This is why hockey goalies need upper body training.

upper body training for hockey goaliesI was working with a 17-year old goalie the other day who stopped in the middle of the workout, turned to me and said, “Why do I need to do any upper body exercises?  I am a goalie!”

Well that stopped me in my tracks for two reasons:

1.       It was the first time I ever came across a 17 year old male who did not want to do upper body training.

2.       On the surface it makes some sense – but once you understand how the body works it makes no sense.

Let’s look at a sport where the athletes do not appear to use their arms at all to compete.  Track sprinting.  Those athletes just need to run, they do not need to throw or catch anything.  Now picture the upper body musculature of the fastest sprinters in the world – they are ripped!

Why are they so developed?  Is it so they will look great in their singlet?  Absolutely not – nor do they train like body builders to get that physique.  The upper body development of an elite sprinter shows us just how intertwined the musculature of the upper and lower body are.  When your lower body is doing work, your upper body is also working to help maintain balance, maintain stability and generate power.  There is a reason we run and skate with one arm moving forward as the other leg moves backward.  This puts a stretch into the kinetic chain which then translates into a elastic and reflexive contraction to act as a force multiplier.

Ever tried running or skating  or performing crease movements while keeping your arms crossed and you will see the huge impact the upper body has on the efficiency of movement.

Other reasons goalies need to strength train:

  • Shoulder stability and health.  The muscles that attach to the shoulder blade form the “core” of the shoulder.  These muscles need to be strong to allow for efficient and healthy functioning of the shoulder.
  • The upper body must be strong enough to transfer the power produced by the legs and transferred through the core when clearing or passing the puck up the ice.
  • Contact happens – it seems like running the goalie or ‘falling’ into the goalie happens once or twice per game.  Muscle is like your armour – you do not need as much bulk as a body builder, but you sure want a layer of strong smart muscle holding your shoulders, elbows and wrists in place.
  • If you are training properly, your upper body training will also help give you a strong core and strong hips.  If your upper body training is completed mainly on machines, then I agree it may not be that beneficial for a goalie.  If however most of your upper body training is done from a standing position using dumbbells, barbells or cable columns then not only are you making your upper body stronger, but you are also training your core and your hips the way you will need them in a game.

Need any more reasons than that?  Okay – how about Under Armour shirts in the locker room and having a droopy, doughy upper body.  Do you have a favourite upper body exercise?  Share it with us in the comments section below!

That’s all for today – have a great one!

By | 2011-01-24T05:32:13+00:00 January 24th, 2011|Off-Ice Goalie Training|11 Comments


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jim Blaney and Maria Mountain, Maria Mountain. Maria Mountain said: New Post! This is why hockey goalies need upper body training. […]

  2. Jim Blaney January 24, 2011 at 7:01 am - Reply

    One of my favorites is one you taught me. The one-handed medicine ball pushup where you transfer hands on the medicine ball after each push-up. I like it because you get a bit of lateral movement as well as the up-down pushup movement.

    • Maria Mountain January 24, 2011 at 9:40 am - Reply

      I like that one too Jim because it requires strength and stability – I should do a blog post showing that one!

  3. Paul Hemsworth January 24, 2011 at 7:10 am - Reply

    Hi Maria,

    Thanks for the post Maria. As a strength coach and former goaltender myself, I also incorporate upper body strength with my goalies. Shoulder health and stability is huge especially with the blocker hand shoulder as you need to be strong with your stick to both absorb shots as well as deal with traffic in your crease. As well, since I’ve never seen a goalie who hasn’t wound up on his/her stomach or back, you need to know that the power is there in order to get up to your feet as quick as possible. Lastly, posture is huge with goaltending and if you do not have the strength endurance through your scapular stabilizers and thoracic extensors, you will not only fatigue quicker causing you to not be ready, but also the risk of injury is higher with that poor posture. You’ve hit the nail on the head with upper and lower body connection, and think of it this way: If your upper body isn’t strong and stable, you’ll be limiting your lower body training because you can’t support the weight!

    Glad to see some specific material for goalies…we all know that we are overlooked. But, what job is more important in all of sports?

    • Maria Mountain January 24, 2011 at 9:38 am - Reply

      Thanks for adding your insight from the trenches Paul. Invaluable!

  4. Kevin Neeld January 24, 2011 at 8:08 am - Reply

    Not to mention that strength is the foundation for speed and power. You’re right that many players overlook this, especially goalies. I think this boils down to the age-old idea that getting stronger means bulkier and slower, which we know to not be true if not the right way. Great stuff!


    • Maria Mountain January 24, 2011 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Hi Kevin,

      I think you make a great point – you are right there are many goalies out there who still think strong means slow or inflexible and that they are better to avoid strength training, which could not be further from the truth. Like you said, it just needs to be the right type of strength training. Thanks for your input.

  5. Tuomas January 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    This information would have been golden in late 90’s when I played hockey. We used to think that we should not work out on our upper body as much as we though it would get us slower. I regret that now as I have we weak upper body and somewhat strong lower body :

    I started to play again at age of 30, been viewing your videos which have been really helpful. Thanks! 🙂

    • Maria Mountain January 29, 2011 at 3:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the comment! Never too late to start – you are still a spring chicken!

  6. maalivahti January 30, 2011 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    Tuomas, definitely not too late. I strapped on the pads for the very first time at 31! Maria’s videos and articles have been so helpful.

  7. […] wrote a post about a year ago outlining the importance of upper body exercises for hockey goalies but I did not give many specific exercises in that post so I will correct that now.  Regardless of […]

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