One must-do exercise: The Swiss ball leg curl.
Since hockey players are always bending over to reach the puck, their hip flexors tend to be very tight. This one exercise stretches them while strengthening the glutes and hamstrings. Lie on your back and rest your heels on a Swiss ball. Drive your feet into the ball and bridge up so that your hips are off the floor and your body forms a straight line. Bend your knees, rolling the ball toward you. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. That's one rep. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, resting 45–60 seconds between each set.
Break loose from the boards: "A standout player can wrestle in the boards for the puck," says Grasso, "and then skate hard back down the ice." You can simulate this scenario by pressing your hands against a wall and performing a running motion as if you were trying to push the wall over. "Really drive your knees up and down," says Grasso. "This is similar to the total-body work it takes to dig around for a loose puck against the boards." Keep up a high intensity for 15 seconds, and then turn in one direction and sprint for 20 yards. Rest 45 seconds and repeat 5–15 times.
Keep it real: For the most hockey-specific conditioning possible, you obviously need to spend some quality time on the ice. A few weeks before you start playing seriously (or on your off days), do some sprint skating up and down the ice. Practice lateral and forward movements. The more time you spend on the ice, the more familiar your body will be with it during games.
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