Tips for Improving Slapshot Power

After a great weekend in Pittsburgh at USA Hockey’s ADM Symposium (and one of Tangradi’s pre-season games) and a busy Summer of travel in general, I’m finally back and getting resettled in Philadelphia.

Despite the popularity of these posts, I don’t write a lot about how specific off-ice training methods transfer to specific on-ice skills. My fear is that players will say “I need a quicker first step” and only do a few thing that I recommend for speed training, or in this case, “I need a harder slap shot” and only do the exercises in this article. The truth is that ALL players should be following a comprehensive training program and using single goals as a means of designing your plan will inevitably create imbalances and ultimately fail in helping you realize your true potential. I say that as a preface to this post with the hopes that you’ll understand that this the exercises referenced below were simply pulled from a more complete program to demonstrate how these components will help transfer to an on-ice ability.

Tips for Improving Slap Shot Power
Hockey players, especially young ones, frequently seek out ways to improve their shot power. In reality, shooting a harder slap shot often comes down to mastering the technical components (e.g. foot positioning, puck placement, stick contact point, hand position, hip drive, etc). That said, a lot of progress can be made by removing physical barriers and improving both general and movement-specific strength and power.

From a barrier standpoint, shooting requires a great deal of mobility through the hips and thoracic spine (upper back). Two great exercises to improve and maintain optimal mobility in these areas are:

The Lying Knee-to-Knee Mobilization
Purpose: Improve hip internal rotation range of motion

Side-Lying Diagonal Arm Arc
Purpose: Improve thoracic rotation range of motion

A player cannot realize their full power potential with significant mobility restrictions. Because we live in a more sedentary society than ever, the hips and thoracic spine are common points of restriction and can lead to a number of other problems in addition to diminished shot power. Once a player has full mobility through the hips and spine, the next step is to improve core strength. While mobility and stability can be developed somewhat simultaneously, it’s important to understand that proper reflexive stability depends on proper proprioception, which is driven by optimal range of motion. In other words, range of motion restrictions will impair the body’s ability to properly activate stabilization-oriented muscles. Stability work will help ensure that the power generated from the lower body is effectively transferred to the upper body and into the puck. One great exercise for this is:

½ Kneeling Belly Press
Purpose: Improve rotational core strength

There are dozens of other exercises that serve this purpose well, but this is a good one to start with. The final stage in developing a harder shot is to improve rotational power. Power expression can range from high load, low velocity to low load, high velocity. Because a puck weighs a mere 6 oz., there will be a better transfer of power improvements if exercises on the low load, high velocity end of the continuum are selected. Medicine ball exercises serve this purpose perfectly.

One basic rotational power exercise is:

Front Standing Med Ball Scoop
Purpose: Develop rotational power, emphasizing weight transfer, hip rotation, and upper body follow through.

(well-groomed playoff beard optional)

A more dynamic variation of this quality:

Side Standing Med Ball Shotput with Rapid Step Behind
Purpose: Develop rotational power in a more dynamic environment. This more closely mimics the changing foot positions where power will need to be generated on the ice (think of adjusting feet to take a one timer).

While these are a few specific exercises that will help improve rotational power, a more general approach to strength training will also have a positive impact. The great thing about a quality hockey training program is that the same tactics used to develop a harder slap shot will also improve maximum and transitional skating speed, the ability to give and withstand hits, general conditioning, and injury resistance. In general, I think the hockey hockey world is due for a paradigm shift away from a direct skill-transfer driven training approach to off-ice development and toward a more complete athletic development system.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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