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Functional hockey training involves a comprehensive approach.
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Developing complete fitness for hockey isn't merely about increasing strength and establishing endurance. Tough, physically demanding sports such as hockey require a functional approach, incorporating exercises that feature motions that replicate the kinetic actions of the game. To get functionally fit for hockey, you'll need to concentrate on exercises that develop rotational strength and acclimate you to the uneven distribution of body weight that naturally occurs throughout every shift of a game.
Balance and stability are the key components of functional fitness for hockey. On the ice during game play, your weight usually is not evenly distributed through both legs. Fighting for position or the puck along the boards or in open ice requires absorbing impact on one side of your body while you're in motion. It's crucial to increase single-leg stability and balance for each leg; one such exercise involves modifying a standard lunge so that your rear foot balances on a stability ball while your lead foot remains on the floor. Lower yourself carefully while maintaining balance with your front foot.
The ability to rotate from side to side, along what hockey instructor Anthony Donskov refers to as the transverse plane, improves shooting, passing and skating performance. One effective exercise for developing rotational strength is to use a resistance tube, a pole, and a half stability ball. Fasten one end of the resistance tube to the pole, the other end to a wall or other fixed object at waist level. Stand on the flat platform of the half stability ball with your feet at shoulder width so that the wall or fixed object is at one of your sides. Mimic a shooting or passing motion, rotating at your waist and hips while balancing on the half-ball, extending the tube and using the pole like a hockey stick.
Developing agility is an essential component of functional fitness for hockey. Much like establishing balance and stability, certain drills will help you develop muscle memory for side-to-side weight shifting that occurs in many phases of the game, from skating to puck handling. A simple exercise that develops lateral agility is taping a straight line on the floor with masking tape, or placing a pole on the floor. Stand with both feet on one side of the line, then jump over the line with one of your feet. Jump back and forth multiple times with quickness and intensity.
Although most functional fitness exercises for hockey are low-impact and rely on your body weight, you must train safely. Most of the exercises challenge your ability to balance. Ask a partner to help you, especially for any exercise that requires a stability ball. The partner should stand close and help keep you upright should you lose control of the exercise. Also, as you progress, body weight alone may not provide enough resistance. You can increase the intensity of many functional exercises with a kettlebell, dumbbell or other weight.