The Heirarchy of Goalie Training
Guess I got too much sleep last night because
this post, this report over delivers a little on goalie training program design. I am not going to try and sell you on goalie training. I am not going to justify why you can kiss your potential good by if you do not do some goalie training away from the ice. If you are serious about your craft, it is already a part of your routine and I have already written dozens of articles about the key exercises that need to be a part of any successful off ice goalie training program.
My purpose today is to establish the hierarchy of goalie training. What do I mean by hierarchy of goalie training? Well, let me tell you…
Just like math, there is an order of operations. What a terrible example, I hated math in school and I was not that great at it either. Let me think of a new example – okay, try this…it is like building a house. Now that is a much better example.
If you skip steps or take steps out of order you are going to end up with a pile of rubble at some stage. And just like your goalie training this is dangerous because everything might be going very well and looking great until BOOM – everything goes terribly wrong – read structural cracks in the foundation or the hockey goalie equivalent – groin strain.
Even if you are doing exactly the right things, but in the wrong order you could be sabotaging yourself without even knowing it. Do you know anyone who takes their goalie training so seriously or even a skater who is so diligent with their hockey training, but they always seem to be injured?
Now there are many factors that can contribute to an injury, but my first guess when an athlete seeks my help for a recurring injury is that there is an underlying issue that has nothing to do with the actual injury and that underlying issue is because they failed to follow the order of operations.
The Hierarchy of Goalie Training
I don’t think I am shocking anyone here with this one. If you cannot move, you cannot be the goalie, that is the truth. And goalies need to move is some pretty peculiar ways to play their position effectively. This is where a general fitness program or even doing a hockey training program that was designed for skaters can fail the goalie.
You see, stretching individual muscles in isolation is fine, but will only get you so far. Goalies need to stretch through their functional movement patterns. This is why I give away the 14-Day Butterfly Challenge at no charge because I want to make sure that I am at least getting goalies working on the first most important aspect of their training.
Before I move on to the next priority for goalie training, I want to be clear that the flexibility I am talking about is not your ability to do the splits every which way – that is a nice to have and may or may not come with time depending on your anatomy. I mean the hip mobility to give you a wider butterfly flare without putting undue strain on your medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the flexibility to do a butterfly slide without putting undue strain on your lower back.
Without getting into too much detail, the reason you are the strongest in the mid-range of an exercise – think of a biceps curl where you are the weakest when your elbow is fully straightened and stronger from the 90 position up – is because your muscles do not lengthen and shorten like an elastic band. Muscle filaments (of which there are thousands and thousands in every muscle fiber) slide past one another as the muscle lengthens and contracts. So when a muscle is stretched to its limit, that muscle is literally at the end of its rope. Like hanging on by your fingertips.
If you knew you would be hanging over a cliff by your finger tips and someone was going to jump on your back – do you think you might do some training for that event? Um yeah.
So in your goalie training, you need to execute strong, powerful and stable movements through your functional range of motion. You also need to train the small muscles that stabilize the joints in all positions as the big prime movers and trying to yank and shear those joints out of alignment.
This goes way beyond core training, this is like core training for every single joint in the body. Failure to address this stability as a priority will lead to injury, every time, sooner or later.
This is where I get into trouble with some goalie coaches who insist that power is more important than strength – and they are right.
What they don’t know is the best way to improve goalie’s power is to improve their strength. Want to improve their speed in the crease? Make them stronger.
You see we get speed from two elements – how much force we can produce and how quickly we can produce it. The mathematical formula for power is
Power = (Force x Distance) / Time
Now how did we get talking about math again? Anyway, the speed with which you can apply your force does have a genetic limit. There are sprinters and marathoners and no matter how hard you train, you will never turn a world class sprinter into a marathoner nor vice versa. This rate of force production will depend on whether you are predominantly fast twitch or slow twitch.
Of course you can make some improvements – I even managed to whittle my 100m sprint down a bit so I got it under 17 seconds – seriously that is what my 100m sprint time was once.
But you really can make dramatic improvements in the amount of force any athlete can produce.
This is where power comes into the equation. We increase the amount of force an athlete can produce using their fast twitch muscle fibre and then we help them produce that force as quickly as possible using generic movements to begin with and then progressing to more goalie specific movement patterns.
Remember that you are not trying to mimic on ice training when you are doing your dryland goalie training, but you are trying to use some similar movement patterns.
For example, doing a vertical jump is a great way to build leg power, but can you see how a goalie needs to progress to lateral hops from different starting postures to enhance their ability on the ice. You don’t see many goalies jumping up in the air to make a save.
Again, I am expecting some push back on the idea that speed comes before stamina on the hierarchy of goalie training. After all, the goalie is on the ice the entire game right?
I think I can solve this with an analogy. If the goalie spent their entire time on the ice skating laps, then I would gladly change its position in the overall goalie training scheme.
But since a goalie earns their keep by stopping the puck which more often than not hinges on a quick anticipatory or even reactive movement in a desperation save then that is going to take priority.
Even when training stamina in goalies, I favour high intensity interval type training rather than the long slow distance of a marathoner. The goalie is a sprinter – they just have about 40 heats that they need to complete every game.
Let me be clear that these elements of goalie training are not in order of importance. To maximize your performance you need to do them all, you just need to do them in order.
Imagine if your contractor started putting up drywall before all the plumbing and wiring was finished. Would you say, “Oh, but the drywall looks so cool and I just want to get the place painted”? Hopefully not. Hopefully you would show them the door with your boot and find someone who could follow a strategic progression from start to finish. I hope that helps you prioritize your goalie training and leads you to success.
PS – so, like climbing a mountain, it looks like a lot of work when you are standing at the bottom, but as you climb, up, up, up – you will experience times when you are working very hard, times when you stop to appreciate the amazing view and even times when you feel like you will never make it. Once you make it to the top, it will all be worth it!