5 Kettlebell Exercises for Hockey Performance

Expert Opinion

Hockey’s second season is underway and this time of the year some players are unfortunately starting their off-season training regimen while the others are competing for Lord Stanley’s 34.5 pound cup. One group is now training for next season, while the other group is training for the next seven game series; but both groups are still training to hopefully hoist that cup. Here are some exercises that can be used both in the off-season to help develop or in-season to help maintain power, core-strength, stability and overall athleticism for a hockey player. 

KB Swing 

The KB swing is a staple in our in-season programming. The KB swing is key because it allows our players to generate power through their posterior chain. It's a nice substitute for more complex Olympic lift patterns that some players may have issues performing and it is generally a very safe exercise. This KB swing is fairly simple to learn for athletes who are poor movers; an easy external cue you can use for someone who has a “squatty” KB swing is to place a 12’ foam roller between their legs and have them swing the KB directly over top of the roller without knocking it over. 

Table Top KB Pull Through or High Plank KB Transfers 

The KB pull through is another exercise we commonly use with our players. The pull through is a great exercise for anti-rotation core, dynamic shoulder stability, and thoracic rotation. To make this exercise easier for beginners, stagger the legs further apart and position your arms further in front of your shoulders. To make it more challenging, have your feet closer together, hands right below your shoulders like you are doing a push-up and move the weight further away from your body after you drag it underneath you. 

KB Goblet Lateral Lunge 

The KB Goblet Lateral Lunge checks a lot of boxes for our players. This lunge variation is perfect for hockey players. Goblet loading with a KB challenges your anti-flexion core strength when moving in the frontal plane, and lunging laterally also trains the adductors (groin) or the “brakes” for a hockey player eccentrically. This exercise teaches a player how to maintain an upright torso position, while getting deep knee flexion and building strength through abduction of the hip and then explosively pushing through the flexed leg to return to the starting position. 

Bottoms Up KB Overhead Press 

Hockey is a demanding physical sport, and the instances of shoulder injuries are quite high. The Bottoms Up Press is great for shoulder health. But as much as it is a shoulder exercise, it is also a core exercise. The Bottoms Up Press is usually performed in a ½ kneeling position to add the dynamic of anti-side bend to the exercise. The bottom up position of the KB challenges the stability of your wrist, elbow, shoulder, and core through the whole range of motion of shoulder flexion. For lack of a better term, the bottoms up press “bullet proofs” your shoulder and teaches the player to dissociate shoulder flexion from thoracic spine extension. If the bottom up position is too difficult and you are unable to maintain the KB’s position, feel free to use a DB and really focus on full range of motion and maintaining good thoracic positioning. 

KB Bosch Clean 

The Bosch Clean is another exercise we use to help develop unilateral power in our players. Using a KB instead of a barbell makes cleaning the weight easier for the players with limited range of motion and a history of wrist, elbow, or shoulder injuries, while still allowing them to generate more force into the ground. The Bosch Clean is great for single leg power because the player must explode into the ground on one leg, clean the weight up to chest height, extend and propel themselves forward with the other leg, and catch themselves on an elevated surface with their lead leg. The end position leaves the player in deep hip flexion on their lead leg and full hip extension on the back leg, a position very similar to a skating stride. 

Conclusion

Even though all of these exercises are very different they all have something in common. They all promote an athlete to move more athletically, in a way that transitions to their sport. They can all be done by hockey players at any level, and they are all generally safe exercises that can be used either in the off-season to develop strength and power or in-season to maintain your off-season gains.