Offseason Hockey Conditioning

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There are a lot of sports that are behind the curve when it comes to strength and conditioning.

When you hear lifting weights in the summer, what sport do you think of? Most would say football.

Football players are easy to give the benefits of training for because most parents and athletes accept that during the offseason they do not play football; they lift and run.

Other sports are slowly but surely coming into the forefront with things like this. Hockey in the middle of the pack because a lot of players sort of get offseason training but sometimes not really.

That extremely clear sentence means that people realize that they have to train for hockey but few are willing to make the sacrifices and commitment for it.

Too many parents and coaches have turned hockey into a year round sport. Most kids are back on the ice and competing in September, if not August. The season usually goes until March/April. That is a 7-9 month season.

Hockey players really only get 3-4 months of not playing any real hockey but don’t worry, we have a cornucopia of summer leagues, camps, and clinics to make sure they play year round.

Year round hockey is one of the biggest things that USA Hockey is trying to prevent with their American Development Model. But what do they know?

The offseason is a good time for athletes to train to be prepared to hit the ice again in the fall. If they are not learning new skills off of the ice, then what are they really learning by non-stop skating?

When it comes to conditioning, the summer is the perfect time to build a base level of conditioning.

We have three energy systems:

  • Aerobic- lower intensity, short rest periods, longer duration (>3 minutes)
  • Glycolytic- moderate intensity, rest, and duration (90-120 seconds)
  • ATP-PC- high intensity, long rest, short duration (6-10 seconds)

All three of these energy systems have to work together to allow a hockey player to succeed.

The glycolytic system allows and athlete to make it through their whole shift, which is why athletes seem gassed after about 45 seconds. The ATP- PC system allows them to sprint when they need to get to a loose puck, get around a defender, or get back on defense.

The aerobic system needs to be developed to have enough juice throughout the game.

Training aerobically (and glycolytically to an extent) should be the conditioning focus of the offseason. The short duration stuff usually comes in the weight room and also during preseason training.

Now here we get into a hockey sacred cow- the bike. A lot of hockey players think that all they need to do to get ready is ride the bike for a half hour or something.

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That can be helpful but it is not the only tool we have. I have also determined that hockey players want to ride the bike in lieu of doing any actual work. They would much rather phone it in on the bike for 30 minutes. That is what I really do not like.

Using the bike can be a good method to develop and maintain aerobic training but it cannot be the only thing.

We can use intervals to help develop the aerobic system as well. They utilize either low intensity, low rest periods, and long total duration.

Some of my favorite aerobic interval circuits are as follows:

  1. 1 minute on, <10s transition

I like this interval because the only rest is to get to the next station. I like using jump rope, mb slams, battle ropes, and maybe even sled pushes for this.

  1. 30:30

The rest period here is even with the work bout. It gives the athletes enough of a chance to continue but not enough to fully recover. Here we will use KB swings, slideboard, heavier sled pushes, and farmer carries for this interval.

  1. 20 on, 10 off for 4 minutes.

This is the interval used in the tabata protocol but that is a word that has been abused in the fitness industry. The rest is incomplete and the interval is long enough to get some good work in. The intensity is a bit higher here than in the first one and sometimes I only pick one exercise to repeat 8 times.

Aerobic training is a good foundation to build other hockey skills for in the offseason. The best part is that it does not have to be long slow distance running or biking all of the time.

It is already July so a lot of these practices should already be in place but you can still start them out now and get some solid training in.

Also, for hockey players. I wrote an E-Book titled Slideboard Training for Hockey. This talks about using the slideboard as a means of training for hockey players. It includes a 12 week conditioning protocol to help get hockey players in shape for the fall. Did I mention that the book is completely FREE? Get your copy now!