Rapid Response Hockey Training Tip #1 – Use the hinge!

I cannot think of a sport where this tip will not improve performance.  I am sure there is one, I just cannot think of it.  If you think of it, do me a favour and post it in the comments section below.  Here it is, beautiful in its simplicity:

Bend your knees!  They are a hinge joint for a reason!

I remember learning to ski and my Dad hollering “Bend your knees!”   Learning to skate and my Dad hollering  “Bend your knees!”  Playing on the basketball team and the coach hollering “Bend your knees!”

Now that I am a strength coach, what am I hollering half the time, you guessed it… ”Bend your knees!”

When my long-term client, NHL fastest skater and Stanley Cup champ Andy McDonald makes a visit to hockey camps, know what he talks about?  How the players don’t bend their knees!  Is it news to any of you that a hockey player looking to be faster and more explosive needs to bend their knees?  I know you have all heard this before, so why do so many athletes neglect this most basic foundation of athletic performance.  Two reasons really – no strength endurance or they are not concentrating on being a better player.

Let me explain that a little better:

  • Bending the knees makes the muscles that cross your knees work harder, namely the quadriceps – those are the huge muscles on the front of your thigh that start screaming “Stand up you fool” when you try this new ‘knee bend’ technique.  Here is the good news though – if you do some off ice training to strengthen your legs  AND if you ignore the screaming from your quads and at least try to stay lower in your stance that screaming will turn into a whisper as you build more stamina in those muscles.
  • Many of us are programmed to take the easy route – as I mentioned above, bending the knees is hard work until you train your body to do it.  Unfortunately, many athletes let this deter them and go the easy way – they stand up, which in turn makes them slower and less reactive.  How do they get away with that?  Well most of the players on their team are taking the easy way out too, so they kind of blend in.

If you would prefer to not blend in and become a more explosive, more reactive hockey player, then go ahead and bend your knees.  Trust me, you cannot be a great one without bending the knees and here is why.

  • If you stand around with straight knees, but then you need to make a lateral move or sprint forward how far are you going to go on peg legs?  Not very!  Do this right now; stand up, keep your legs straight and try to jump up in the air without bending your knees.  How far did you get?  Probably not even off the floor.
  • If you try to play with straight legs and have to make a move, we have already established that you are not even going to go post to post with straight legs, so the first think you need to do is bend your knees to ‘load’ the muscles before exploding laterally.  How long will this take – 0.25-0.5 seconds maybe?  Does not sound like that much, but are there many goalies out there who have that time to spare when the game is on the line.

By keeping a bend in the knees you stay loaded and ready to react without wasting that half second to load before you go.  I am not saying that you need to stand with your knees flexed when the play is way down in the other end, but when you are in your ready position, make sure those knees are bent and you are ready to go.  Check out the video below to learn more.

Happy training.

PS – if you like this post, then please do me a favour and “Like” it below.  Share it with other players who can benefit from better off-ice hockey training.