7 Tips For Developing Explosive Speed On The Hockey Field

In the modern game of hockey, speed can be a huge advantage.

It could be the difference between winning a 50/50, closing down a dragflicker at a short corner, bursting into space which creates a dangerous attack or making that crucial interception.

When talking about speed in hockey, there are however various things to consider:

  •  During a game most players will change direction at least every 5 seconds
  •  It will take roughly 50m for the average player to reach top speed

That means that in a game of hockey, unless a player is sprinting the length of half the pitch in a straight line, hockey players don’t tend to reach what is called top speed

  • Speed is about how fast you can sprint at maximum velocity whereas acceleration is reaching top speed as quickly as possible.

Acceleration is typically the first 10 metres (even 5m) which could be the difference between gaining possession or not. Therefore when I refer to speed in hockey I am referring predominantly to acceleration and agility.

Speed is a very broad topic and can be quite complex so for the sake of this article I will focus on a few basic concepts to improve acceleration over a short distance.

There are 3 primary areas which can be trained to improve acceleration: 

1) Increase stride frequency

2) Increase stride length

3) Improve sprinting mechanics

Stride frequency refers to the number of steps taken where methods of overspeed training such as running downhill are often used.

Stride length methods focus on exerting more force (strength) into the ground at foot strike, although it is not just about the amount of force but also how quickly that force can be produced (power).

That means that the a large part of acceleration comes from strength and power.

A simple way of improving acceleration is by lifting a combination of heavy and light loads and doing basic plyometrics.

7 Tips For Developing Explosive Speed On The Hockey Field

1) You must warm up 

Before doing any form of speed based training you must give yourself at least 10-15 minutes to prepare your body and mind for what you are about to do. This will also make sure you get the most out of the session.

2) You must sprint at 100% 

In order to get faster you must sprint at 100% which means that getting enough rest between sprints becomes crucial. There is a difference between training for speed and training for endurance.

3) Work on flexibility & mobility

The hips in particular are extremely important when it comes to speed so make sure you do plenty of mobility exercises, stretching and foam rolling.

4) Develop a stable core

The core is essentially the muscles which link the upper body to the lower body. Having a stable core is key to being faster, maintaining control and staying balanced. Medicine balls and stability balls are great tools for this.

5) You must pre-condition

Sprint training places great demand on the body so pre-conditioning is essential to prepare the body to withstand these forces. Doing too much too soon could result in injury. Make sure you have a good strength base before undergoing sprint work. Remember the stronger you are, the more force you can apply to the ground.

6) You only need 10-15 mins

Always do sprint work first, it shouldn’t take longer than 10-15 minutes and you should be fresh. Remember speed training is not about making you tired, it’s about making you faster and improving your technique.

7) Mechanics are important

There are various mechanics (i.e. techniques) to make sure you are going as fast as possible, but no-one teaches you this.

For example, when accelerating you should aim to lean your body at a 45 degree angle to the ground, driving the foot down into the ground to create maximal force. During linear acceleration (i.e. running in a straight line) your foot should strike directly below or slightly behind the hips.

One of the exercises I use to teach linear acceleration mechanics is the wall drill. 

Instructions: Lean your body 45 degrees to the ground with your hands against a wall, keeping your arms parallel to the ground. Your feet should be behind your hips and your core should be tight.

Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.

Raise one leg so that the ankle is beneath the hips and then march alternating legs. Keep your focus on maintaining core control and driving the feet into the ground quickly.

Most struggle just to hold the correct posture so make sure you start slowly with a 1 count & hold, then progress to a 3 count & hold before progressing to a 10 count.

In this article I’ve only focussed on ONE part of speed which is linear acceleration, but there are many other aspects required for speed & agility on the hockey field.

For example other mechanics include deceleration, lateral acceleration, hip rotation, etc.

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About The Author

Lauren Penny

Lauren is a former International Hockey Player, Performance Coach & Mentor specialising in helping hockey players to be more confident, improve their fitness and perform more consistently to get noticed and reach higher teams.