Field Hockey Goalkeeper Strength and Conditioning
The position of goalkeeper in Field Hockey has unique requirements, from a technical, physical, psychological and tactical perspective. However, there is a scarcity of information available for athletes and teams interested in developing their athleticism for the position. This article aims to provide a short summary of the key areas in which Strength and Conditioning can support health and performance for goalkeepers.
Not only do goalkeepers need to be agile, reactive and explosive, they also need to be able to repeat these high intensity actions over the course of a game. The implications of a fatigued, non reactive goalkeeper are fairly obvious in a game dictated by the outcome of goals conceded.
The physical requirements of the position are also remarkably different from those of an outfield player. Compared with the 5–7km typically run by their team mates in a match, a goalkeeper instead needs short distance explosive speed and reactivity. Accelerating from a standing start is more typical, and evidently they will never hit maximal sprint speed!
“Not only do goalkeepers need to be agile, reactive and explosive, they also need to be able to repeat these high intensity actions over the course of a game.”
These requirements necessitate a training programme with different outcomes, in order to maximise performance and game impact. There are 3 key ways in which Strength and Conditioning (S&C) can impact a goalkeeper’s performance, which are as follows:
1. Maximal outputs
An output is defined as ‘the amount of something produced’. In the case of physical performance what we typically refer to are the maximal intensities that an athlete is capable of achieving. This can be maximal strength, speed and power, for example.
The analogy we might think about in this instance is the idea of ‘raising the ceiling’. If we do this, then we have a greater amount in reserve whenever we complete a demanding physical task or exertion. If we can reduce the cost of every action completed, we minimise the fatigue that this will produce.
Increasing these outputs has a direct impact on performance for a number of reasons. By increasing maximal speed, a goalkeeper can accelerate faster, meaning space is closed quicker and attackers have less time to get a shot on goal.
Maximal outputs are best improved through high intensity training methods. Strength training should form the foundation of this, but be careful to ensure that any programme you do follow is age appropriate and based on individual screening or assessment. Moreover, there is always a need for low intensity training methods, to ensure adequate recovery and work capacity to recover between these efforts.
The ability to recover between high intensity actions such as a block is vital in order to get back into effective positions to make another save if a deflection occurs. On occasion a goalkeeper may need to make multiple saves in a short window of time.
Aerobic capacity is a key physical quality for goalkeepers for this reason. Here we are referring to the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles in order to recover quickly between high intensity bouts of work.
S&C programmes should seek to improve these qualities through a mixture of low and high intensity training methods. Interval training on a watt bike or assault bike can be a very effective way to address this.
Built on top of a well developed aerobic ‘engine’, we can begin adding in higher intensity anaerobic work, which is more aligned with the on field demands of the goalkeeper.
3. Injury reduction
“The mechanism of injury may differ, but the basic principles underlying reduction of risk is similar.”
Due to the unique physical characteristics needed for successful performance as a goalkeeper, this also means a different injury risk profile. Aside from contact based fractures and contusions, there are a number of musculoskeletal injuries that can be minimised through effective training.
The ankle, lower back, groin and shoulder are common injury sites for a goalkeeper. The mechanism of injury may differ, but the basic principles underlying reduction of risk is similar.
Exercises targeted specifically at strengthening these areas of the body are core components of an effective S&C plan for a goalkeeper. Examples include single leg hops for ankle stability, trunk exercises to prevent lower back issues and chinups for shoulder strength.
If you can address these three areas in your programme, you will be in a fantastic position to improve your performance on the pitch, remain injury free and increase your game impact as an effective shot stopper!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy Game Winning Goalkeepers, the programme designed to maximise goalkeeper performance.
Bishop et al. (2015) A needs analysis and testing battery for field hockey. Professional strength and Conditioning. 36. 15–16.
Murtaugh (2001) Injury patterns among female field hockey players. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 33. 201–7.
O’Neill BJ, Ryan K, Burke NG, et al (2014) Bilateral distal tibial stress fractures in a healthy field-hockey goalkeeper. BMJ Case Reports.
Originally published at https://www.strengthconditioning.co.uk on March 11, 2020.