Balance Training and Hockey
Balance Training and Hockey
Oftentimes when athletes think about balance and sports, we imagine the gymnasts on the balance beam, defying physics and logic, flipping and maneuvering about. We imagine the ballerina, delicately prancing about on their toes. We rarely think about the large men in the NHL, skating on the ice and laying massive hits into the boards. Yet, the game of hockey requires a high amount of balance. It’s the very reason at public skating rinks during the winter, people that don’t play hockey look so off-centered. Their equilibrium is off-kilter, due to the tiny thin blades strapped to their feet. And why is their equilibrium off-kilter? That’s right, BALANCE.
For hockey players of all ages, from mini-mites to professionals, can benefit from training their balance. Hockey is bought and large, played on one leg at a time. Skating stride is building momentum by alternating pushes on each leg, and bringing that leg back to center. The more power generated from those pushes, the faster the skater. Optimizing the angle on the shin, the positioning of the legs’ starting point, and the precise direction the leg moves, all go into perfecting a stride.
The balance and body control required to skate, shoot, stickhandle, read the game, etc. is often overlooked, much to the detriment of a young player.
A balance board is great for any hockey player at any position for a number of reasons. The first is the concept of proprioception, which is a fancy way of saying the way the brain handles movement of the body.
When skating becomes second nature, your brain can work on reading and reacting to the game, instead of worrying about form/technique. The body is the tool that the brain uses to play the game.
The balance board is a great tool to, at its simplest benefit, build core and leg strength. Using it for 15 minutes a day can build the same muscles that are required in skating, and greatly improve your core and single leg strength. Stickhandling with it helps to build better control with the puck on ice.
There are multiple ways you can use the balance board, including planking and push-ups and other ab exercises that make it a versatile and beneficial tool for all athletes.
Improving at any sport is a, pardon the pun, a balancing act. It requires technical and physical developments, along with learning a deeper strategic understanding of the game. Tactically and physically players need to be more than proficient in order to become excellent. Using a balance board is a safe, easy, fun, and exciting tool to add into the at-home training area.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to spend five weeks training with Dr. Langemo, of the Hopkins Eye Clinic, working through his sports vision training sessions. Aside from working on reactions and tracking, I also learned about how important balance is to every part of the game. From one-timers, to skating, every part of the game starts with how much information we can process, and in how much time. The eyes are the main part of that. It’s something that is very overlooked in our athletic careers, but in just 5 sessions I improved my game, learned to juggle, and created better balance. My one-timer improved immensely, and overall, I realized, that the more you focus on one aspect of the game, the more that will improve. Even still, I will use the balance board and juggle, to make sure that my eyes are tracking and quickly translating information to my brain.
From wearing glasses that “blink” and remove senses, to trying to put a pin through a spinning wheel. It was as fun and strange as it was impressive to see the improvements on ice. It was at times jarring and frustrating, but it really was incredible to see the leaps and bounds my game made on ice.
Improving balance is a simple way that players can improve their game and all the aspects that go with it. Having the body perform at the highest level allows the brain and eyes to comprehend the game at a faster rate.