Unveiling the secrets of your off season hockey training.

I planned the topic for this post last week, but the timeing could not be better since yesterday I got an email from a hockey player asking if he should train using bodyweight exercises like chin ups and push ups or if he should lift heavy weights.  The answer is YES!  

Off season hockey training is similar to building a house.  When you visualize the house, you think of the finished product right?  You think of the big screen TV in your new media room with the pool table in the background, you definitely do not think about the muddy mess of digging out the foundation.  Although digging the foundation is not the sexy part of the job, failure to give it the attention it deserves will result in failure of the overall project.  Can you see how this is similar to off season hockey training?  Everyone wants more speed and more power, but if you do not take the time to build yourself up from the foundation up, then all your time in the gym may be contributing to an injury down the road.  Here are the areas you need to address: 

  1. Mobility – if you cannot do a perfect bodyweight squat – without rounding your back or lifting your heels – I mean PERFECT.  Then how do you expect to build strong legs, because if you do not have the mobility to perform a perfect bodyweight squat, then you have no business at all putting a barbell across your shoulders and performing a loaded squat.  Can you say disc injury??
  2. Stability – maybe you have good range of motion, but do you have the endurance and muscle activation to stabilize your body as you apply force.  Can you stabilize force produced by your legs and hips as it is transferred through your torso?  Do you have any weak links in your stabilizers.  Your outer hip muscles may be strong from skating, what about your inner hip muscles (groin muscles)?  What is your posture like?  Are your shoulder rounded forward?  Does your chin poke forward?  You need to correct that posture before you start loading up on push ups or bench press or you are going to develop shoulder pain.  Make friends with you core planks, scapular squeezes and hip adduction exercises.
  3. Strength – Now your body is moving, your stabilizers have some endurance and intelligence so you are ready to add on some muscle and then build your maximum strength.  Maximizing strength is one of the keys to building power.  More force applied over the same amount of time will result in increased power production.  You must remember to use perfect technique – training only to technical failure (the point at which you cannot perform perfect reps).  When you get into your strength training, please do me a favour and stay away from the machines!   Use dumbbells, barbells, the TRX, cable columns or resistance bands.
  4. Speed – Now you get to worry about going fast.  Your body can move, it can stabilize, it is strong, so you just need to teach it to apply the force quickly and explosively.  Please do not confuse power and speed training with your endurance training.  Keep the volume very low, but the intensity high.  Doing 20 x 40 yard sprint is not speed training for a hockey player, that is stamina training.
  5. Stamina – You need to train your body to be explosive even when fatigued.  Stamina training teaches your body to clear the waste products of exercise a little more efficiently and it teaches your brain that although you are tired and your legs are burning, you can still keep working.  When I talk stamina for hockey players I am not talking about a 5 mile run.  Remember a hockey player needs to go hard for 35-45 seconds and then rest for 90 seconds before hitting it again.  Medium duration, high intensity intervals are the key.

Think of each element as a training phase – Foundation (movement & stability), Functional Strength and  Power.  You will perform resistance training during each phase starting in a higher rep range of 12-15 reps and then gradually lowering the reps and bumping up the weight as you progress through the phases.  In the power phase you may only be doing 2-4 reps of your main power exercises.  You will also do cardio training throughout the entire off season, but the intensity will increase as you go through the summer and the duration will decrease.  Your core and mobility training will also progress through the entire off season, you will not stop working on it after the first phase.  

So there are many variables that need attention to build you into the dominating hockey player that you want to be.  You cannot pick and choose the areas you wish to train, you need to work on it all if you want to be the best player you can be and if you want to minimize your risk of injury.  So the take home message: 

  • be consistent
  • train like a hockey player not a body builder
  • have a progressive plan and execute the plan
  • you cannot be your best with four weeks of training – start sooner than later

Happy training.

P.S. if you do not have access to a qualified strength and conditioning coach or a gym with all the latest gimmicks and gadgets,but you still want to be the best player you can be, then ake a look at these detailed off ice training programs.  There is an off ice training program for goalies and one for skaters.  Completely done for you, no guess work required!  Get ready to go forth and dominate!   All for less than the price of a hockey stick.

Click here for more information on Off Ice Training for Skaters
Click here for more information on Off Ice Training for Hockey Goalies