Hockey Goalie Training | How to Take Your Game to The Next Level

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Gary Roberts Performance
November 27, 2023
Hockey Goalie Training | How to Take Your Game to The Next Level

Gary Roberts Performance


November 27, 2023

There are few positions in all of sports that are harder than that of a hockey goalie. As a goaltender, you really are your team's last line of defense, and that can lead to a lot of pressure on you to perform your best night in and night out. As the game has gotten faster and the technology has improved, it's only become harder. It means that as a goalie, you need to train with the same intensity and focus that players do.

Over the past decade, we've been fortunate to work with some great goaltenders, like Mike Smith, Pekka Rinne, Stuart Skinner, and Jack Campbell.

Do you know what they all have in common? They train hard and smart. They have a routine, and they stick to it. They know that training is the key to taking their game to the next level.

The Importance of Training for Hockey Goalies

In hockey, goaltending is often considered an art form. But like any art form, it requires practice and dedication in order to truly excel. This is why training is so important for hockey goalies. In today's article, we will lay out all the aspects of a hockey training plan so that you can incorporate them into your own routine.

PSA - You can't JUST bounce tennis balls off the wall and expect to become a better ice hockey goalie. You have to work out!

It might sound funny, but an area that we see too much focus on in goalie training is the use of props and tools. Hockey goalie drills are incredibly important. This means skating drills, movement drills, puck handling practices, rebound control, and all the basics you need to sharpen. But that needs to be layered on top of a solid platform of athleticism!

Train Your Body Like an Athlete (Not Just an Ice Hockey Goalie)

Too often, goalies fall into the trap of thinking that they don't need to train like other athletes because they are "just" a goalie. This couldn't be further from the truth! In fact, goaltenders require a unique combination of strength, power, agility, and endurance in order to perform at their best on the ice.

Here is the approach that we take in working with all of our hockey goalies. For the goalie parents reading this, we'd love to have your child come by our facility for an assessment. If you're outside of the GTA, use this article to help guide your decision-making when it comes time to pick a dryland coach. (If you don't have one, go get one - it's as important as skill development.)

Without further ado, let's hop into it.

Full Assessment

One of the key principles at Gary Roberts Performance is the importance of individualized training plans.

No matter who we are working with, we start by assessing current strengths and weaknesses. This involves manual muscle testing, general movement screens, and performance testing. We want to address the key areas in each position - for goaltenders, we'll spend some extra time assessing hips, spinal alignment, and head positioning.

If a goalie mentions that they are having a hard time getting into a proper position - whether that's a butterfly position or a hybrid we want to identify why and rule out any potential injury risk.

Remember, if you aren't assessing, you're guessing, and because time is limited, we want to make sure that our programming - the gym version of practice plans - targets the right drills and attributes.

Power / Strength Training

It should come as no surprise that power and strength training is a component of our goalie training regime. If you're going to push cross-ice to stop a shot or stay tight to the post to stop the puck from being shoveled past the goal line on a wraparound, you need to be powerful! Being strong in extended positions is a crucial part of being able to play the position well. You can develop some of that strength by playing or practicing with your goalie coach, but proper full-range-of-motion movements are necessary!

Strong muscles not only improve performance on the ice but also help prevent injuries. If we want to help our team win, we need to be in the net. With hip and groin injuries on the rise - a result of challenging positions like the splits or reverse vertical horizontal position plus the high volume of hockey - proper training is the key to staying healthy.

In-season Goalie Training Session Breakdown

  • Warm Up - We begin every session with a warm-up targeting, hips, lower back, and core. The goal is to raise our body temperature and break a lightly sweat. (Want to learn more about warming up for ice hockey? Check out our blog here - Hockey Warm Ups | Why You Can't Afford to Skip Them)
  • Activation - After we've broken a sweat, we'll move on to some personalized activation. This segment of the workout is focused on individual drills that help develop muscle firing and readiness to train.
  • Power Training - Once the body is prepared to train, we dive into the power segment of the workout. Medicine ball work and bounds/pushes are our favorite off-ice goalie drills for power. As with everything, we start basic and progress to more advanced levels.
  • Strength Training - Next up is the strength segment. We use a combination of free weights, bodyweight movements, and barbell exercises to build strength in all areas of the body. As mentioned earlier, this will include specific exercises targeting hip and groin muscles for injury prevention.
  • Core Stability - As a goalie, your core is crucial for maintaining proper positioning and making quick movements on the ice. We incorporate various plank variations and other exercises to build core stability and close out almost all of our in-season training sessions with a bit of accessory core work.

Off-Ice Conditioning

We believe fully in off-ice conditioning. Obviously, there is nothing like 'hockey shape'. You need to practice, play, or go through lots of situational drills to get into hockey shape. But for developing the accessory energy systems without putting to much wear and tear on the body, off-ice conditioning is a great tool for goaltenders.

Early in the summer or on a day off during the year, you can incorporate some low-level zone 2 and zone 3 work to improve your aerobic ability before progressing into tougher anaerobic practice plans.

(Another area where we've seen success with our goalie conditioning is in working with goalie coaches to line up intervals with drills. This means that you do your high-intensity conditioning work as a goalie drill - that could mean skating drills, playing pucks, rebound controls, or sliding to make the save on a cross-ice pass. Basically, whatever the goalie coaches think is best. You get to cover the basics while improving your conditioning.)

Mental Toughness Training

There is no debate; goalies face immense pressure in high-stakes hockey games and need to stay focused to make the save. The ability to handle and use that pressure is an invaluable skill.

We do our best to teach this mindset during hard training days, but as a goaltender, you should be working on this away from the gym/rink. Visualization exercises, mindfulness techniques, and pressure simulation drills can focus and prepare goalies for the mental demands of the game.

Nutrition and Recovery

This section really deserves a post of its own, but proper nutrition and recovery are cornerstones of the GRP method. Goalies need to fuel their bodies with the right nutrients and emphasize the need for adequate rest and recovery between training sessions and hockey games.

Game Simulation

This point is more so for goalie coaches, but incorporating game simulation drills brings it all together. These drills replicate game scenarios in both small group and team settings to help goalies adapt to the fast-paced and unpredictable nature of real-game situations.

We do our very best to approach goalie training with a comprehensive approach. We believe that individualized training plans help each goalie maximize their potential and that all three aspects - Fuel, Train, Recover - must be optimized for performance. We hope you enjoyed some of the information we shared here today and can start to incorporate it into your goalie training.

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