How to Improve Your 1-on-1 Battles with Muscular Strength and Endurance Training

by Greg Siller - Pro Learning Systems

No matter which position you play in hockey, winning the one-on-one battles is one of the most important individual contributions you can make for your team. To win those battles, you need to be able to read the play around you and, more importantly, be physically strong on your skates. Being strong on your skates is very important for winning face-offs, positioning yourself in front of your opponents net, controlling the puck along the boards or in close proximity to a defender, and defending your crease (this is true both for goaltenders and defensemen). Muscular strength also protects you from injury and will help you heal quicker if you do get injured.

Strong legs are important for powerful skating strides, starting, turning, and stopping. In addition, leg strength contributes to a potent shot. Building strong leg muscles also lowers your body's center of gravity, assisting your balance and stability; making it easier to battle past an opponent to get toward the net. Upper body strength contributes to solid shooting and puck control, as well as defeating opponents 1-on-1. Strength throughout the chest, shoulders, arms, and back is required during contact with other players, to clear your slot (the area in from of the net), and when battling for the puck along the boards.

Strength and Endurance

Muscular strength is your ability to exert maximal force (using maximum or near maximum resistance) during limited repetitions. When focussing on strength improvements, you are generally working to increase your power and muscle mass, with gains in muscular endurance being secondary.

Muscular endurance is your ability to exert sub-maximal force (using less than maximum resistance) during repeated repetitions. When focussing on endurance improvements, you are generally working to increase your muscle's ability to work over a period of time, with gains in power and muscle mass being secondary. 

Strength and endurance training should not be just a one-dimensional improvement program. By combining them with programs such as cardio and mental conditioning, you can develop into a total hockey package.

My approach to muscular strength and endurance training is to start with a bottom-up approach--starting with you legs. The game of hockey is built on the fundamental of skating, and with a solid base to start from, the rest of your game will prosper.

Three Ways to Improve

Your muscular strength and endurance program can begin using three exercise approaches; body-weight, machine-weight, and free-weight exercises. You should consider working all 3 into your program. Before beginning your program, however, you should consult a doctor and/or certified personal trainer to ensure that your program is both safe and effective.

  1. Body-weight exercises use the weight of your body as resistance. Exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, chin-ups, and leg lifts are well suited for this type of program. The advantage is that you can perform these exercises just about anywhere without the need for equipment. The disadvantages are that it is difficult to increase the resistance easily and target specific muscle groups.
  2. Machine-weight exercises allow you to control resistance as well as isolate specific muscles. The disadvantage is that you need special equipment.
  3. Free-weight exercises allow you to control resistance, isolate specific muscles, and improve your muscle balance using (at a minimum) a bench and some weights. The disadvantage is that the risk of injury is higher than with machine-weights since the resistance is not mechanically supported.

Factors that affect your training include reps, sets, weight, speed of exercise, rest interval, sequence, range of motion, and frequency of exercise.

Your Program For Success

Your program should consist of three phases: (1) a warm-up phase (consisting of a few minutes of stationary cycling or moderate paced walking followed by stretching exercises), (2) your weight training phase, and (3) a cool-down phase (similar to the warm-up phase).

Below is a sample copy of an endurance/strength program that you can use as your foundation to tailor as appropriate (click here for a blank copy). You can modify the reps, sets, and weight to develop your specific program for strength, endurance, or a combination program. To help you identify the location of specific muscles, the following muscle charts are available back, front, lower leg, upper leg and arms.


Muscles Worked




Warm-up Body and Mind 5 minutes 1


Stretching/Flexing All major muscles/joints 10 minutes 1


Leg Extension Quadriceps 15 2 70 lbs.
Leg Press Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluts 15 2 100 lbs.
Leg Curls Hamstrings 15 2 40 lbs.
Standing Calf Raises Gastrocnemius, Soleus, Plantaris 15 2 100 lbs.
Groin Poppers Hip Adductor 15 2 80 lbs.
Hip Poppers Hip Abductor 15 2 80 lbs.
Back Extension Spinae 15 2 110 lbs.
Sit Ups/Crunches Abdominals 25 2 Body
Torso Rotation Obliques 15 2 80 lbs.
Arm Curls Biceps 15 2 60 lbs.
Wrist Curls Wrist Flexors/Extensors 15 2 15 lbs.
Lat Pull Down Lattissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Biceps 15 2 100 lbs.
Shoulder Press Deltoids, Triceps 15 2 60 lbs.
Rowing Lattissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Trapezius, Deltoids 15 2 80 lbs.
Bench Press Pectorals, Deltoids, Triceps 15 2 120 lbs.
Neck-stension Neck Flexors/Extensors 15 2 10 lbs.
Cool-down/Light Stretching & Flexing Body and Mind 5 minutes 1 N/A

Let me know how this program helps your one-on-one hockey performance. To find out more information on this topic, visit the American Council on Exercise.

Contact Greg Siller @ Pro Learning Systems