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Lower Body Strength Training for Field Hockey

Strength training has been related to increases in athletic performance including power, speed and jumping ability, and also to increases in muscle hypertrophy and other morphological muscle characteristics (Folland and Williams, 2007). It is important for field hockey players to have well-developed lower body strength due to the number of decelerations, accelerations, and repeated low positions that they find themselves in.

Furthermore, strength training has been shown to increase agility, strength and endurance performance in male hockey players (Sharma et al., 2018). In this short article I am going to give you 3 great exercises for developing lower body strength, to increase hockey performance and reduce injury risk.

Split Squat

The split squat is a great option due to the split stance position, meaning we can emphasise the loading on a single limb. Hockey is played almost exclusively in a split stance position during tackles, passes, shots and changes of direction, so getting strong in this shape is key. We can also take advantage of the bilateral deficit, whereby we can lift more than 50% of a bilateral 1RM on a single leg. We can also easily modify the position to emphasise certain muscle groups more.

The adductor is a good example of this - if we take a wider stance, flex our trunk forwards slightly and emphasise more time at the bottom of range we can stimulate greater loading of this muscle group, due to it’s moment arm (essentially where in a range it experiences peak forces).

  • Key points: upright torso, shoulders back, knees at 90 degree angles, controlled lower

  • Sets: 3-4

  • Reps: 5-8 per side

  • Load: 70-85% 1RM

  • Tempo: 2 seconds down, 1 second up

  • Rest: 1-2 minutes

  • Progression: Rear foot elevated split squat

  • Regression: Bodyweight lunge

Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

The RDL is a fantastic strength exercise as it teaches effective hip hinge mechanics and forces the hamstring to act as a hip extensor during this action. A hip hinge is important for hockey players as it is a shape often experienced during tackles, and low positions. If we can hip hinge effectively, we can avoid lower back issues caused by excessive lumbar flexion, instead loading the powerful posterior chain muscles (glutes/hamstrings). It also acts to strengthen the lower back, which is a common injury site in hockey.

Key points: slight bend in knees, exaggerate hips moving backwards, neutral spine during movement

  • Sets: 3-4

  • Reps: 5-8

  • Load: 70-85% 1RM

  • Tempo: 3 seconds down, 1 second up

  • Rest: 1-2 minutes

  • Progression: Split stance romanian deadlift

  • Regression: Bodyweight hip hinge

Back Squat

The squat is a cornerstone of many effective strength and conditioning programmes. If we can’t squat competently, it often means that we are lacking mobility or stability somewhere along the chain. It is also a great way to strengthen the large force producers of the lower body. Not only that, but loading deep into hip flexion enables us to strengthen the adductors in end range, whilst challenging whole body stability and trunk strength.

Key points: Knees out along the line of the toes, break at the hip and knee simultaneously, tall chest

  • Sets: 3-5

  • Reps: 3-8

  • Load: 70-90% 1RM

  • Tempo: 2 seconds down, 1 second hold, 1 second up

  • Rest: 1-3 minutes

  • Progression: Front squat or overhead squat

  • Regression: Goblet squat

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Folland JP, Williams AG. The adaptations to strength training : morphological and neurological contributions to increased strength. Sports Med. 2007;37(2):145-68.

Sharma et al (2018) Effects of 6-Week Sprint-Strength and Agility Training on Body Composition, Cardiovascular, and Physiological Parameters of Male Field Hockey Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 32. 4. 894–901.

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