Skating Strength Training

Improving Your Straight Line Skating Speed – Glute Bridge Progressions

Skating is such an integral part of hockey. It doesn’t matter how good you are with the puck, if you can’t get your feet moving you’re not living up to your full potential. In this case I am defining straight line skating speed as the ability to go from a dead stop to full speed in a single direction, no turns. You often see this style of skating demonstrated shortly after a turnover, either by a forward getting on their horse to try and spring a breakaway or by a player backchecking trying to break up a breakaway or odd-man rush. As a forward, having a step or two on your opponent could mean the difference between getting a clean shot or having the play broken up. As a defender, it could mean the difference between saving a goal or leaving your goalie high and dry.

Skating is such an integral part of hockey. It doesn’t matter how good you are with the puck, if you can’t get your feet moving you’re not living up to your full potential. In this case I am defining straight line skating speed as the ability to go from a dead stop to full speed in a single direction, no turns. You often see this style of skating demonstrated shortly after a turnover, either by a forward getting on their horse to try and spring a breakaway or by a player backchecking trying to break up a breakaway or odd-man rush. As a forward, having a step or two on your opponent could mean the difference between getting a clean shot or having the play broken up. As a defender, it could mean the difference between saving a goal or leaving your goalie high and dry.

Straight line skating speed is a direct representation of your ability to accelerate and maintain speed. This means we are primarily focused on strength and power. Building an explosive first step will get you off the line quickly, and having good strength will allow you to maintain speed and control. There are many muscles involved in skating, but we are going to target your glutes with this bridging progression, as they are the main driver for generating motion during straight line skating.

Goals and Focus:

  • Exercise Focus: 
    • Primary: Strength
    • Secondary: Power/Explosiveness
  • Primary muscle targets: Gluteus maximus, Gluteus medius, Gluteus minimus
  • Recommended sets/reps: Start to fatigue, working up to 3 sets of 10 before progressing to the next exercise. 5 sets of 5 with increasing weight for the Hip Thrusters.
  • Recommended frequency: Daily until Hip Thrusters, then 3x per week
  • Equipment:
    • Physio Ball (PBall)
    • Optional: Bench, Barbell, Dumbell, Kettlebell, Plates

Glute Bridge Progression:

Double Leg Glute Bridge

This is the most basic of the bridge progressions. Begin on your back with your knees bent to around 90 degrees, or roughly 8-12” from your away from your butt, and shoulder width apart. If you wish to increase glute activation and decrease hamstring activation you can increase knee flexion (bring your heels closer to your butt). Your weight should be through your heels, but your feet should be flat on the floor. Hands can be crossed over your chest or flat on the floor by your side, but should not be used to lift you up. Begin the motion by squeezing your butt cheeks together like you are trying to hold a quarter between them and, at the same time, tighten your core as if you were going to do a sit up or crunch. With glutes and core engaged, drive your hips straight up toward the ceiling. Be careful not to arch your back. The movement is complete when you can draw a straight line from your shoulders, through your hips, to your knees. Hold for 10 seconds, being sure that your glutes and core remain engaged, and slowly lower back down to the starting position. Relax and repeat. Weight can be added in the form of a plate, barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell by holding it with both hands between your belly button and hips. Once you can comfortably complete 3 sets of 10, advance to the next progression.

  • Primary Movers: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius
  • Primary Stabilizers: Hamstrings (Biceps Femoris), Transverse Abdominis, Gluteus Minimus
  • Level of Difficulty: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: None
  • Source of Resistance: Bodyweight; Additional weight through Barbell, Dumbell, Kettlebell or Plate
  • Exercise Focus: Strength, Endurance, Muscle Isolation

Single Leg Glute Bridge

After mastering the Double Leg Glute Bridge, the next step is to progress to the Single Leg Glute Bridge. The set up for this is nearly identical to the double leg bridge, but involves lifting one leg off the floor and holding it to your chest while completing the movement. Begin by tightening the glutes and core, and lift your hips straight up to the ceiling by squeezing your glutes. Hold 10 seconds and slowly lower back to the starting position. Be sure that your hips stay parallel to the ground throughout the motion and that the side you are holding to your chest does not dip down toward the table. Alternate legs after every 10 repetitions. Resistance can be added in the same way as with the single leg bridge, but alter your lifted leg so that it is straight out with thigh parallel to your your planted thigh and knee locked out. Once you can comfortably complete 3 sets of 10, you can move on to the next progression, the Physio Ball (PBall) Bridge with Hamstring Curl.

  • Primary Movers: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius
  • Primary Stabilizers: Hamstrings (Biceps Femoris), Transverse Abdominis, Gluteus Minimus
  • Level of Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: None
  • Source of Resistance: Bodyweight; Additional weight through Barbell, Dumbell, Kettlebell or Plate
  • Exercise Focus: Strength, Endurance, Muscle Isolation

Physio Ball Bridge with Hamstring Curl

The Physio Ball (PBall) Bridge with Hamstring Curl adds two additional levels of difficulty from a traditional bridge. First, it forces additional stabilization from the core by incorporating the feet onto an unstable surface. Second, it reverses the rolls of the glute max and hamstring during the second part of the movement by turning the glutes into a primary stabilizer and the hamstrings into a primary mover. Start by laying flat on your back, heels shoulder width apart and placed on the PBall with legs straight. Tighten your glutes and core and lift your hips straight toward the ceiling by squeezing your glutes. When your shoulders, hips and knees are in line and you have achieved stability, pull your heels to your butt, then extend back out until your legs are straight again and lower your hips back to the starting position. Be sure to keep your core engaged throughout the movement and do not let your back arch or sag. When you can successfully complete 3 sets of 10 you are ready for the next progression.

  • Primary Movers: Gluteus Maximus (during bridging), Hamstrings (during curl portion)
  • Primary Stabilizers: Transverse Abdominis, Hamstrings (during bridging), Glutes (during curl portion)
  • Level of Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Physio Ball
  • Source of Resistance: Bodyweight; Due to the unstable nature of the PBall I do not recommend using additional weight during this exercise, as the potential benefits do not outweigh the expected reward (in my opinion).
  • Exercise Focus: Strength, Stability

Single Leg Physio Ball Bridge with Hamstring Curl

This variation on the PBall Bridge with Hamstring Curl is going to challenge both your lower extremity strength and your core stability. The set up looks exactly the same as the two leg variation, but you will want to center your heel on the ball so that you don’t roll off. Make sure you have the two leg variation down before attempting the single leg variation. The motion will be the same, engage the glutes and core, squeeze and lift up into a bridge, stabilize, perform a hamstring curl, extend out and return to the starting position. Alternate legs every 10 reps. Once you can successfully perform 3 sets of 10 on each leg with good form you are ready for the last exercise in the bridge progression.

  • Primary Movers: Gluteus Maximus (during bridging), Hamstrings (during curl portion)
  • Primary Stabilizers: Transverse Abdominis, Hamstrings (during bridging), Glutes (during curl portion)
  • Level of Difficulty: Advanced
  • Equipment Needed: Physio Ball
  • Source of Resistance: Bodyweight; Due to the unstable nature of the PBall I do not recommend using additional weight during this exercise, as the potential benefits do not outweigh the expected reward (in my opinion).
  • Exercise Focus: Strength, Stability

Hip Thrusters

The Hip Thruster is a simple, but incredibly effective way to strengthen your glutes. Begin with your thoracic spine on a workout bench or PBall, feet shoulder width apart and on the floor, weight through the heels. Begin with slight hip flexion, place a barbell or dumbbell over your hips for increased resistance. Squeeze your glutes and engage your core, exhaling as your lift your hips straight toward the ceiling. When your hips and back are parallel with the floor you have reached the end of the motion. Slowly lower back down to the starting position. When the focus is strength, as it is in this case, I typically recommend a 5 second up, 5 second down cadence for 5 sets of 5 with 2 minutes of rest between sets. Be sure to choose an appropriate weight that allows your to complete the exercises but provides an adequate amount of challenge.

  • Primary Movers: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius
  • Primary Stabilizers: Transverse Abdominis, Hamstrings 
  • Level of Difficulty: Advanced
  • Equipment Needed: Physio Ball or Bench
  • Source of Resistance: Barbell, Dumbell, Kettlebell or Plate
  • Exercise Focus: Strength

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