As you may have seen on our Facebook page, our off-season hockey training program is now sold out (for the 10th year in a row). If you were hoping to get a spot in this group, don’t despair – we are considering adding another group, so you can email us to get on the waiting list and we will let you know what your chances are. You can email me directly – firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you who don’t get into the program, here is a hockey training article for you on using balance boards.
Balance Board Training For Hockey Players
I am going to start by saying that I use balance boards when training hockey players, both skaters and goalies. I want them to have better strategies for balancing.
I will also say that we will add challenge to that balance training from time to time, like stickhandling, catching and passing a ball, etc. This is the challenge the balance and the muscles used to stabilize.
Finally, I will tell you that we do not use balance board training to build pure strength. If strength is the outcome we are after, then it is not done on an unstable base of support. Balance training finds its way into our earlier foundation phases of training.
The Pros of Balance Board Training For Hockey Players
Balancing requires a coordination between the ankles, knees, hips, torso AND the muscles that control them. I like that. In fact, the next time you are on a balance board, pay attention to what the muscles in your torso are doing. I bet they are contracting without you even thinking about it.
When a player gets on the balance board it is clear where their control is coming from. Are they able to keep level hips and shoulders while using their hips, knees and ankles to find level? Or do they shift their pelvis side to side, up and down while flailing their arms?
If the later is the balance strategy, you can see how it will be hard to use on the ice.
Balance board training teaches players to make fine adjustments in order to remain stable, instead of over-correcting back and forth.
We can use a balance board to make a motor control drill more complex – such as juggling or stick handling. The brain now has two completely different things tasks to process successfully.
Finally, it teaches players to use both legs equally, they cannot push harder with one leg over the other, which is good for bilateral standing balance, but as you will see below, may not be so good if the sport is primarily played on one leg.
The Cons of Balance Board Training
As I alluded to above – if you train bilaterally on a balance board, then bilateral balance is what improves. Hockey however is played on one leg for a good portion of time. When a skater is carrying the puck up the ice – they are alternating from single leg balance to single leg balance. Even battling in the corners there is a lot of single leg stance as they dig for the puck or tie up their opponent with the other leg.
For goalies, you are in bilateral stance when you are in your ready position and there can be some traffic to work around during those times of bilateral stance. But any time you are moving, one of your legs is either gliding or braking while the other is propelling.
The balance board teaches players not to shift their weight side to side, it teaches them to keep quiet in the middle which again, can have its use, but does not come into play all that often when the game is on the line.
Should You? Shouldn’t You?
Remember, I said we DO use balance boards and Indo Boards in our training. I am not saying they are useless by any stretch, BUT there are times when we use them and times when we do not.
When building strength, we do not use them. When working on balance we do.
We also move away from bilateral balance in favour of single leg balance pretty quickly and then we will do some strength training – single leg squats for example.
We will use some moderately unstable tools when training unilaterally such as an Airex pad or the flat side of a BOSU, but again, these are ingredients that are used sparingly with supplemental exercises.
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