Training Secrets From the U.S. Women's National Hockey Team

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Going for Gold

U.S. Women's National Hockey Team

AFP / Getty

This February, the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team will take the ice in PyeongChang, South Korea, at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games—and after claiming silver in the past two Games (including a heartbreaking loss to Team Canada in 2014), they won’t be satisfied with anything less than gold. But the team has something else to prove.

“People are often surprised about just how physical and fast women’s hockey is. It’s often even more technical than the guys’ game, because you have to get possession of the puck without necessarily laying someone out on the ice,” notes forward Hilary Knight, who is competing in her third Olympics. The team has been training and playing together for months to hone their skills.

Here’s what you can learn from their routine to sharpen your own game, even if you’ve never set skate on ice

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Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight of the U.S. Women's National Hockey Team

Harry How / Getty

About the Player:

Position: Forward

Hometown: Sun Valley, ID

Knight is one of the best female hockey players on the planet. After taking silver at both the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games, she and her team have their hearts set on winning it all. “It’s been 20 years since the U.S. women’s team has won gold, and skill-wise this is the best team I’ve been a part of. I think this is the year we can make it happen.”

Her Training Focus:

“Hockey is a super dynamic, full-body activity, but everything comes to the core, so that becomes the foundation of any workout,” says Knight, who includes plenty of medicine ball drills and plyometrics in her regular routine.

Move She Loves to Hate:

Key core moves include rollouts, planks, and rows, but Knight has a particular fondness for dead bugs. “If you do them the right way, they are very challenging.”

Steal Her Meal:

“I have a smoothie once or twice a day—they’re a great addition to my diet and help me get in the right nutrition.” A favorite combo includes Chobani Greek yogurt, mixed berries, bananas, spinach, and chia seeds.

Pregame Ritual:

“I have oatmeal on game day. Then I take a nap before we play, listen to music, and drink some water or Red Bull. I also chew a lot of bubble gum!”

Off-ice Entertainment:

“I’m a busybody, so it’s hard for me to stay still,” Knight says. When she’s home in Idaho, you’ll often find her whitewater rafting, mountain biking, swimming, playing tennis, or otherwise enjoying the outdoors.

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Megan Duggan

Meghan Duggan of the U.S. Women's National Hockey Team

Harry How / Getty

About the Player:

Position: Forward

Hometown: Danvers, MA

Duggan has captained the U.S. team at the past three International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championships, but the two-time Olympian is also a leader off the ice, helping bring more recognition to the women’s game. Last spring, she and her fellow national team players threatened a well-publicized boycott of the IIHF Championship unless USA Hockey increased its support of the women’s game. A deal was struck, and the women went on to dominate the world championship tournament.

Her Training Focus:

“You need a lot of leg strength, so we’ll do deep sits and other drills that help condition the legs in a low squat,” Duggan says. Balance is also important, and Duggan includes a variety of single-leg drills in her routine, as well as slide-board work and Airdyne bike sprints.

Move She Loves to Hate:

Ball curls. “This is a great glute-hamstring activation exercise. It may look simple, but it’s really tough!”


At age 30, Duggan says recovery is an important part of her conditioning. She’ll often do self-massage with lacrosse balls, foam rollers, and other tools.

Steal Her Meal:

“I’m passionate about what I eat, and I try to avoid anything that comes in a bag or a box.” One of her favorite meals is a morning power bowl with greens, avocado, and eggs.

Team player:

“I’ve been a part of team sports for much of my life, and it’s taught me so much about being accountable to others and to myself,” Duggan says. The standoff with USA Hockey last spring wasn’t just about improving the current team’s status, she notes. “We were making a stand for the girls and young women who are coming up behind us.”

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Alex Rigsby

Alex Rigsby of the U.S. Women's National Hockey Team

Ron Jenkins / Getty

About the Player:

Position: Goalie

Hometown: Delafield, WI

Rigsby is heading to her first Olympic Games this winter, but she’s been part of the national team for the past four IIHF World Championships. “It’s amazing to be around these incredible athletes—we are working hard to win the gold.”

Her Training Focus:

Off-season, Rigsby can be found in the weight room five days a week for up to two hours a day, with a two-day lower-body and one-day upper-body split. She also does a “strongwoman” circuit, including sled pushes, heavy ropes, tire flips, and kettlebell exercises. “As a goalie, you’re constantly moving, so it’s important to get your conditioning in.”

Move She Loves to Hate:

Deadlifts. “It’s a great exercise but pretty challenging because you need good stability along with strength.”

Mental Edge:

“Goalies need to keep a positive vibe and just focus on being present and taking it one shot at a time. If a goal scores, you can’t dwell on it—you have to move forward.”

Steal Her Meal:

“I love to grill, so for me the perfect meal is steak, salmon, or chicken with a side salad and some veggies, plus some rice or quinoa.”

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