March and April are 2 very important months for hockey players.
It is also the most exciting time of the year (for fans) because the NHL playoffs start. I am not sure there is a week more exciting than the first week of first round matchups.
Emotions run high and it is intense.
Most hockey players on the other hand have finished their seasons.
Even though the season is over, die hard hockey players really never stop.
It is important to make sure that their efforts are directed the right way.
This post will cover only about 4-6 weeks of time after the season, but it is an essential opportunity to take advantage of.
Right after the season, the teams may have been in playoffs, championships, tournaments, etc. The season usually ends with many games in a short amount of time.
It is an exciting time but it leaves the players spent.
I think it is important for the athletes to get away from the sport for a week or two. They should enjoy a little bit of time off as long as they are not in the abyss of the basement playing nonstop video games.
They should still be active but they should be having fun. Pickup games of anything are good for the players to escape the hockey mentality.
This short time period allows for the kids to get refreshed and some rest before they can start training for the next year.
Post Season Training
Post season training is another relatively short, but essential time period for athletes to go through.
The goal of this time of the year is to recover, re-pattern the body, and learn new skills. This is all in preparation for the off season, when training can pay some serious dividends.
This is done by foam rolling, lacrosse ball work, dynamic warm ups, and movement outside of the game of hockey. Playing one sport for a whole season causes the body to move in a predictable way.
Hockey relies on the glutes and quads especially as the primary muscle groups for the sport. This means that those muscles are going to be overused pretty bad.
Muscles like the hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves, are in a constant shortened position and may need some special attention.
The nature of hockey (and most sport) is that one side of the body dominates. People do not shoot right and left handed. There are hundreds of examples of this and some reversal of this asymmetry needs to take place.
There are numerous measures that take place in order to start correcting the imbalances. Working on good movement patterns is the best way to accomplish this.
Another way would be to use uneven programming.
A good example of this would be to use rotational med ball throws. This exercise mimics the shooting movement. It can be programmed to incorporate 3 sets of non dominant throws compared to 1 set of dominant sided throws.
This will help to bring some neutrality to the body and is only used in a short time period.
-Learn new skills
This also includes relearning old skills. I am also not speaking about sport specific skills.
This can be to make that all of the athletes are performing the exercises properly. Post season is a time where technique is paramount over intensity.
If you are going to be using complex movements throughout the off season, this is when they should be learning those exercises.
Olympic lifts are an example if they will be performing them. Use the post season time to make sure that they are doing them correctly without weight, so that they can add the weight during the off season.
They are not going to learn everything in just four weeks but they can learn a base movement and then be progressed throughout the off season.
For instance, think of a lunge pattern. During the post season that can do back split squats. When the off season comes it can be progressed to reverse lunges, forward lunges, or walking lunges. By teaching them the base movement first, they will be able to advance as time goes on.
Post season training does not need to be easy but it should be simple. Working to reverse some of the season’s wears and tears are the number 1 priority. After that, the program should be designed to best prepare the athletes to make off season gains. The off season is the longest time to train to get results.
Do not try to rush hockey players into intense training when they have not even had time to recover from the last season.