Getting Explosive on the Ice with Off-Ice Plyometric Training

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)

Getting Explosive - 1Increasing your stride length is the first step in the process of acquiring greater speed on the ice. In today’s post we’ll cover the second. Here’s how.

In keeping with the topic of speed (click here if you missed prior article on “Creating Speed Through Stride Length”), we’re going to talk about learning to apply more force into our stride on the ice by applying more force into the ground when training off the ice.

Plyometric exercises (learning to move from a muscle extension to a contraction in a rapid or “explosive” manner) do this by training the muscles’ “stretch-shortening cycle”. Let’s use repetitive hurdle jumps as an example. During the landing (the eccentric portion of the movement), the muscles put on the “brakes”. During this braking process, the muscles store elastic energy like a stretched slingshot, then contract and shorten with the next jump releasing the stored energy. This stored energy can dissipate if too long a time goes by between the landing and the next jump, so quickness is of the essence.

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Learning to apply force into the ground quickly and efficiently like anything else takes practice. We, as a species, learn from repetition so “we become what we practice”. In other words, make sure your learning all aspects of the movement correctly to reap the benefits of plyometrics.

Today with the help of Suffern Hockey’s Tim Patwell, we’re going to break it down for you by showing you the three drills we use in a progression here at RPP to coach correct force production.

1. Sticking the Landing – We start from the bottom up. You must land and stabilize quickly in order to give the body a good stable base of support to adequately apply force. Pushing off an unstable surface (in this case your foot) creates energy leaks and is like shooting a cannon from a canoe. This is the first step in effectively learning to apply force into the ground.

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We coach the “jump and stick” for this purpose.

(Hurdle Jump and Stick)

2. Re-applying Force into the Ground – We use this second step only to re-affirm applying force into the ground by getting an extra rep in between jumps to let the athlete feel it both physically and neurologically.

(Hurdle Jump with a Bounce)

3. Continuous (Pure Plyometrics) – After a few weeks we take away the bounce and make the jumps continuous. Voila!!  Pure Plyometrics.

(Continuous Pure Plyometrics)

We train a lot of hockey players here at RPP and we see a lot of groin pulls during the season in young athletes who didn’t prepare properly in the off-season. Using hurdle jumps in the early off-season is great way for working hip flexors in the saggital (front to back) plane. This is a movement  not utilized often on the ice so these muscles can get a bit “rusty” and force the athlete to use the smaller adductors (brevis and pectineus) to do the job of the bigger muscles during the beginning of a crossover (initiating leg lift).  This can create tightness and a higher risk of groin pulls during the season (more info on this topic please click here).

One more bit of advice. Plyometric training can be especially taxing on your body, so you should allow at least 48 hours between sessions to ensure full recovery.

The RPP Skaters Program is a complete top to bottom off-season protocol for ages 13+.   The programs begin in March and end in October just before the start of the new high school season.

See you in the gym.

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