How to Bodycheck Like a Pro Part I
This is the first of our three-part series on how to bodycheck like a pro. Part I will cover the basics of hitting, Part II will cover the different hitting methods and the techniques of each, and Part III will discuss implementing your newly learned hitting methods into a real game.
Bodychecking is a major part of hockey. In fact, many players unfortunately drop out because of it. I’ve witnessed it growing up and I’m sure you have too. There’s always a few kids who are great without bodychecking but as soon as the hitting starts (at the Bantam level here in Canada), you see some of them drop out. Either they just don’t like the physical aspect of hockey, or they were just never taught how to give and receive hits the right way.
This three part series looks to give you all the information you need to turn you into a good hitter, or at least a player that’s able to play with physical contact without it hindering his playstyle. Let’s face it, hitting isn’t for everyone.
If youre a small guy who likes to score goals, your coach probably isn’t expecting you to put opponents through the glass every night. Nevertheless, you should be comfortable playing with contact and know how to take a hit and give one when necessary.
Let’s take a look at some of the basics when it comes to bodychecking in hockey.
One of the most important things when it comes to bodychecking is technique. If you don’t hit properly, you’ll never knock anyone down. You also risk getting injured, which is the last thing we want.
When hitting, your goal should be to generate as much energy as possible through your feet all the way up to your shoulders.
You do this by using speed to your advantage. Build up some speed on your way to your opponent, and once you arrive, swing your body with the use of your arms in order to transfer all of your bodyweight towards him. Don’t forget to use your legs as well, as most of your power comes from your legs and not your upper-body. Bend your knees and push through towards your target when delivering the hit for more power.
Here are a few more tips to get you well on your way to being a good hitter.
The arms - Many players make the mistake of hitting with their arms rather than their shoulders or hips. Sure, there are times where you’ll be in a position where you’re only able to push your opponent (we’ll go over this more in Part II) . But most of the time you should be hitting with your shoulders or hips.
When you use your arms, you’re mostly using your biceps and triceps which are weaklings compared to your bigger and stronger leg, back, shoulder and chest muscles. For this reason, only push with your arms when you have to (we’ll cover that in Part II). In all other cases, your arms should be used to swing your body for added momentum transfer.
Timing is almost everything – Another important aspect of a proper bodycheck is timing. The better your timing is, the more successful your check will be. Your goal is to catch your opponent off guard. The biggest hits always happen when one of the two players isn’t ready to receive the hit. In other words, if your opponent doesn’t have time to brace himself and contract his muscles in order to stand his ground, it’ll be much easier to knock him down. If this is the case, lineup your shoulder with the middle of hist chest, bend your knees before impact and transfer your weight through to your shoulder in order to create the most forceful impact possible.
On the other hand, if he’s ready and waiting for you, it can be much tougher to knock him down. It’ll be a result of the speed at which you come in and the force you generate through your bodyweight transfer and strength.
* You can check out these guides if you need to work on your speed and strength in order to make you a better hitter. Hitting hard comes down to the age old formula of ‘force = mass x acceleration’ and both these guides are focused on those aspects of the game.
In any case, the key is to time it so that you hit him in the center of the chest with your shoulder. This can be tough on a moving target, and so this is where the practice comes in. It also takes some hockey sense, as the better positioned you are, the more opportunities you’ll get to land a good hit.
When approaching an opponent from the side, you can choose to either bump him shoulder-to-shoulder – again driving the energy through your legs and up through your shoulder – or you can try cutting in front of him a little bit in order to turn and drive your shoulder towards the middle of his chest. Both methods are effective, but sometimes you aren’t able to catch-up, so a shoulder-to-shoulder bump will have to do.
This leads us to the next important aspect of bodychecking like a pro.
Speed is crucial - While size does matter, speed matters even more. There are tons of small players that can really hurt bigger players due to their sheer speed and flawless timing. If you can manage to practice and get your timing down, adding some extra speed to your skating can really make you a lethal hitter.
One thing many amateur players mistakenly do is slow down right before they get to their target. This is wrong! When you’re about to hit someone, your goal should be to drive through that person – you shouldn’t stop skating until you’re about a foot or two in front of him. This allows you to build up the most speed possible, and in turn transfer that speed into force seconds before impact.
Work on your technique the next time you’re out on the ice.
That’s it for Part I. Check back for Part II and Part III within the next few days!