How to Improve Your Change of Direction Speed

If you watch a hockey game, it quickly becomes evident that the average time a hockey player skates at full speed at any time during the game is for less than five seconds followed by a change in speed or direction. This is not to say that hockey is not a very fast-paced game when played at the elite level. Hockey is about quick, explosive movements and efficient change of direction. The best skaters are able to quickly turn, pivot, shift laterally or delay, creating time and space to get open or make a play. Elite skaters have developed high levels of strength, power and quick reaction time—which all contribute to agility. Agility is the ability to quickly and efficiently change direction.

An efficient hockey-specific training program is based on understanding the demands of the game of hockey. Speed is one of the important skills of the game, but top speed is rarely reached—and when it is, it’s almost never maintained for very long before a player needs to change direction. As a result, the ability to change direction rapidly is much more desirable than simply being fast in a straight line.

At, you’ll find multiple exercises to help improve your change of direction speed. A few of our favorites include:

  1. Lateral Agility Drill: Set up 3 cones all 5 meters apart. Start at the center cone. Sprint towards 1 of the end cones, touch the ground in front of the cone, quickly change directions and sprint to other end cone, touch the ground and change directions and sprint back past center cone. If you have a partner, have them call out the starting direction (left or right) to start the drill.

  2. Lateral Shuffle Partner Shadow: Start by facing your partner and make sure you have 10 yards of unobstructed space. Laterally shuffle side-to-side while your partner tries to shadow for 20–30 seconds. Don’t let the simplicity of this exercise fool you as both athletes will be working hard during this exercise!

  3. Short Shuttle: Set up cones or markers at 0-5-10-15 and 20 yards (or meters). Sprint to each marker, touch the ground in front of the cone and back to starting marker. Make sure to turn towards the marker with each change of direction. To add competition to this drill, have your partner race you from the other side of the cones. One set of this drill will feel like a tough hockey shift!

For appropriate sets/reps and rest period prescriptions, please click here.

Work on your change of direction speed during your off-ice training and watch how your ability to maneuver on the ice improves. See the Lateral Agility Drill here.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Dr. Chad Moreau for this story. Moreau has trained hockey players from youth players all the way up to NHL players and Olympic champions. He is well educated in the biomechanics of the sport, which makes his off-ice hockey training workouts specific to the game of hockey. Watch for his tips in this space and check out HockeyOT, a comprehensive, personalized dryland training program on the web.
The Colorado Avalanche and are trademarks of the Colorado Avalanche Hockey Team, Inc. NHL and the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup are registered trademarks and the NHL Shield and NHL Conference logos are trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 2008 Colorado Avalanche and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.