I prefer to always have athletes perform exercises on their feet. Hockey is a sport that is played on your feet, so it makes sense that you should train on your feet whenever possible. This is even more important with lower body exercises; developing strength, power or endurance in a standing position requires muscles to work together to produce coordinated, efficient movement. Even traditional standing exercises that are considered “quadriceps” exercises typically use several other muscles in coordination to produce the movement.
A great exercise that focuses on lower body musculature is the step-up. It requires strength, stability and balance, and there are many ways it can be progressed to make it more difficult. I consider it to be a “single leg” exercise, much like a lunge, in that the staggered stance has each leg performing different roles throughout the movement. It works nearly every muscle in the lower extremity, including the hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps and gluteals, both in force production and force reduction. As with any exercise, consult with a qualified trainer and your physician before implementing them into your workout program.
Find a stable box or platform to step up on. Start with a lower height box to develop good balance before progressing to one that is knee high. Place one foot on the box, keep your head and chest up and stand up onto the box, lifting your back leg hip height with a bent knee. Pause for a second or two to develop good balance and posture. Slowly lower the free leg back to the ground, maintaining foot contact with the box foot throughout the entire motion.
Practice with bodyweight before progressing to holding light dumbbells in your hands. I’ll share some other ideas for step-up progressions next week.