Five Hockey Defense Drills
Defenseman Drills: A Focus on Skating Backward
Backward skating is one of the most challenging skills to master—but it’s a skill every defenseman must have. After all, you’ll spend about half of your time in a game skating backward. Among the skills needed for those who want to play superior D, backward skating, pivoting, and transitioning to forward skating are essential. Here are five hockey drills that will help develop a beginning skater’s hockey defense techniques, and make excellent warm-ups for the more advanced defenseman.
When practicing these drills, don’t forget to focus on proper backward skating technique:
- Have a strong knee and ankle bend.
- Keep your back straight and eyes forward.
- Push from directly under your body.
- Push one leg at a time using your entire body weight for each stride.
- Try to maintain a straight line by not swiveling your hips.
- Pump your arms sprinter-style while holding a hockey stick in one hand.
1. Defense Lighting Drill
This is a basic drill that’s excellent for beginners looking to develop their pivot skills and backward skating ability. It’s also a great warm-up exercise for advanced skaters. Starting at the face-off circle, skate hard out to the red line, pivot, and back skate to the blue line. Pivot and skate hard back to the red line. Pivot and back skate to the blue line. Repeat until you feel comfortable in all phases of the drill.
2. Horseshoe Skating Drill
This drill is great for increasing a beginner’s comfort level with transitions between back and forward skating. Start by placing two cones, or whatever is handy, at about 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock near the top of the face-off circle. Start near the top of the circle and back skate to the bottom of the circle. Then transition to forward and skate to the opposite top of the circle, around the cone, and back skate to the bottom of the circle. Transition to forward again and skate up the opposite side of the circle. Transition around the cone and back skate to the bottom of the circle.
3. Four-Pivot Skating Drill
Here’s another fun drill designed to work the same skills as Horseshoe Skating. Place one cone in front of the goal, just short of the blue line. Stagger four more cones in a line parallel to the goal. Starting above the blue line cone, skate as hard as you can to the left bottom cone. Stop and back skate hard to the blue line cone. Stop and skate hard to the second bottom cone. Stop and back skate hard to the blue line cone. Continue through all four bottom cones. Then perform the drill in reverse. This time, start at the blue line cone and skate to the right bottom cone. Stop and back skate hard to the blue line cone. Stop and skate hard to the second bottom cone. Continue through all four bottom cones.
4. Transition Footwork Drill
This drill will help you work on developing quick feet, accelerating into and out of pivots, all the while maintaining speed. As with any drill, you want to approximate game speed when possible. Place two cones in a line spaced about 20 feet apart. Starting at the bottom cone, skate forward to the top cone. Pivot and backward skate to the opposite side of the bottom cone. Pivot again and skate forward on the same side to the top cone. Pivot and skate backward to the starting position. Once you become comfortable with the drill, increase the challenge by adding the puck.
If you’re looking to introduce a little competition to your drills, you can always time yourself against another skater. See who can execute the drills cleanly and with the fastest time.
Here’s one more drill that will pit you head-to-head:
5. Transition Races
This drill will help you and a partner hone your turns: try to blow as little snow as possible heading into your transitions. Using four cones, place two of them on either side of the face-off circle spaced about 20 feet apart, creating a square. On the word “go,” race to the top cone, pivot, and backward skate to the bottom cone. The next time, skate up the opposite side. For added challenge, add the puck, increase the distance, or complicate the race course by adding additional changes in direction. Push each other and be creative!
While nothing can prepare you entirely for the speed and intensity of an actual game, practicing with focus, intensity and, when appropriate, as much speed as possible will help. And if you don’t have ice time, you can develop your strength by executing drills with a slide board or other training tools designed to replicate your skating motion—remember, for the serious skater, there is no off-season!