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Off-ice conditioning for goalies
By Mitch Korn

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A goalkeeper, more than any other position player in any other sport, is often extremely neglected in terms of proper training, both on and off the ice. That’s why, as summer approaches, it’s important to remember that goaltenders need an off-ice, pre-season training program.

Basically, there are five different components to a good goalkeeper’s training program. They are:

• Strength Training

• Conditioning

• Flexibility

• Hand/Eye Coordination

• Skill Development


Strength training

Proper strength development of both the arms and legs is vital. Goalkeepers wear the most, and heaviest, equipment, yet are expected to react faster than any player on the ice. They are expected to control the heaviest stick on the ice with one hand.

Goalkeepers up to the age of approximately 14 should not be too concerned with strength training—other than the traditional push-ups, squeezing of a tennis ball, etc.

At the age of 14, though, goalkeepers should begin to develop a program using either free weights, a Universal or Nautilus system or a combination of these elements. Every young developing athlete is different, so programs will vary. The objective, though, is the same: to strengthen and properly tone the body without adding excessive bulk or reducing flexibility.

Today, there are a great number of clubs or gyms that can provide a custom, supervised, well-developed program without risk, and with someone there to provide the motivation along the way.

The following are some strength training exercises involving the stick, arm, wrist and the legs that you can try at home:

Arms. Grip a stick at the butt end and do the following:

a) Shoulder height, with locked elbows, hold the stick in the air in front of you.

b) Same as above, but hold the stick out to the side. (Note: The length of time and the number of repetitions should be determined by the participant’s own judgment. Don’t overdo it, especially at first.).

Legs. Do deep crouches while dribbling a tennis ball, or do two hops forward, backward and laterally in a crouched position.



Conditioning is probably the most feared part of all training. There are, however, different types of training for different functions.

Aerobic Training. The objective here is to strengthen the heart and lungs and to increase the ability of muscles to produce oxygen, thereby increasing stamina. Consider that goalkeepers are the only players who play the full 60 minutes. As fatigue sets in, concentration diminishes, resulting in late period goals. Long-distance running for 25 to 40 minutes can be used for aerobic development.

Power Training. The object of this type of training is to develop an increased ability of the muscles to produce energy quickly, providing for “explosions.” Power training helps increase the speed of post-to-post movement, races for loose pucks, exploding the arms or legs out to make saves, etc. Sprints have been a very common method of power training, but any explosive drill will do.

Anaerobic Training. The object of this training is to develop the ability of the muscles to produce energy in the absence of a sufficient oxygen supply. Anaerobic training assists in high-intensity work for longer periods, increasing performance in any consistent pressure situation. Longer sprints are suggested.



Flexibility refers to the range of movement of a joint or series of joints. Tendons and ligaments determine the range of motion. Aging and inactivity will shorten these tissues and they will lose elasticity. Flexibility also increases speed and reduces injury. Flexibility exercises can be done alone, or with a partner. (Refer to last month’s edition of In Goal).

Flexibility exercises can assist a younger player in stretching even further by having the second person apply slight pressure to the goalkeeper while in a variety of stretching positions. When doing any flexibility exercises, never bounce, always stretch.


Hand/eye coordination

The bulk of all athletic performance lies here—the coordination of the limbs (arms and legs) with the eye. This is critical to a goalkeeper who must use a 4” stick paddle or an 11” skate blade to stop a 3” puck traveling up to 80 miles per hour.

USA Hockey, and others, have published a lot on dry-land training as it relates to hand/eye coordination. Here are a few ideas:

• Dribbling one or two tennis balls while squat-hopping.

• Playing handball against a wall with one or two tennis balls.

• Dribbling a tennis ball on the paddle of a goal stick.


Skill development

This concept is nothing more than taking specific skills (poke checking, clearing the puck, skate saves) and using off-ice drills as if they were on-ice. Goalkeepers, playing street hockey is a fine avenue to skill development. Practicing clearing/shooting the puck in the driveway is also great.

Don’t let your summer go to waste. Work yourself off-ice, and see the benefits when the new season arrives.


Mitch Korn is the goaltender coach for the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL. In addition, he is an administrator at Miami University (Ohio) and directs the 8-week Summer Hockey School. Miami has Division I ice hockey in the CCHA.



This first appeared in the 07/1996 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2003, Hockey Player® LLC and Hockey Player Magazine®
Posted: Nov 9, 2001, 18:30
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