Edge work drills are a hot topic in the hockey training industry. If you have never included them in your dryland training approach before, then they are most certainly the “next big thing” you can do to become an elite skater.
Luckily for us, many of the best dryland edge work drills are what I would consider ‘penalty-free volume‘ (additional training volume you can add to your current routine without further taxing your recovery reserves).
This is a win-win scenario both in-season and off-season because you can perform a handful of extremely effective exercises at a very high frequency to become an elite skater while not impacting the recovery rate from your other on-ice or off-ice training.
In this article, I will discuss a few of my favorite active, recovery-based edge work exercises, and then give you a daily routine so you can take one step closer toward achieving your hockey dreams.
Before I provide you with my favorite daily edge work routine, it’s important to emphasize that this type of programming should be considered an “add on” and not the meat and potatoes behind your entire training approach. This article focuses on active recovery bodyweight-only exercises that you can perform on a regular basis in addition to your complete hockey training approach.
A complete hockey training program is a logical, progressive, and carefully scheduled phasic process that includes all modalities of training.
I can’t emphasize enough that true game-changing results come from well-designed programs that use all hockey training modalities, rather than just a few. That’s why I have taken a lot of care to design the perfect program for any hockey player who visits this site.
No matter what age you are or what equipment you have, make sure you get your hands on one of our programs, so you can have all the performance-boosting tools you need to up your game.
The Goal of Daily Edge Work Training
An daily program for hockey players needs to meet three criteria:
- It should consist purely of bodyweight-only exercises
- The level of intensity should be low enough to be deemed active recovery
- It needs to be hockey specific and goal specific
Daily routines should consist of bodyweight-only exercises, because it means that not only can you perform it every day, but you can also perform it anywhere, which is critically important for the average person with a busy schedule.
The ability to perform something with no equipment and in any environment makes the routine easy to adhere to, which will ultimately lead to much better results over the long term.
The intensity must be low, because if you’re going to perform something every day, then it has to be designed in a way that’s easy to recover from—otherwise you will run into the all-too familiar “hockey burnout” that will crush your hockey performance and progress.
Lastly, it needs to be hockey specific and goal specific, because it’s important to differentiate between exhaustion and improving your hockey performance.
For example, any “personal trainer” with a weekend certification can make you exhausted by telling you to do 100 burpees. Would you get tired from that? Yes. Would you become a better hockey player for doing that? No.
That’s how you need to approach all of your training: don’t get tired, get better.
You have to choose the correct exercises to accomplish your specific goal (i.e. what’s good for shot power is different from edge work, and what’s good for edge work is different than what’s good for staying strong on the puck, etc.).
With the goals and foundation of the routine now in place, let’s talk about some of the best exercises you can do to get the job done.
The Edge Work Exercises
When it comes to edge work training, a lot of hockey players immediately think of mobility, because they correlate great edge work to having highly mobile hips and ankles.
Although mobility is a key factor in having excellent edge work, that mobility will only ever be useful if you are stable within those ranges of motion. Mobility and stability must have equal importance in your programming.
More specifically for hockey, you need to be incredibly stable and balanced within your hips and ankles to become an elite skater.
I love the T-stand, because it simultaneously trains both hip and ankle stability while lengthening your hamstrings, controlling your posture, and challenging your balance.
Exercise execution tips:
- Start with your feet together and arms overhead.
- Inhale and slowly bend from the hips, lowering your torso while raising one leg behind you and making sure your arms and back leg always stay in full extension.
- As you fold forward, continue until your back leg and arms are parallel with the floor.
- Exhale as you lift your torso and lower your leg back down in one fluid motion.
- Pro tip: the slower you go, the more you get out of this exercise. The faster you go, the easier it is and the less you get out of it.
Since the T-stands trained both ankle and hip stability for us, it’s time to start working on the mobility side of the equation.
Toes-elevated squats are an excellent way to mobilize your ankles. This is a key factor toward developing as an elite skater, as this is what will allow you to get deep on those inside and outside edges.
Hockey players notoriously have tight ankles, and I believe this to be largely due to them being stuck in a rigid skating boot for six to eight months of the year.
When your foot is locked in at a right angle for more than half the year, you will naturally develop adhesions within your ankle/calf structure. Over time, this decreases your ability to skate well and puts you at a greater risk for a lower body injury out on the ice.
Use the toes-elevated squat to break up these adhesions in a way that is athletically dynamic—which is superior to static stretching—so that you’re not held back by this very common problem.
Exercise execution tips:
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms at chest height. (For a greater challenge, place your arms in “prisoner squat” position).
- Place the balls of your feet on a slightly elevated surface (1–2 inches high is plenty).
- Inhale and slowly lower your body while doing your best to not let your posture break forward (this will be very hard to do, but the goal is to try and stay as upward as you can)
- Once you hit the bottom, don’t “bounce” out of the movement; instead, hold it for 0.5–1 second and then slowly make your way back up to the top of the movement
- Pro tip: this isn’t a “workout” exercise—you’re trying to mobilize your ankles. So, don’t try and speed squat; instead, do your best to have a mind-muscle connection with perfect technique
Bulgarian Split Squat
At this point in our routine, we have stabilized the hips and ankle structures and mobilized the ankles. Now it’s time to mobilize the hips.
Enter: the Bulgarian split squat.
The Bulgarian split squat prepares the body for deceleration and change of direction. Furthermore, it does an excellent job of mobilizing the hips and keeping the lower body structurally balanced.
In all honesty, if I had to pick my #1 favorite “bang for your buck” exercise in the entire hockey training world, it would be Bulgarian split squats—yes, they are that good.
The benefits they provide specific for the hockey player could go on for days, but in respect to this routine, we are using it to prevent hockey injuries (for structural balance), to unlock the hips, and to build functional lower body strength.
Exercise execution tips:
- Stand with the top of your back foot on a bench, chair, or other elevated surface (try to make this approximately knee height).
- Bend your legs and lower body until the thigh of the front leg is parallel to the floor.
- Return to a standing position by pressing through the heel of the front foot, standing tall to engage the core.
- Pro tips:
- The movement is easier if you reach your hands straight out, and harder if you place your hands in “prisoner squat” position. Adjust accordingly.
- Pausing at the bottom for 1–2 seconds is advisable for this routine, as we are primarily after hip mobilization and not leg strength/hypertrophy.
- It’s OK to allow your front knee to go in front of your toes, as long as your heel is still planted on the ground.
When you’re looking at the structure of the body from a functional and anatomical perspective, it doesn’t take much convincing to see that there is deep interplay between core stability and hip mobility. And the hips are a crucial element for hockey athletes.
How your body experiences its internal environment is going to determine how you move in the external environment.
The spine needs to have stability in order for it to move properly. Essentially, stability sends the signal to the body that it’s safe to move the spine because we are well-protected.
But if the core isn’t stable enough for the job, the spine will change position and try to use something else to provide stability.
When the spine has to do this, it typically means the hips, hamstrings, and mid-back will “turn on” and become more rigid during movement to try and give stability to the area.
You know those chronically tight hip flexors you’re always dealing with? Those (unsurprisingly) attach to the spine—and if you have a weak core, your hip flexors will try to hold your spine together.
They will stay as tight as possible for as long as they need to in order to maintain that stability. Your body will prioritize spine safety over optimal edge work ten times out of ten.
Think of it this way: a spine with a weak core is like a goal-scorer with no puck-handling skills. Sure, he can score a goal, but he’s going to need his teammates to set him up every single time in order to actually make it happen. But without that set up, he’s useless on the ice.
This is actually a really great way to think about the body. No matter what happens to it, it will always find a way to compensate (or, always find another muscle group to “set them up”).
I discussed in depth the science behind core stability and how that impacts our skating technique here, but for the purposes of this article, just understand that none of your edge work training is going to amount to much if you don’t have the core stability required to absorb and redirect high-velocity forces.
Exercise execution tips:
- Get into a plank position and do not allow your hips to rise or sag—your back should be flat enough that someone could use it as a coffee table.
- Don’t forget to breathe—holding your breath during the tough times will make it much worse.
- To get the most out of your planks, contract your glutes throughout the entire duration of the set. This will force the hip flexors into extension and make this whole process work so much better for edge work purposes.
- Once planking for 60 seconds becomes easy, start using different plank variations to increase the challenge.
The Daily Edge Work Routine
This may be performed every day in addition to the hockey training program that you’re currently on, but only once per day.
- T-stands x 10 per leg
- Toes-elevated squats x 10
- Bulgarian split squats x 10 per leg
- Plank hold x 30–60 seconds
Perform each exercise for only one set.
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The above routine tackles all six major goals for improving your hockey-specific edge work:
- Ankle stability (T-stand and Bulgarian split squat)
- Hip stability (T-stand and Bulgarian split squat)
- Ankle mobility (toes-elevated squats)
- Hip mobility (Bulgarian split squat and plank)
- Structural balance (Bulgarian split squat)
- Core stability (plank)
If you perform this edge work routine every day, I can guarantee you will become a better skater within 30 days. But, only if you do it properly.
How do you perform this routine properly? Follow the routine and don’t try to add more edge work training on top of it (it should be paired with an in-season or off-season program though).
Hockey players do a very good job at getting in their own way. The “more is better” mentality has crushed more hockey dreams than I can count. But do not add more to this routine. I want you to think in terms of quality rather than quantity.
Perform each exercise with the best technique you possibly can and understand that doing this two or three times per day is not better than doing it once—in fact, it’s going to turn out worse for you due to the existing recovery demands of your current main hockey training program as well as your on-ice work.
You’re going to do great; follow the plan as it’s written and you will crush this thing.