Skating can hurt your performance.

The Importance of Getting Off The Ice And Into The Gym

I put out a question on Facebook and Twitter last week asking how many of you skipped your off-ice hockey training in favour of getting on the ice in the off-season?

In other words how many of you would blow-off your gym workout in favour of a scrimmage or pick up?

Quite a few of you confessed that you did and one of  you suggested that I write a post on the importance of off-ice hockey training and why it must not be skipped during the off-season.  I thought it was a great idea, so here we go…

Let me start by saying that I fully appreciate that not all of you have an off-season, for some of you hockey is a year-round endeavor.  If you are under the age of 23 and still trying to make it to the next level, this is a huge mistake and I will tell you why in a second.

If however you are over 23 and just love playing the game, then it is less of a mistake, but I would still like to see you do some off-ice training throughout the year and take a mini off-season or two every year (even just 2-3 weeks off the ice would be great).

I also appreciate that some of you are very happy with how you play.  You are not trying to get drafted, so you don’t see the point.  I’ll explain why you should in a second.

A Window To Get Better

The off-season is a huge window of time in which to make yourself better.  You have probably all seen the guy or gal on your team who comes back after training like crazy in the off-season fitter, faster and stronger.  It is like someone complete transformed their body and their game.

You cannot put in the volume or intensity of the work necessary to make these dramatic transformations during the season.

Your skill can develop and if you are lucky, you will keep your strength, speed and stamina through the season, but unless you come into the season in miserable shape, it is going to be tough to make dramatic improvements.

Strength & Power

Resistance training like lifting weights makes you stronger when done properly. Explosive training like Olympic lifting and plyometric training transfer that strength into speed and first step quickness.  You cannot build fill your envelope of strength and speed solely on the ice.  There simply is not enough overload.


A well designed program that includes ground based training where the player must stabilize the torso while generating force and power from the legs and arms, will help develop a kind of functional stability that will then be fine-tuned on the ice because nothing replaces the instability of being on skates.


Unless you are fortunate enough to have your own ice time where you can do what you please, you are not getting the highest quality stamina training possible.

There are a few scenarios, the one where only seven skaters show up for the scrimmage and you are pretty much on the ice non-stop and the one where 17 skaters show up and you are sitting on the bench most of the time.

In the first scenario, you will be exhausted for sure, but you are probably not skating as hard or as fast as you would in a typical game, at least not after the first 20-minutes.

In the second scenario, you are getting on the ice and you are working hard, but there is not enough volume there to make dramatic improvements.

With off-ice hockey training, you know exactly what the volume and intensity will be, it is in your complete control.

I don’t care about being better

For those of you who don’t care about being better, I get it.  You play hockey for the love of the game. It is pure joy to you and you have no further expectations than that.

I still urge you to take time a way from the ice (my preference would be two months) and either play another sport or do some dryland hockey training.

Either of these options will help get you out of the overuse patterns that develop over time with hockey:

  • Hip flexor tightness
  • Hamstring tightness
  • Asymmetrical t-spine rotation
  • Lumbar flexion
  • Cervical spine extension

Just give your body a break from these postures and let it get back to neutral for a while.  Add in a little mobility and stability work and you will could be preventing a groin strain that is just waiting to happen.

Add to that some basic strength exercise for hockey players and you may even find that you are having more fun playing the game that you love when you step back on the ice.  It does not take much.

You can still skate

I’m not saying you should stay off the ice completely.  I think it is great if you can get on the ice a couple of times per week to work on your power skating, shooting, speed or stamina.  I think the off-season is an ideal time to get technical coaching to make you a better skater.

Just don’t blow off your off-ice hockey training in favour of bush league pick up games that dull your skills rather than sharpen them.

See you tomorrow or Wednesday for your Exercise Of The Week (EOTW).

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