– Strength Training for Field Hockey – Tips and Research

Strength training for field hockey can be performed in many different ways. In this article we discuss some vital components to be considered. Field hockey is a demanding sport which requires dynamic bursts of 5-20 seconds which normally are 4 bouts of repeated sprints. This means that the intensity of movement is very high and the need for a very fast recovery time is important.



Strength Training for Hockey – Injury Prevention


From a structural perspective individuals are position in a crouched position with the hips flexed for long period of time. As a result, the hip flexors are commonly tight , over-active and shortened. This can cause inactive gluteus muscles and overuse of the quadriceps in lower body push movements. This muscle imbalance increases the risk of many different injuries including hamstring tears and shin splints. Stride length is also shortened as a result.


Change of direction is very important and the demand on the single leg stability and force production is high. Due to the hard floor and high impact change of direction movements, shin splints and lower limb injuries are very common. Women have the added problems of an increased Q angle (angle of the femur when standing) and smaller ankles, increasing the risk of knee and ankle injuries. A final note is that hockey players, at least in England, have a lot of pitch time, often playing for 2 teams. This could mean that an individual trains 3-4 times a week and plays a match 2 times per week. This creates a lot of stress on the body showing the need to be careful with the amount of strength training for field hockey in-season and the high need for recovery sessions.


Coaching tips for injury prevention in strength training for field hockey,


  • Repattern hip bend and squat movement with good posture and use of glutes if needed.
  • Lateral stability at knee (Very important for women) ensuring glute medius muscle is active and developed. Single leg deadlifts and glute medius strength endurance exercises recommended.
  • Improve lower limb max strength and eccentric strength for impact absorption during rapid change of direction movements. High loaded squats and technique on jumping and landing would be the most beneficial.
  • Increase supportive tissue and muscle endurance around the shins to reduce risk of shin splints.
  • Active recovery sessions 1 x per week and daily tissue work (foam rollings etc.) to ensure tissues are ready and healthy for exertion of effort and impact.


Strength Training for Field Hockey – Change of Direction and Acceleration


Change of direction and acceleration are key performance components of elite level field hockey. There is a constant battle between your opposite number and a individual with better change of direction and acceleration has the advantage. Overall, the amount of force you can apply to the floor, your power-to-weight ratio and the ability to direct force in one direction are the pivotal factors in rapid acceleration and change of direction movements. The amount of force you can produce can be tested through something like a vertical jump or horizontal jump test and can be improved by improving lower body power. Key exercises are squats performed at speed (3 x 3 at 60-70% 1RM), squat jumps (3 x 3 or 3 x 6 at 30 – 50% 1RM) and olympic lifts. A key movement transfering is called triple extension whereby the ankle, knee and hip joints extend simultaneously in one powerful motion.


Your power-to-weight ratio then shows how much you can propel your body with the force you can produce. In order to direct the force through your body through the kinetic chain you must have a good transfer of energy through multiple joints of which require great stability. The more stability you have, especially around the hips, the more you can direct the high force movements and be efficient with the work your muscles perform. A good analogy to represent this is if you had a ferrari with a hinge in the middle of its body. Some of the force produced by the wheels acting against the ground will be lost in this added movement and not completely used in its forward propulsion. This is the same when the body has week stabilizers inhibiting the level of force the large muscles can produce in the chosen direction.


Coaching tips for acceleration and COD in strength training for field hockey,


  • Single leg stability exercises – Single leg deadlifts and squats, glute medius and adductor development
  • Core Stability and Endurance improvements
  • Long and short ground contact work – Plyometrics
  • Increase in force production and absorption – focus around triple extension and flexion – key exercises include olympic lifts, squats and squat jumps.


Strength Training for Field Hockey – Shooting and Long Passing


Work I have performed with athletes in increasing shot and long passing power has revolved around improving full body power, addressing weak links in the kinetic chain and rotational strength.  Full body power can be done over a range of compound lifts and traditionally is done with 3 reps over 3 sets at around 70% of your maximum for that lift. Increasing full body power involves building up through a phased programme. In my coaching, the phases can be simplified as this,


  1. Build a base – reduce imbalances, injuries, teach techniques, dysfunctions and reach baselines in core and strength endurance.
  2. Build full body strength
  3. Build full body power


In fact, phase 1 relates directly to addressing weak links in the kinetic chain. The weak transfer of energy through the hip or in contact with the ground means energy built up through the striking movement is lost and does not get transferred into the ball. Improving the transfer of energy through stable hips and a stable torso can make a dramatic impact on athletic ability.


Coaching tips for shooting and long passing in strength training for field hockey,


  • Improve the weak links in your kinetic chain – look at the hips and foot contact with the floor.
  • Build a base with better movement and increased stability, build strength, build explosive power.
  • Perform olympic lifts for full body power development.
  • Rotational strength with med-balls and slam balls can help transfer the energy through the body during the hitting movement.


Strength Training for Field Hockey – Ball Work


I always incorporate ball work into my warm-ups and sometimes during rest periods. Any opportunity for a player to work on their specific skill related weaknesses is a bonus. A great insight I got recently was from basketball player Stephen Curry, who stated that when he practices dribbling with 2 balls or one basketball ball and a tennis ball, the processing of all environmental stimuli is complex and takes a lot of mental energy. However, after returning back to a single ball the mental processing and working memory used is minimal and much easier compared to before the original drill. This means he can better focus on the environment around him and the important decisions he has to make. We can easily implement some additional stimuli by dribbling with 2 balls or adding different sized balls to many different drills in field hockey. A forward thinking coaching approach, but one I think all should try and experience for themselves.


Coaching tips for ball work in strength training for field hockey,


  • Perform light ball work during rest periods
  • Perform ball work during the warm-up.
  • Try increased working memory drills with 2 balls or different sized balls.


Strength Training for Field Hockey – Repeated Sprint Endurance


It is often noted that repeated sprint ability is a requirement for any elite level hockey player. A study on national australian hockey players found that total time sprinting and striding was at around 5% of the total time. The majority of the time was spent walking (40%) and jogging (45%). Looking further into this, the average amount of efforts performing repeated sprints was 17 in a total game of which each consisted of an average of 4 sprints. You can make your own judgement on theses statistics but my analysis is that in a total game a player may sprint close to 80 times, 4 bouts a time. Most importantly, each of these would be a critical moment in play. Being better in repeated sprint ability could be the difference between winning or losing this critical moment.


To develop repeated sprint endurance, you must perform repeated sprints with minimal recovery in a progressive programme. For Example,


Week 1  – 3 x 30m Sprints, 15s Recovery – 80% Maximum = 5 minutes rest and repeat x 3

Week 2 – 4 x 40m Sprints, 15s Recovery – 85% Maximum = 5 minutes rest and repeat x 3

Week 3 – 5 x 30m Sprints 15s Recovery – 90% Maximum = 5 minutes rest and repeat x 2


You can play around with recovery, intensity, reps and distances but ensure it is a session that you or the athletes can achieve without injury and reflects their current ability. I would rarely ask individual go at a 100% unless I know there bodies can handle that level of stress and are adapted to sprinting regularly. Think about performing sessions on the grass initially due to risk of injuries associated with contact on hard hockey surface and the volume of training individuals perform on that hard surface.



Strength training for field hockey – Case Study King’s College London


After four years of work with King’s College London I have created a revised a programme for strength training in field hockey specifically at university level standards and commitments. Overall, the main restrictions to this programme was the amount of time the players spent playing and training in-season. As a result, we had to emphasis a solid strength and conditioning programme pre-season, educate on proper recovery practices in-season and perform 1 strength and conditioning session in-season.


Pre-season consisted of 3 very simple phases. Hypertrophy, strength and power all specific to the demands and movement patterns in field hockey. However, due to the level of commitment the main goal was to just ensure they kept training over the summer period and returns with a basic foundation of strength to start the season.


In-season the teams were split between freshers/freshmen and senior athletes. The year was split into term 1 – general athletic development, term 2 – strength development and term 3 – power development. This was to ensure we kept moving forward and where at our peak during the ultimate cup games in the season. Although, we only trained once per week the players made rapid improvements due to the high amounts of stress in games complimenting our training methods. Emphasis on recovery methods at home meant that the body remained in a healthy state ready to adapt and improve.


“As a member of the King’s College London Women’s Hockey for four years, strength training was a massive part of our team’s success. We were promoted three successive times and could not have done this without working with performance Coach Edward Young. I noticed huge improvements in our team’s agility, shot and passing power, strength over the ball and we had a huge reduction in injury. Most notably, our smaller players who at the start of the season would get easily pushed off the ball, after several weeks with Coach, were holding their own against the strongest defences. Coach took excellent care of our team and made sure recovery sessions were incorporated into our training plans making everything hockey specific with the ultimate aim of being stronger than all our competition!” – Stephanies Burn’s – 2016-17 KCL Women’s Captain.



Strength Training for Hockey – Recommend Reading


  • Ultimate Guide to Strength Training for Field Hockey – Click Here
  • The Field Hockey Psychology Workbook – Click Here
  • Time–motion analysis of elite field hockey, with special reference to repeated-sprint activity – Click Here
  • Training Perceptual Skill in Field Hockey: Is There Transfer from the Laboratory to the Field? – Click Here



Interesting videos around strength training for hockey…


Great Britain Mens Hockey RIO2016 Olympic preparation


UNC Field Hockey: Workout Warrior Wold Paces Tar Heels


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