Goalie-Specific Hockey Training

Every now and then I’ll get a question from a colleague about what goalie-specific training I’m doing. A more fundamental question is, “what, if any, special considerations does the goalie position warrant?”

This question spawns a continuum with two different extremes:

  1. Extreme 1: Goalies do not need any specific work and should just do everything with their teammates
  2. Extreme 2: Goalies need COMPLETELY specific work and shouldn’t train like players at all

As with all extreme arguments, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. If a hockey training program is well-designed, it will be geared toward improving fundamental aspects of athleticism such as:

  1. Mobility of relevant joints as dictated by the “Joint by Joint Approach to Training
  2. Linear and transitional acceleration and speed
  3. Vertical, horizontal and rotational power
  4. Full body strength
  5. Multi-directional core strength and endurance
  6. Work capacity/conditioning

A birds eye view of this list demonstrates that all of these qualities apply to all positions in hockey. In other words, I think if you’re going to err toward one extreme, the “goalies should just do everything with their teammates” isn’t a bad option.

That said, goalies do warrant some special considerations that, when feasible, should be built into their programs.

Goalie-Specific Training
Instead of completely reinventing the wheel for goalie training programs, I think it’s a smarter idea to make adjustments to the team program to make a few things more goalie specific.

Hip Mobility
For starters, goalies depend on more hip mobility than players do. Hip range of motion is important for all hockey players, but is especially crucial for goalies. With that in mind, it’s worth taking goalies through a quick hip assessment (see Hip Assessment for Hockey Players for one example) to see what kind of structural deviations may limit their ROM. Goalies that present with CAM impingement are almost guaranteed labral surgeries unless the bony overgrowth is minor and caught early. Structural limitations may dictate the style of play as well (or at least the build of the pads). Butterfly goalies with extremely retroverted hips may have a hard time shutting down their five hole.

He needs a lot of hip internal rotation to close that gap

Speed Training
In general, the speed training we do for our goalies and that we do for our players is pretty similar. The primary difference is that our players will use crossover strides with an emphasis on a strong push-under, whereas our goalies will always open when changing direction. You could really make an argument for both sides (goalies don’t crossover in games, but the crossover pattern trains rapid internal rotation of the back side leg, which goalies do need).

Power Training
We make slight modifications to our power training to make the exercises a bit more goalie specific. With goalies, we progress them from lateral bounds to diagonal bounds in a postero-lateral direction. In other words, instead of jumping straight to the side, they’ll jump back and to the side. This forces them to open up their hips more and more closely resembles the motion they go through when moving from the top of the crease to either pole.

With med ball throws, we use most of the same patterns, will progress to a lighter implement with a greater focus on ball velocity. As with speed training, when we get into more dynamic movements leading into the throw, we’ll still favor lateral pushes instead of crossover patterns.

Strength Training
Our strength training is EXACTLY the same for players and goalies. The idea that goalies getting strong will limit their ability to move quickly is just as moronic as the idea that lifting extremely light weights for high reps will get you ripped/toned.

If more people lifted like football players and conditioned like hockey players, I don’t think we’d be hearing so much about the I’m too apathetic to get my ass off the couch obesity epidemic

The bottom line is that strength is the foundation for speed and power. If a goalie lacks the ABILITY to produce force, they CANNOT move more quickly. This isn’t an opinion. It’s physics.

As with players, strength training programs should emphasize, or at least incorporate, single-leg and dissociated upper body exercises. Exercises like reverse lunges, back leg raised split squats, alternate arm dumbbell chest press, standing 1-arm cable rows frequent our programs.

Conditioning for goalies needs to incorporate positional holds and predominately alactic/aerobic work, as the demand on the lactic system typically isn’t as high on goalies as it is in players, especially goalies of really good teams. That said, other than minimizing crossover transitions during shuttle runs, our goalies condition with our players. Conditioning builds camaraderie more than any other aspect of the training program, and the metabolic and body position demands of a goalie are more similar to a player than different. Because of the progression methods we use, our goalies are still able to develop all of the qualities they need to feel great going into the pre-season.

Goalie-Specific Exercises
I understand that a lot of hockey training situations are very different from the environment we have at Endeavor, and it’s helpful to have a list of exercises that they can perform with minimal equipment use. If you’re in this camp, check out the list of exercises below for some ideas on where to get started:

Hip Mobility Exercises
Lying knee to knee
Unilateral lying knee to knee (one at a time)
Lateral kneeling quadruped rock
Lateral Glute Rock
Diagonal Hip Rock -> Step
Rectus Femoris Mobilization

Hip Stability Exercises
Lateral MiniBand Walks
Backward MiniBand Monster Walks
Bowler Squats
Bowler Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
Single-Leg Half Squat w/ Opposite Leg Lateral Reach
Single-Leg Half Squat w/ Opposite Leg Rotational Reach (reach posterolateral with “up” leg, allowing external rotation on stance leg, think of pulling back to the starting position using stance leg, not momentum of up leg)

LB Power Exercises
Lateral Bound
Rotational Bound (same idea as lateral bound but the movement is posterolateral instead of lateral. Think top of crease driving to pole of net).
Shuffle-Bound (Shuffle once to the right or left and then bound in the same direction)
Walking Lunge Into Vertical Jump w/ 2 leg landing (Not goalie specific, but great for training decelerative ability and explosive LB power, especially for less advanced kids that may not be proficient in split squat jumps and other related movements)

Rotational Power Exercises
Side Standing Med Ball Scoops
Side Standing Med Ball Shotput
Forward Shuffle into Side Standing Med Ball Scoop or Shotput
Backward Shuffle into Side Standing Med Ball Scoop or Shotput

This is far from a comprehensive look at training ice hockey goalies, but it should shed some light on what qualities warrant special considerations in comparison to the programs of other players. If you’re looking for a more in-depth goalie training solution, I highly encourage you to check out Maria Mountain’s Ultimate Goalie Training 2.0. I’ve been following Maria’s work for several years and when it comes to training goalies, she’s the best there is. She’s having an “early bird” special on it until July 5th so if you’re on the fence, click the image below to check out more information on it before the price jumps.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!