. The demands placed on a goalie are totally unlike those of their teammates. They are required to drop down to their knees and bounce back up on their feet in the blink of an eye. They must be agile, possess superior hand-eye coordination, and have the ability to generate explosive movement. And that’s just the physical reality for a goalie.Shop New Arrivals for this years hockey equipment, and accessories at HockeyWorld.com!
Let’s look at the movements each player goes through during a game. A forward predominantly skates in a forward direction, weaving and turning as they skate up the ice. A defenseman will skate backwards more than the forwards during a game. Both will utilize a crossover step while turning as well. There is one main component that is similar with skaters: they mainly skate north and south in a linear pattern.
Now let’s look at how a goalie moves about the ice. Their movement is more lateral in fashion, sliding from post to post, not to mention dropping into a butterfly and getting back up on their skates quickly. It’s pretty obvious that the demands on a goalie are pretty different than those put upon a skater during a game. So if the demands are different, shouldn’t the training program be different?
That’s not to say that there will not be a lot of crossover in the training program, but that there are certain aspects that need to be addressed. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Many teams train together and it can be difficult for the Strength Coach to modify the program for the goalies, but it should be noted and modified as much as possible.
Off-Ice Training Specifics
Now that we have deciphered that the demands placed on a goalie differs from those on a skater, and that their programs should also be different, what should be the focus of this off-ice training for goalies program?
The off-ice training for goalies program should focus on the age and level of the athlete. Exercises that are good for one goalie may be too complex for another; always begin simple. Then, as the athlete masters the exercise, make it increasingly difficult. Adding resistance, placing the athlete on an unstable surface or making the movement more complex are all good examples of how to make the training more difficult.
Below are some of the basic principles that should be included in off-ice training for goalies dry land program:
- Agility exercises that focus on lateral movement
- Plyometric exercises that focus on lateral movement
- Single leg- and hip-strengthening exercises
- Core stability
- Shoulder strengthening and stability exercises
- Hand-eye coordination
Taking it to the Next Level
There is an unlimited amount of exercises that can be used with goalies to help them improve their performance on the ice. Using the principles previously mentioned, here are some key exercises that can be implemented into your goalie training program:
- Lateral lunges
- Lateral bounds
- Resisted shuffles
- Mini-band exercises for hip strength
- Rear foot-elevated split squats
- Medicine ball Russian Twists
- Dumbbell forward, diagonal, and lateral shoulder-raises
- Dumbbell rows
- Alternate ball toss with a partner
Equally important for a goaltender is a subject that is often overlooked. Being a goalie means you must be mentally tough. You can’t let your emotions get the best of you. You have to be able to bounce back from a tough goal or loss, and not let any negative thoughts get inside your head. It’s all about keeping your focus.
As a goalie, the way you train off the ice directly affects the way you perform on the ice. Take a step-by-step approach with long-term athletic development in mind. Consider goals that emphasize proper technique and progression as the basis of your program, to maximize performance and limit injuries.
Chris Phillips is a certified Athletic Trainer and Strength & Conditioning Specialist with over 20 years of experience in professional sports. He spent 8 years in the NHL, with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Washington Capitals, and was a member of the 2003 Mighty Ducks Stanley Cup Finalists. Phillips now owns and operates Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Orange County, Ca.
Consult a physician before undertaking any training regimen to ensure it’s right for you.