8 fitness tips from a top NHL trainer

NHL trainer Matt Nichol takes a pro hockey player workout and makes it accessible to anyone looking to get — or stay — in shape.
By Naoko Asano
8 fitness tips from a top NHL trainer


NHL fitness

NHL top trainer shares his tips

Hockey may be a winter sport, but for NHL players, training is a year-round job. And Matt Nichol would know. Considered the top trainer working in hockey today, Nichol runs a three-month-long camp for NHLers during the off-season—his clients include Tyler Seguin, Wayne Simmonds and Mike Cammalleri.

We asked Nichol, who also founded BioSteel, a line of nutritional supplements, for the scoop on his workouts. They’re geared toward elite athletes, but can be used by anyone looking to get — or stay — in shape.

Photo, Twitter.

8 fitness tips from a top NHL trainerMatt Nichol (click the pink triangle for more)

Boxer’s jump rope

Nichol’s clients skip rope every day. “It’s a fantastic cardiovascular exercise, and good for improving power,” he says. “You’ll burn way more calories than you would on an elliptical or on a stationary bike.” Start with 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.

Photo, Getty Images.

Skipping on the beachGet a skipping rope (Click triangle for exercise info)


Use a medicine ball

Medicine balls are great for building core strength, arm and shoulder strength, and balance. “We do different types of wood chops and rotations and twists,” says Nichol, “because hockey involves so much rotation when they’re shooting and passing.” With feet wider than shoulder-width apart, try a wood chop. Keeping your arms straight, reach up overhead with the medicine ball, then swing it down between your legs.

Photo, MasterFile.

8 fitness tips from a top NHL trainerUse a medicine ball (Click on the pink up arrow for more)

Try a skater’s squat

Also known as a rear-foot elevated split squat, this is a great exercise for strengthening the glutes. Strong glutes give hockey players added power in their skating stride, but they’re also great if you just want a shapely behind. Place one foot on the ground and the other leg stretched behind you and elevated. “We use a little roller device,” says Nichol, “but one foot could be on a bench or coffee table.” Squat up and down slowly.

Photo, iStock.

8 fitness tips from a top NHL trainerSkater’s squat

Incorporate lunges, planks and bridges

Nichol’s athletes perform a variety of multi-direction lunges: forward, side, reverse and transverse. These are great for strengthening the legs. Athletes will also do planks and bridges for core stability — crucial for a healthy back.

Photo, Roberto Caruso.

How to do the Plank ChallengeLunges, planks and bridges


Add weights

Nichol’s athletes use hand weights with their lunges and squats to increase intensity. “Let’s say you’re doing 10–15 repetitions,” he says. “If you pick a weight that’s so heavy that you can’t get to 10, it’s too heavy. If you pick a weight that’s so light that you get to 15 and you feel like you could do more, it’s too light.”

Photo, iStock.

Weights and towelsAdd weights

Try a dumbbell press

Standing on your feet while holding weight over your head requires balance, which is crucial for hockey players. Try a dumbbell curl-to-press: Curl the dumbbell to the shoulder, then press it overhead. “You’re incorporating everything into that movement — biceps, shoulders, triceps.”

Photo, iStock.

8 fitness tips from a top NHL trainerDumbbell press

Eat your veggies — and get enough protein

Nichol isn’t just focused on his players’ workouts — he also teaches athletes to eat properly. “My number one objective, before I worry about sports performance, is health,” he says. Nichol implores his NHLers to eat more vegetables —specifically green leafy ones. And he says most of his new clients aren’t getting enough protein.

Photo (kale salad with sweet potatoes & walnuts), Erik Putz. 

Kale salad with sweet potatoes and walnutsEat your veggies


Drink more water

If you’re starting out small, Nichol has one simple tip: Replace soda and juice with water. It’s not just the calories you’ll cut, he says, but the health benefits you’ll feel from reducing your sugar intake.

Photo, iStock.

8 fitness tips from a top NHL trainer


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