The Right Way To Use Instability In Hockey Training

If I had my way, this week’s blog posts would all be dedicated to stories from the Springsteen concert last Friday night – nope still not over that – how Bruce still has an awesome voice, how I can’t believe he did Candy’s Room and then to start the encore with Thunder Road followed by Born to Run….okay, I better stop there.

Tyler thought you guys might like to hear his take on instability training for hockey players instead – silly rookie.  You know that I know that you want more stories from Bruuuuuccce, but let’s humour the kid – it’s actually a really good article and sums up how like garlic, instability training can be an essential ingredient when used in the right dose.

The Use of Instability In Hockey Training

There is a lot of confusion regarding  how, why and when to use instability for hockey training.  After reading some of the research performed by Dr. David Behm (reference posted at the bottom of the page) it reinforced that, when done properly, instability training for hockey players has its benefits.

When NOT To Use It

When training for strength and power you should be on a stable surface since this allows you to apply maximal force.  For example, if you were trying to push your truck out of the mud, you would not want to be standing on a BOSU or an unstable surface. You would push off of a flat stable surface where you can generate more force.

When, Why and How To Use Instability For Hockey Training

Instability training has a place in hockey training when we are trying to teach a player how to express his/her strength and power while under unstable conditions. Even players can underestimate how unstable they can be while on the ice, but  there are many situations throughout a hockey game where you have to provide force with minimal stability, think about digging for a loose puck in the corner while getting pushed from the side or from behind by and opposing player.  BOSU’s, balance boards, and stability balls are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to instability training.

Planks for example are another form of training while unstable. The muscles of the core must work hard to maintain a neutral torso position that is not supported in anyway.  We can reduce the stability by lifting one leg or by putting the arms on a stability ball.  So you can see how stability training covers a wide spectrum of ‘instability’ levels.

Other research supports that instability training helps teach athletes to absorb impact which leads to a decrease in the risk of ACL tears. In my years playing competitive hockey I have seen more than a handful of ACL tears. As a hockey player I know the importance of staying healthy for a whole season. As a strength coach I consider my primary job is to keep athletes healthy, so this gives me another good reason to include this tool.

Just because you can front squat 300lbs does not mean you will never got knocked off the puck. You have to intertwine strength and power with stability.  BOSU’s, balance boards, stability balls and other instability tools are just a few of the many tools you can use when it comes to instability training.

So Should I Stand On A BOSU For Everything?

I am not saying you should be on a BOSU or a balance board five times a week. At Revolution Conditioning we have our hockey players working on an unstable surface about once a week and often include instability work in our dynamic warm ups.

Yes, hockey players skate on a flat surface.  So should they never train on something unstable? No. Lets remember, they are standing on a blade that is about 1/8” wide. Go to your local public skate if you want to see how unstable a pair of skates can be.

If you are interested in learning more, here are a couple of research articles you can check out.

“The Role of Instability with Resistance Training” Behm, D., Anderson, K., Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2006, 20(3), 716-722

“The Effects of Plyometric vs. Dynamic Stabilization and Balance Training on Power, Balance, and Landing Force in Female Athletes” Myer, G., Ford, K., Brent, J., Hewett, T., Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2006, 20(2), 345-353


PS – Maria and I are working on a special project for you skaters out there, so keep checking here because this will be the first place to hear about it.  That’s all I can say right now.