Hockey players are always going to perform their pet exercises that they think they should be doing.
Typically, these are body building exercises like calf raises, shrugs, and bicep curls.
At the end of the workout, I don’t really care if they want to stand in front of the mirror and look at themselves curling if they know that they are doing the exercise for show.
One overemphasized groups of exercises is wrist curls.
The theory is that strong forearms help with stick handling and shooting.
Maybe, but I am not really convinced.
First and foremost, stick handling is a skill. Skills usually require hours and hours of practice in order to become proficient in them.
Sport specific skills are also usually developed at a younger age so I am not sure that a kid in high school or older is going to see drastic improvements in stick handling.
The ability to shoot the puck with power is also a function of total body strength. The movement starts in the lower body and is transferred through the core and into the upper body.
The strongest athletes will have the hardest shots. To see great improvements in shooting power, an athlete must get significantly stronger.
Does this all mean that forearm strength is not important? No, it is just overemphasized and trained in the wrong way.
Having good grip strength will allow a hockey player to make more solid poke checks, deflect passes, etc.
In order to train grip strength, we must perform exercises that challenge the body to hold things. Holding light dumbbells and curling them in towards the body does not challenge grip strength in the way that it needs to.
Let’s take a look at some additional ways to challenge and improve grip strength.
- Hold things that are heavy
This is always going to be the best strategy. The best part about this idea is that we can train grip strength while also training the core, upper, and lower body.
Some of the best exercises in this regard are deadlifts, RDL’s, and carry variations. In all three cases a heavy weight is used and grip is often the limiting factor for performance of the lifts.
To challenge grip even further, we can incorporate the Snatch Grip Deadlift. Here the hands are much wider than a normal deadlift and the hips need to sink lower to the ground.
The wider grip means that the bar has a further distance off the floor, and that will create more time under tension. More time under tension will cause grip to be challenged to hold the weight for a longer period of time.
- Make a bar thicker
This strategy works for bench press, rows, chin-ups/pull-ups, deadlifts, etc. Take a any normal exercise where you are grabbing the bar and then moving it, or the body towards it, and wrap a towel around it.
This will challenge grip strength more ad turn on the rotator cuff to provide shoulder stability. It will also result in less weight being used since forearms will fatigue faster.
There are some products out there that will wrap around a bar to make the grip thicker which can be helpful but a towel should get the job done. There are also thick barbells and pullup bars that can be utilized, but they are not the most common pieces of equipment.
- Use varying grips
Pull-up and row variations can be tweaked to incorporate different grips. Performing these exercises with ropes or towels will challenge grip strength greatly.
There are also some creative modifications like doing pull-ups with softballs. That is always going to be harder on the forearms than any type of curl.
A bucket of rice can train the forearms really effectively. Take a bucket filled with rice and dig your hands in there.
The goal is to try to continuously grab and squeeze the rice for about 30 seconds at time.
A lot of baseball pitchers will use this method with a lot of success.
Grip strength does not have to be trained by performing endless sets of wrist curls. We can perform better exercises to train for strength and stability at the same time as grip.
Training for it the right way will save time and increase performance.