Last week we talked about the top exercise for building the proper skating muscles and how it can make you faster and more powerful; the Squat. As indicated by the name, the Split Squat is similar in some ways yet different in the sense that it involves single leg training which at CrossIce we are big proponents of. The game of hockey is mostly played on one leg, believe it or not. When we stride we have a “load leg” and we have a “stride leg.” When we are striding, 80-90% of our weight is on the bent knee that, in a perfect world, is bent at 90 degrees. Our stride leg has only about 10-20% of our weight and is locked out for our stride. It is similar when we turn, crossover, and stop. So if skating is that much on one leg at a time- why wouldn’t we train that way?
We like to include the split squat in many players’ training programs and as I will touch on later, it can be used for strength all the way to explosiveness. The movement starts with having one leg behind you up on a bench, with the other out in front of you on the floor. This movement can be done either with a barbell on your back or by holding two dumbbells as the image illustrates. Once you are set, squat down so the front leg goes down to 90 degrees and most of your weight is on your heel. BE SURE TO NOT LET YOUR KNEE GO OVER YOUR TOE- THIS SHOWS YOU ARE TOO MUCH ON YOUR TOES AND NOT THE HEEL.You should be able to lift your toes up at the bottom of the movement. Once you are at 90 and your knee is 2-3 inches off the floor, drive it back up until your knee is just about locked out. Completely locking out joints like the elbow and knee cause non-needed stress on them.
Why do we want most of the weight on our heels again? To target the correct muscles for hockey. When we are performing the movement on our heel, we are working the glute and hamstring mostly, and also the quadriceps. Lots of athletes want to do leg exercises on their toes as this seems easier- but like we talked about last week, long-term this over-develops the front of our legs and causes low back pain and a possible pelvic tilt. Most of our hockey power comes from the BACKS of our legs as we involve more muscles that way.
Something to think about when going upwards with the split squat is to pretend that you are pushing the floor down. Lower the weight and your body controllably on the way down, and then explode up so you get the most power out of the movement as possible. As your off-season progresses and you shift more into explosiveness, instead of just pushing up you can JUMP up out of the bottom. You will likely need to lighten the weight up for this so you allow yourself to add some vertical out of that jump.
- For strength- 6-10 reps each set per leg
- For power/explosiveness (with the jump)- 12-15 reps each set per leg
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