Use Bands For More Strength and Power From Your Hockey Training

Step in the training room of any NHL or NCAA hockey team and you’re bound to find some elastic bands or tubing. Often times we associate this with rehab, corrective exercise or maybe a metabolic circuit. You’d see hockey players performing lateral band walks and clam shells to get the glutes turned on. And you might also see them using a band for a scapular retraction exercise or a chopping pattern.

And these bands or tubing are great. I like them because they are easy to move around the training room, you can do a number of exercises with them and it’s pretty hard to hurt yourself. Add to this they are relatively inexpensive and easy to pick up and it makes sense to include them in a hockey team’s training budget.

But what about when we get beyond corrective exercise and rehab for an injury. What do we do once we are healthy, warmed up and everything is in alignment? Do we throw the bands and tubing to the side and move on to the racks, platforms, bars and dumbbells? That’s where real strength and power is created in the training room, right?

Well what about the times you’ve seen a power-lifter using bands while squatting, benching or dead-lifting?

Now before you get all excited about suggesting we abandon hockey training and switch to power-lifting that’s not what I’m saying.

But does this have a place in a hockey training program? In order to answer this we need to ask ourselves what is the purpose of a particular training session. If the goal is increased strength and power then maybe it should be something to consider. Because the people who focus entirely on increased strength and power i.e. power-lifters seem to use them quite a bit.

So what would the benefits of incorporating bands into your hockey training? Well with all elastic resistance the force you have to overcome is variable. The resistance increases as you increase the length of elastic. With your lifts this will put more emphasis on the completion of your lifts. Additionally there will be an increased eccentric load as the band pulls the bar towards the attachment point. These can be good things if you need improvement in locking out your lifts or more attention in controlling the stretch or eccentric phase of the lift.

But what does the research say about using bands? Anderson et al (2008) tried to answer this question with a study involving forty four NCAA division I athletes. One group of athletes trained the back squat and bench press in a regular free weight fashion and the other group performed the same exercise with bands attached to the bars. At the end of the study both groups were tested in these lifts as well as their power production. Here’s what they found.

Improvements in the squat and power production were three times greater for the elastic group compared to the control group. And bench improvements were double those of the control group.

So what does this mean? Well it tells us that using elastic bands may be beneficial in the short term for increasing strength and power production.

But remember this is but one tool. Make sure if you do incorporate bands into your resistance training it is preceded by using these same bands to correct and align the body first.