10 In-Season Training Tips for Hockey Players

If you want to have the best season of your life, you're going to have to keep training during the season. And not just any training, but the right training.

From a hockey performance coach's perspective, when we are talking about in-season program design, we are primarily periodizing it to maintain and build upon the same physical qualities we gained in the offseason.

More specifically, we are talking about maintaining and/or improving upon your hypertrophy, strength and power

Compared to in-season program design, I have much more leeway to train hockey players extremely hard during the offseason. Why? Because performance isn't the main priority: Adaptation is.

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From a hockey performance coach's perspective, when we are talking about in-season program design, we are primarily periodizing it to maintain and build upon the same physical qualities we gained in the offseason.

More specifically, we are talking about maintaining and/or improving upon your hypertrophy, strength and power

Offseason vs. In-Season

Compared to in-season program design, I have much more leeway to train hockey players extremely hard during the offseason. Why? Because performance isn't the main priority: Adaptation is.

"What's the main priority during the season, then? Isn't it still adaptation?"

No!

Performance is always No. 1 during the season.

Do not train with the same type of intensity, frequency and volume as you did during the offseason, because if you do, your performance on the ice will likely suffer.

However, you've got to strike a balance.

A lot of hockey players don't train during the season because they think it fatigues them too much, but this is only true if you are running a hockey training program not specifically designed for the demands of the season.

A true in-season program carefully monitors fatigue and works extensively to ensure you have your best season ever.

You want to leave the really grueling workouts and programs for the offseason. The offseason is where the most ground is gained in physical development. A well-designed offseason can simultaneously improve a hockey player's size, strength, conditioning, mobility, agility and speed when done properly.

If players are slacking off in the offseason, they can't expect to get better over time, because it is actually during the offseason when the best physical progress is best made.

As a memory tool, I want you to think about the offseason and the season like progression vs. expression.

The offseason is the best time of the year to make the largest and greatest physical development progress (because you have the schedule and availability to train as hard as possible). Come the season, you are able to express this newfound ability and skill.

  • Offseason = Progression in all hockey-specific performance qualities.
  • In-season = Expression of all hockey-specific performance qualities.

Each offseason, you increase your physical ability and are therefore better able to express your skills and even learn new skills out on the ice (for example, if you improved your hip mobility this offseason now you are able to add Mohawk turns to your toolkit out on the ice).

Picture it like taking one step up the hockey performance staircase each offseason.

If you don't train in the offseason, you're not going to be stepping up those stairs, and you're never getting closer to your peak hockey performance potential.

  • Stalled progression = Stalled expression. It's really as simple as that.

Training is your only job in the offseason, so you should be able make leaps and bounds of hockey specific progress with the right programming.

How Should Hockey Players Train In-Season?

If you're like most hockey players right now, you are focused on the season because it's coming up real soon (and for some of you, it's already here!)

What you have to know is that when setting up your programming, it's vital to understand and be aware of what's known as "physical quality decay rates." That is, the minimum effective dose of training volume/intensity that's required to maintain to what you gained during the offseason.

For example, how much do I have to lift to maintain my size during the season?

How heavy should I go if I want to maintain my strength during the season?

How about my explosive speed? What should I do?

Luckily, with advancements in sports science knowledge, we can answer these questions quite confidently now. Here's how it breaks down in a nutshell:

Hypertrophy: Muscle size can be conserved indefinitely with only strength training and zero hypertrophy work. That is, training with loads greater than 75% of your 1-Rep-Maximum.

Strength: Strength can also be held indefinitely with only strength training and zero hypertrophy work. That is, training with loads greater than 75% of your 1-Rep-Maximum. Additionally, peak strength levels can be maintained during a tapering phase for up to three months. So if your in-season program design includes a tapering and peaking phase prior to playoffs, you now know what you should be looking for.

Speed: Without speed training exposure, speed will begin to decline after only two weeks.

Power: Power output rates without power training exposure will begin to decline after only two weeks, as well

So, what does all this mean?

If we incorporate loads with 75%+ of our 1-Rep-Maximum throughout the season, we can maintain both the strength and size we built during the offseason.

This is incredible knowledge to apply straight away, because these play a huge factor in things like stride length, how strong you are on the puck, shot power and injury prevention.

But, what we also know is that without frequent exposure to speed and power work, you can begin to lose those physical characteristic qualities within two weeks.

These two qualities are by far the most "sensitive" to physical decay rates, and unless we program properly for that, you can begin to slow down even within the first month of your season.

Let me ask you something, have you ever intuitively noticed that as a hockey player yourself?

You train your butt off all summer and come into tryouts or camps like a blazing fire. Then, perhaps only a month or two later, you just don't feel like you're at the same level of speed or strength.

You think that this is just "feeling the grind" of the season, and although that's partly true, more accurately, these are physical characteristic decay rates being played out in real life.

What's funny to me is that many hockey players avoid training altogether during the season because they feel "the grind" too much, yet, "the grind" often represents an athlete that isn't training enough—not training too much!

"The grind" is often a decrease in performance due to poor in-season training program design.

Now, as a disclaimer: Physical decay rates don't mean a thing unless you are eating and recovering properly.

Always remember:

You aren't what you can do. You only are what you can effectively recover from.

If your recovery from games, practices and training is sub-optimal, then all of your characteristics can begin to decay regardless of your training strategy.

A fatigue-debt is a fatigue-debt no matter which way you spin it, and debts of fatigue gone unpaid will result in overtraining and eventual burnout.

In the same vein, if you aren't eating the right diet, then all of your characteristics can begin to decay as well (again, regardless of training strategy).

Recovery and diet always need to be in place; they are the foundation for which all things hockey performance rely on. I talk about hockey-specific recovery more here if you need a refresher.

Emphasizing recovery means you are prioritizing hockey performance because you will be entering each game and practice as your best self rather than an overtrained version of you.

Knowing this, if all is where it should be regarding nutrition and recovery (which it should be if you're serious about hockey), these research-based decay rates I listed above are incredibly accurate.

When mapping out your in-season hockey program design and periodization strategy to optimize performance and minimize decay, here are some quick and effective guidelines you can use right away.

10 In-Season Hockey Training Tips

1. Ensure loads of 75%+ 1RM are included in every in-season strength training phase all season long to maintain both strength and hypertrophy.

2. Ensure these loads are distributed across total body musculature, as decay rates are muscle specific. For example, squatting 75%+ 1RM weights will not do a whole lot to preserve chest musculature.

3. Strength training frequency should be 1-2 sessions per week based on dryland conditioning and on-ice level of activity to ensure proper fatigue management and recovery. I prefer two days per week of weightlifting during the season, and find my hockey athletes perform best in that zone.

4. I prefer my athletes to avoid performing in-season workouts on the day of a game or the day before a game.

5. In-season training sessions should not last longer than 60 minutes to optimize training quality and recovery. Much can be accomplished in 30-45 minutes.

6. The big compound movements should always be present in your foundational in-season programming. These include horizontal press variations, vertical press variations, horizontal pull variations, vertical pull variations, knee flexion variations, hip extension variations, well-rounded core programming, and weighted carries.

7. Power and speed should be trained weekly throughout the whole season, incorporating both vertical power-based exercises and horizontal power-based exercises.

8. Aerobic conditioning does not need to be trained in your dryland work, as your in-season on-ice exposure maintains this quite efficiently. Having said that, anaerobic conditioning needs must still be met in your dryland drilling if you want to have fresh legs all game long.

9. Mobility, as well as special skills (coordination, reaction time, balance, puck tracking, etc.), can and should be used all season long as forms of hockey specific active recovery methods.

10. You should be using a 2 Reps-In-Reserve (RIR) strategy all season long when it comes to your load selection. Meaning, if a program calls for you to perform 10 reps in a set of a given exercise, I want you to pick a weight that you could do a max of 12 reps with, but only do 10 reps. Thus, you leave 2 reps-in-reserve. Do this all season long for all of your strength training workouts (I discussed this extensively here).

BONUS TIP: Follow hockey-specific game day nutrition guidelines, you would be amazed at how much this impacts both your performance and recovery. I wrote a complete guide on it over here for you.

In-Season Hockey Player Schedule

This is a sample of what a hockey player's training schedule might look like in-season.

  • DAY 1: Strength Training
  • DAY 2: Mobility Circuit
  • DAY 3: Resistance-Based Conditioning
  • DAY 4: Mobility Circuit
  • DAY 5: Coordination, Balance, And Reaction Time
  • DAY 6: Off (or) Game
  • DAY 7: Off (or) Game

In-Season Hockey Goalie Schedule

This is a sample of what a hockey goalie's training schedule might look like in-season.

  • DAY 1: Total Body Strength And Power Circuit
  • DAY 2: Mobility Circuit
  • DAY 3: Total Body Strength And Power Circuit
  • DAY 4: Mobility Circuit
  • DAY 5: Coordination, Balance, Reaction Time, And Puck Tracking
  • DAY 6: Off (or) Game
  • DAY 7: Off (or) Game

In-Season Youth Hockey Player Schedule

This is a sample of what a youth hockey player's training schedule might look like in-season.

  • DAY 1: Bodyweight Resistance-Based Conditioning
  • DAY 2: Mobility
  • DAY 3: Bodyweight Resistance-Based Conditioning
  • DAY 4: Mobility
  • DAY 5: Coordination, Balance, And Reaction Time
  • DAY 6: Off (or) Game
  • DAY 7: Off (or) Game

In-Season Hockey Player Strength Workout

This is an example of what a specific strength training workout during the season might look like for a hockey player.

A1: Vertical jumps: 3 x 3 with 10 secs rest
A2: Broad jumps: 3 x 3 with 90 secs rest

B1: BB front squat: 3 x 5 to 7 with 10 secs rest
B2: Wide pronated grip pull-ups: 3 x 5 to 7 with 90 secs rest

C1: BB good mornings: 3 x 5 to 7 with 10 secs rest
C2: Chest supported DB row: 3 x 5 to 7 with 90 secs rest

D1: Standing alternating neutral grip DB shoulder press: 3 x 5 to 7/side with 10 secs rest
D2: One hand on medicine ball offset push-ups: 5 to 7/side with 90 secs rest

E: Elbow on knee DB external rotations: 3 x 5 to 7/side with 60 secs rest

In-Season Hockey Goalie Strength Workout

This is an example of what a specific strength training workout during the season might look like for a hockey goalie.

A: Jump back vertical jumps: 5 x 3 with 60 secs rest

B1: DB goblet squat: 4 x 5 with 30-60 secs rest
B2: BB good mornings: 4 x 5 with 30-60 secs rest
B3: Flat DB bench press: 4 x 5 with 30-60 secs rest
B4: BB Pendlay row: 4 x 5 with 30-60 secs rest
B5: Elbow on knee external rotations: 4 x 5/side with 120 secs rest

C: Half-kneeling lateral hop: 3 x 3/side with 60 secs rest

"A" and "C" are both performed in a standard straight-set fashion. The B-Series is a strength circuit. Perform all exercises back-to-back with 30-60 seconds of rest between, and then take 120 seconds of rest at the end of the full circuit before starting your next round.

In-Season Youth Hockey Bodyweight Workout

A1: Skater bounds: 3 x 3/side with 0 secs rest
A2: Alternating anterior reaches: 3 x 5/side with 0-30 secs rest

B1: Close-grip push-ups: 3 x 10 with 0 secs rest
B2: Alternating forward reaching lunges: 3 x 10/side with 0-30 secs rest

C1: Superman reps: 3 x 10 with 0 secs rest
C2: Bicycle abs: 3 x 10/side with 0-30 secs rest

D: Crossover step-ups: 3 x 5/side with 30-60 secs rest

*To perform the above supersets (except for "D" as it is a standalone exercise), you are to perform all of the reps for the first exercise, then take no rest before going to the second exercise and completing all of the reps there, then rest 0-30 seconds before repeating the superset for three total rounds. Complete all three rounds of a superset before moving on to the next one.

Have Your Best Season

The above is proper in-season hockey strength and conditioning training program design 101.

If you want to have the best season of your life, you're going to have to keep training during the season. And not just any training, but the right training.

Now you just need to put in the work and apply it!

Photo Credit: GoodLifeStudio/iStock

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Topics: HOCKEY | IN-SEASON TRAINING