Large legs allow you to skate faster and shoot the puck harder.
A quick glance at elite hockey players and you'll immediately notice their muscular thighs and hips. Muscular legs are beneficial because they help to explosively move about the ice. Your leg muscles will increase in size when placed under a level of stress that causes them to become overloaded. Although hockey does provide an adequate amount of stress, advanced hockey players will often adapt and need to incorporate additional weight training and plyometrics to continue to build explosive power in their legs.
Causes of Muscle Size Increases
In order for hockey to elicit leg muscle increases, the sport has got to provide enough stress to break down and damage your muscle fibers. When this occurs, the muscles heal back and simultaneously increase in size. The intensity and volume of hockey is often adequate for breaking down the muscle fibers and thus causing an increase in leg and hip muscle size in novice and average players. Although muscle-building is commonly attributed to high-volume weight-training workouts, according to Pete McCall of the American Council on Exercise, recent research suggests exercises that involve moving in a variety of directions and at different velocities, such as the demands of hockey, are the best way to recruit more muscle fibers and thus bring about muscle size gains.
For Advanced Hockey Athletes
Although hockey players will initially see increases in leg and hip size, the muscles will adapt and eventually reach a plateau. The stress from hockey no longer overloads the leg muscles. Advanced and long-term hockey players whose legs have adapted to the stress of playing hockey will often need to incorporate additional training methods to see further muscle gains. Additional training with the intent of bringing about further muscle-size gains means there's a greater potential for more speed and explosiveness on the ice.
If you're interested in further building size and power in your legs, incorporate additional weight-training and explosive-exercise workouts. Certified strength and conditioning specialist Eric MacLean recommends that hockey players participate in a training regimen specifically designed to bring about muscle size gains during the offseason. A workout designed to bring about muscle mass includes completing three to five weight-training exercises per muscle group, with each exercise being completed for four to five sets of eight to 10 reps.
Genetic Causes of Bigger Muscles
How big your leg muscles get partly depends on your physical activity, but also on your genetic makeup. Everyone possesses two types of muscle fibers, but the proportion of those two types varies between individuals and is dictated by genetics. Type I, slow-twitch fibers are responsible for handling slower, endurance activities and offer a leaner appearance. Type II, fast-twitch fibers are larger and are able to perform explosive, maximal-force contractions like those that are required when playing hockey. Those who possess a greater proportion of Type II fibers will naturally have a more muscular appearance. Because of the performance advantage of having greater numbers of larger, Type II fibers, athletes with muscular legs are often attracted to explosive sports such as hockey.