institute 3e hockey training

The GHD and Its Benefits For Hockey Players

The glute ham device (GHD) is a piece of equipment we use often with our players. This machine works on building the hamstrings, glutes, and calves, aka the keys to great triple extension/speed. Triple extension is the rapid extension of the ankle, knee, and hip joints-the stronger the triple extension by an athlete the greater the force production. When a player can create more power in their lower extremities the stronger & faster they'll be on their skates.


If you analyzed hockey players lower extremities alone you'll see two common muscle deficiencies.

  1. Over-developed vastus lateralis and under-developed inner quad muscles.
  2. Over-developed glutes/bicep femoris (outer hamstring) and under-developed semi tendinosis/membranous (inner hamstring muscles).

In this article we're going to focus on number 2, the under-developed hamstrings. Hamstring and glute strength are correlated with sprint/skating speed, which is why it's important to have both equally developed and strong. The GHD works to elongate the hamstring and create a contraction using body weight and added resistance (if applicable). Think of it as a bicep curl for your hamstring.

When performing the GHD there are a few key points to focus on for maximal muscle activation.

  1. Knees should be placed firmly into the larger pad and ankles should be locked into the back pads, feet touching the back platform.
  2. Squeeze your glutes (butt), hamstrings, and core-this will ensure lack of extending the back to compensate for lack of hamstring strength.
  3. Lower yourself while thinking push the hips forward and fully lengthening the legs.
  4. When you begin to feel your back round you're going to go back up to starting position, thinking hips forward and forcing the hamstrings to contract to create the upward momentum.

**There are different forms of GHD, including ways to add varied resistance and different methods for when to stop on the eccentric (downward motion). For this article we'll only be referencing the normal GHD movement.

If performed correctly you'll feel your calves, hamstrings, and glutes tighten up and contract (almost like they're being pulled on & stretched). When starting to implicate GHD into your program we recommend to leave your arms by your side and progress from there: arms across the chest, arms by ears, then added resistance (holding a weight). These progressions will result in proper understanding of the movement and development.

Common mistakes made on the GHD.

  • Arching the head (not keeping neutral), this will take away the weight of your head (10-15 lbs), you're losing resistance by doing this-don't do it!
  • Hyper-extending the back, this will take away work from the calves, hamstrings, and glutes by shifting force into the wrong areas being focused on, changing the levers.
  • Performing to fast. Make sure you control the movement and work on understanding how different muscles contract and what they feel like; time under tension is huge in muscle strength/size development.

All things being equal the faster and stronger athlete will always win. This being said, make sure you utilize correct lifts to ensure your optimal development. When hamstring development is often lacking in hockey players it should be a point to make them a focus in your workouts. The GHD is one of the best exercises for hamstring development and can be a useful staple for your workout.

Why Hockey Players Should Be Squatting

Squatting is deemed as one of the best exercises for lower body strength and overall muscle development. Younger athletes can especially benefit from squatting, this movement will help increase range of motion (when performed properly) and build leg strength with stability for the future. When squatting there should be an effort to achieve full-depth, this will ensure for optimal growth and strength gain.

Hamstring and calve contact should be made to ensure full-depth is being achieved. The chest should remain tall without the lower back rounding. Toes angled slightly out, while driving the knees out to create a hole to sit into. Head is in a neutral posture, and arms are tight enough in on the bar to create a shelf with the traps for the bar to sit on (this picture is a high-bar Olympic styled squat).

Hamstring and calve contact should be made to ensure full-depth is being achieved. The chest should remain tall without the lower back rounding. Toes angled slightly out, while driving the knees out to create a hole to sit into. Head is in a neutral posture, and arms are tight enough in on the bar to create a shelf with the traps for the bar to sit on (this picture is a high-bar Olympic styled squat).

So why should hockey player squat? Let alone go to full-depth?

  1. Most bang for your buck: by achieving good form in a full-depth squat you're creating the most response possible in the muscles being worked. When you cut depth out you lose stimulus in muscles being targeted, for example, you'll miss out on musculature used to create increased hip drive from the bottom position. In short, the deeper the squat the higher the neuromuscular response will be; facilitating the most muscle fibers being stimulated.
  2. Joint stability: there's no debate that being able to maintain good posture with weight on your back will increase joint stability. The ankle, knee, hip, lower, mid, upper back, etc. will all benefit by handling weight through various ranges of motion. In hockey the back and lower body joints are in constant stress from skating and taking hits, stronger joints will help prevent injuries and instabilities. In hockey you're constantly hunched over skating, stronger (lower back/hip) joints will help improve your athletic posture and strength. 
  3. Mobility: the best way to mobility/flexibility is to keep your mobility and flexibility. When you perform squats to full-depth you're putting yourself into positions that may not be achieved without weight. This will result in adaptation and will help increase your mobility to create the correct postures through the squat. Hockey players usually have tight hips from skating, squatting can help increase hip mobility by going to full-depth.
  4. Increased vertical jump/sprint speed aka explosiveness: we know vertical jumps and sprints all require aspects of power. Full-depth squats will help you do both of these better by facilitating more muscle fibers being worked, like stated above. This will have a crossover with your skating, the increased ability to produce power, the faster the ability you can skate/move.

Those 4 points are all an athlete can dream of: increased muscle/strength, reduced injury, stronger joints, more power, improved mobility. Squatting is a tool that shouldn't be overlooked, the earlier you start the better off you'll be for the future. If you're new to squatting and don't have access to proper coaching-check out the two videos below, the first is a video from Mark Rippetoe on back squatting and the second is from Charles Poliquin with tips on front squatting.

Rest Times and Their Usefulness

Every well constructed lifting program all have one thing in common: delegated rest times. Rest times are incorporated to facilitate different training results. A solid program will have a correlation between rest times and the type of strength being trained for. For example, if you're lifting in the "relative strength" phase where you're hitting heavy 3 rep squats, you're going to have a longer rest. The longer rest is needed for better recovery; the nervous system needs a break to maintain its high level of performance.

Strength table.jpg

There are a few key takeaways when thinking about rest and recognizing its usefulness. A lot of folks in the gym will sit and talk in-between sets and not control their rest, these are usually those without a goal in mind or tracked numbers. Every rest period has a goal, whether it be hit consistent strength numbers or create a fatigue while still moving the appropriate weight. Here's how you should interpret and use rest to your advantage...

  1. Rest period lengths and their usefulness
    • Higher rest periods - 2 minutes+ - their use comes when you're lifting in the relative strength category performing compound movements. Also, if you're performing any form of PAP/contrast training, (the rest after the PAP/contrast movements in reference here) a longer rest is needed for nervous system recovery.
      • Examples - squats, deadlifts, bench/overhead pressing, Olympic lifts, etc usually will require more rest. These recruit more muscles than most lifts and are the lifts most often performed in the relative strength category.
    • Medium rest periods - 60-90 seconds - their use comes when training in the hypertrophy and endurance categories; aka when strength, endurance and muscle size are being trained for. You'll usually see these when you perform accessory lifts (lifts that complement the first compound movement). The 60-90 seconds allow enough rest to maintain a degree of strength, but should create some form of fatigue to facilitate growth.
      • Examples - dips, incline dumbbell presses, chin-ups, GHD, etc...movements that don't tax the system as heavily as compounds and usually have higher rep ranges.
        • Exception: when compounds are performed at higher reps/less weight (ex: 8 rep back squat) sometimes rest times may be in the 90ish second category-this is often used for beginners.
    • Shorter rest periods - 10-60 seconds - you'll usually see these used when performing training circuits, agonist/antagonist training or various forms of PAP/contrast methods. When circuit training you're doing multiple movements quickly after another, typically full body. Circuits are often used for fat loss and strength adaptation, high level of work within a short amount of time. Agonist and antagonist are opposing muscles, ex: a press then a pulling movement. PAP/contrast are when you train the same muscles quickly after one another, their use is to overload muscles by varied intensities.
      • Examples - circuit (hex deadlift, dumbbell row, GHD, incline dumbbell press, dumbbell curl all performed 45 seconds after one another), PAP/contrast performing a 3-RM back squat with 10 second rest then doing 6 reps of vertical jump.
  2. Be honest - when there's a rest time written in a program try to follow the delegated time. These times are made to facilitate different forms of growth, if you're constantly taking off or adding time then you're changing your true numbers.
  3. True numbers/progress - rest periods can help ensure you're recording more accurate progress. Like stated above having loose rest periods can influence how much weight you're actually able to move at that given time for the asked rep range.

Whether your goal is fat loss, strength gain or muscle gain rest periods are an easy variable to manipulate for results. Rest periods should always correlate with the lift and the reps, without these two factors strategic rest periods will not be as effective.