“Only a goalie can appreciate what a goalie goes through.” – Jacques Plante
Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk
1. Hip Mobility and Stability.
Goalies end up in, and subsequently must be able to get into some pretty crazy positions. The work done in the weight room, as well as a proper warm-up and cool-down routine can really help make a goalie’s hips bulletproof and resilient.
Carey Price showing an example of the demands on a goaltender’s hip mobility.
Mobility work and flexibility work, like everything else in a properly designed strength and conditioning program, is highly dependent on the individual.
The Beighton Hypermobility Test is a screen of five different movements I’ll use in my assessment to determine an individual’s joint hypermobility. How they score on this screen will greatly impact the nature of their program.
You can read in more detail about the screen here:
If someone possesses a lot of congenital laxity it would be unwise to prescribe a lot of stretching as this person’s joints are just screaming for some stability. Hypermobility is the term that gets used – but most often it’s also synonymous with hypostability. What’s interesting is many times these athletes will feel tight and want to stretch more. Usually they’re the ones always cracking their knuckles, back, neck, etc. What’s really going on when they do this is similar to someone picking a scab. It feels good in the moment but they’re just making the issue worse.
There’s a big difference between flexibility (the ability of muscle to lengthen) and mobility (all encompassing term for the many factors that contribute to movement: muscle and connective tissue, the joint capsule, the fascial system, and motor control). One of my favourite strength coaches who really specializes in mobility, Frank Duffy, recently said “if a joint can’t move well independently, it probably won’t move well globally.” What we really are after, is control of the range of motion we have, and specifically pertaining to goalies – control of their hip joints.
The hip is a ball and socket joint. However, if over time all it ever does is flex and extend, and you don’t challenge its ability abduct, adduct, and to rotate both internally and externally it’s going to slowly morph into a joint that resembles something more like an elbow. This is a problem for goalies because if their hips can’t handle the positions they inevitably are going to be in during competition they’ll be on a crash course for getting hurt (either from chronic workload or acutely).
The below two videos are two CARS (Controlled Articular Rotations) variations we like to use.
This is a flow routine that can be used for a warm-up and/or recovery. This is just one example and I’m a big fan of flows because of the number of different positions you can go into. Be creative and mix it up based off of different movements you like.
This really is just the tip of the iceberg as far as how we’ll attack optimizing an individual’s hip mobility and stability.
2. Overall Athleticism
In a recent article on the Athletic* Grant Fuhr talks a little bit about the evolution of the position and where it’s headed in the future.
“It’s going back to being athletic again. The ’80s was athletic because we weren’t very big. One, the equipment was heavy and, two, we weren’t big guys. Then the equipment got big and the goalies got big. Now they’re shrinking the equipment, but the goalies are still big. Now they’re having to become athletic. It’s fun to sit and watch that transition.”
The next piece of equipment to undergo a reduction in size in the NHL will be the catching glove.
Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators is listed at 5’10 (which may be a little generous.) Perhaps we will start seeing a shift back to smaller goalies. As the size of equipment decreases, the demands for athleticism will increase.
If you watch a highlight reel of crazy goalie saves the athleticism is readily apparent. The weight room is integral to making goalies more powerful, quicker, and stronger.
3. Lower Body Strength.
Playing goal is incredibly physically demanding. Both relative strength and strength endurance are vital to a goalie’s ability to excel because of how often they are in and out of the butterfly and the importance of their ability to push off and move laterally. They need to be powerful in order to be as quick as possible, but endurance is important as well because of both the duration of an individual game as well as the chronic workload of an entire season. Squats, deadlifts, and unilateral variations should be a staple in a goalie’s training program.
4. Building Strength in the Frontal Plane
As I alluded to in the previous point, a goalie’s lateral movement is one of the most important elements to their game. Building strength outside the sagittal plane with lateral lunge variations can be a game changer for goalies.
However, all athletes must master the sagittal plane first. Once an athlete is strong in their squat, deadlift, and lunge variations with solid form, they can move into the other planes of movement.
5. Overhead Mobility and Shoulder External Rotation
This picture of Fleury pretty much shows why these two qualities are important for a goalie.
Lastly, as Mark Bell says, “strength is never a weakness.” The hard work, diligence, and attention to detail that training demands are all incredibly positive outcomes of the weight room. A strong athlete is a confident athlete. Putting in work and challenging oneself and rising to those challenges and seeing progress can be incredible for a person’s psyche. This alone is a large benefit a goalie can see from training.
I don’t think there is a position in sports where one person’s confidence can have a larger impact on the team’s performance.
** Grant Fuhr interview: