I really enjoy training hockey players.
I played hockey growing up and that gives me a little bit of an idea of the demands of the game. I also train hockey players so that they do not have to worry about being slow and injured like I was at the end of my tenure.
These athletes also bring a unique attitude to training. They seem to have a lot more fun, they’re a lot more relaxed, and they are actually pretty funny to listen to.
I see this as a contrast to people that are hardcore and need to be crushed during every session or the people that really hate training but somehow drag themselves to their sessions.
I think both of those scenarios present a good opportunity and the right coach can do some incredible work with those populations. I like to keep things loose and hockey players seem to share that mentality.
That being said, we would have problems if I let hockey players train the way that they think they should.
I do not expect them to be able to write a periodized program but their training ideas are very misleading.
Let’s get into a couple of myths that a lot of hockey players believe.
- Forearm Training
I lot of hockey players feel that forearm training will make them better stick handlers. No amount of wrist curls is going to give an athlete soft hands to dangle the defense.
Stick handling is a skill. It requires hours and hours of practice. I would argue that forearm strength or size has any bearing on ability to stick handle.
I would, however, recommend grip training. Grip training can be important for holding onto the stick, making strong shots, and poke checking.
The best way to train grip strength is to hold heavy things. Deadlifts are perfect for this cause because they mostly train the glutes and hamstrings but there is no way not to train grip strength.
A lot of athletes that do not train the deadlift enough complain about their weak grip being the limiting factor on them. I would also add in Farmer Carries to train grip strength and core stability.
- Bike= leg training
The exercise bike is the sacred cow of hockey players. They love hitting the bike and probably always will. I have heard every reason there is for using it. Some athletes think it is how to train the legs, others are trying to “flush lactic acid”, and more need to up their cardio mid-season.
There is definitely a time and a place for the bike but it does not substitute strength or power training. Strong legs help athletes skate faster, shoot harder, and last longer in a game.
Hitting the bike for a while is really only going to help with energy system work, assuming that it is even done right in the first place. Too often the bike becomes a scapegoat for a bad work ethic.
Instead, I always have my hockey players do something when they aren’t quite feeling it. They can go lighter, do less volume, or switch exercises. My plans are very flexible but if we are strength training, the bike cannot be subbed in.
- Unstable Surface training is specific to hockey
One time I had an athlete ask me if we were ever going to do any stability training. I reminded him that every day we do our core stability work plus anything on a single arm or leg helps develop stability. He then proceeded to tell me that in Sweden they used to do single leg clean and jerks on Bosu balls.
That conversation ended rather quickly.
Unstable surface training is a great tool for rehab. It causes co contraction of muscles surrounding a joint to bring strength and stability back to the area. We also like instability for core training.
When it comes to strength and power training, unstable surfaces are a poor choice. The instability will decrease force production and take the focus away from the goal of the exercise.
Training on a balance pad is also not specific to hockey. A hockey player has their foot locked in a boot, attached to a blade, which reacts to the ice. The ice does not change its shape due to the blade. With a balance pad, the surface of the pad is moving and changes to the foot. That is not what I would call specific.
Keep strength, speed, and power training to hard surfaces. The athletes will get more out of the work that they put in.
These 3 hockey training myths are just scratching the surface. I will probably present more as I think of them.
I like to think that these ideas are pretty funny and the athletes usually listen to me when I tell them why they aren’t as good as they think.
And when we are all done if someone wants to do some wrist curls, I just let them go nuts. It’s not going to make them better but it’s not going to make them worse either. I will just sit back and smile.