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Nothin' Like the Wheels Thing

How NHL All-Star Martin St. Louis builds leg strength and stays fast

LIGHTNING WINGER Martin St. Louis is one of the shortest players in the league, and also one of the fastest—thanks to his extraordinary leg strength. "I'm listed as 5'9", but I'm really 5' 7 1/2"," admits St. Louis, the NHL's MVP in 2003--04. "Being small and light [180 pounds] makes me fast—as long as I remain strong."

To enhance that strength, St. Louis, 32, worked out with trainer Ben Prentiss at a facility in Darien, Conn., last summer for an hour a day, four days a week. Then he went on to the best season of his career with 43 goals and 59 assists. This summer he's back. "I used to train longer on my own, but I was training like an amateur," says St. Louis. "Now I'm here for an hour, but that hour is intense and simulates a hockey game. You get to rest between shifts, but when you go, you go hard."

Prentiss, who also trains the Predators' Jason Arnott and the Canucks' Ryan Shannon, says, "Marty has always been extremely dedicated, but he just wasn't pointed in the right direction. We brought up the quality of his workouts, modified his diet, and there you go." Below are the lower body exercises that Prentiss, and St. Louis, swear by.


Start with 80 pounds on a barbell plus two 27 1/2-pound metal chains attached to each end of the bar. (If chains aren't available add extra weight.) Squat and grab bar with a snatch grip (wide and overhand). Jump straight up and drive hips forward while lifting bar to chest height. Land in squat position, place bar on ground. Do six sets (three reps is a set), adding 25 pounds each time. Rest 2 1/2 minutes between sets.

"Works his hamstrings, glutes, lower back and quads. All these are crucial for skating speed. The chains add varying resistance, as if he's pulling the bar out of water."


Place a barbell weighted with 185 pounds behind head and on shoulders and grip with palms forward. With chest up, bend knees into a quarter squat position and straighten quickly 10 times. Then raise heels up and down quickly 10 times. Alternate between 10 squats and 10 heel raises for 50 reps total, keeping the quick pace. Do five sets (of 50 reps each), adding 20 pounds for each set, 25 for the last set. Rest 90 seconds between sets.

"A great exercise for leg power and for ankle flexion. It keeps the Achilles strong and also prevents ankle sprains. It's also a great aerobic exercise."


Set up two 24-inch-high hurdles with a 20-inch-high box two feet beyond each hurdle. Tuck jump (start in a partial squat, then raise knees to chest) over the first hurdle. Then immediately jump onto box. Straighten. Jump down from box and immediately tuck jump over the other hurdle. Walk back to start and repeat. Do four sets, raising hurdles three inches between sets.

"This improves power because the leg muscles are stretched and contracted quickly. The key is to have minimal ground contact—you hit and ping right back up again."


Cross arms across chest and lie on stomach on glute-ham raise apparatus—standard in most gyms—with ankles under pads. Raise upper body off pad quickly until it's at 45 degrees to machine. Keep hips in. Lower body slowly for four counts. Six sets of five reps, 90 seconds between sets.

"Also for the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. By keeping the hips forward and arms crossed, the intensity on the hamstrings is increased. Hamstrings are 'fast twitch' muscles: They contract quickly and powerfully but fatigue rapidly. So it's better to do more sets and fewer reps."