Hockey players who take the time to train during the off-season will come back next season faster and stronger than those who do nothing.
Take it from me. When I was in high school, few of us actually trained in the summer. Sure, there was a bench press in my basement for 3 sets of 10, and maybe I would entertain the idea of running every once in a while. But that's about it.
A lot of hockey players in my high school played golf in the fall, so they golfed a lot in summer to get ready. The funny part is, golf is the punchline for hockey players who get eliminated from the playoffs early. For players who do not have the most talent and need every edge possible, this is a disaster.
The athletes who took it upon themselves to train appropriately usually came into the next season more prepared, and it was often a question of "how did Timmy get so much faster?"
Well, Timmy took control of his training over the summer and gave himself the best opportunity for success in the fall.
The hockey off-season is different from how it is for football. This has to do with the actual start of the seasons. A football program would prepare an athlete to compete in the second week of August. High school hockey tryouts are the Monday after Thanksgiving, coincidentally the first football day off. I realize club teams and junior teams may start a bit earlier, but the season intensifies in November.
Off-season hockey training should start about two weeks after the old season ends (middle of April) and go until the middle of September. Pre-season training begins eight weeks before the season starts.
What should hockey players focus on during the off-season to best prepare themselves for success?
Hockey players need to be able to move well to get into good skating positions. The patterns of muscle use in hockey tend to reduce mobility especially in the hips. Training needs to incorporate a good range of motion to safely and effectively build strength.
Hockey players need to target their hips, hamstrings, groin, upper back, and quads. This should all start on the foam roller. Ideally, they should hit all of these spots twice a day over the entire summer. At an absolute minimum, hockey players should roll before and after workouts.
Foam rolling reduces tension in the muscles so you can improve mobility. Four lower-body exercises I like are Groin Rockbacks, Foot-Elevated Hip Flexor Mob, Kneeling Glute Mobility, and T-Spine Extensions on a roller. Once you roll out, you need to start practicing a good range of motion, and these exercises are effective for that.
After addressing mobility, hockey players need to prioritize strength training in the summer. Strength is the foundation for all athletic activities. Skating fast, shooting a puck hard and dishing out body checks are all functions of strength. Power is determined by how quickly an athlete can display strength. More strength means more power.
Total-body strength exercises using ground-based, free-weight movements are the most beneficial for training. When I look at a hockey program, I want to see a good blend of Deadlifts, Split Squats, Lunges, hamstring work, Chin-Ups and Push-Ups.
Reps should typically be in the 3-6 range, sets should be anywhere from 3-6 as well, and the intensity should vary based on the reps.
Hockey players should develop their aerobic energy systems in the summer. I absolutely do not want my athletes going for slow, long distance runs. I want them to use intervals targeted at training their aerobic systems.
Aerobic training is characterized by short, incomplete rest periods. The intensity should be moderate. If the intensity is too high, the athletes will not be able to get through the workout with the specified rest periods. The aerobic system provides the base for other levels of conditioning that will be achieved in the pre-season.
Choices of exercises for intervals include Slideboard, Bike Sprints, Sled Pushes, Sled Drags, Walking Lunges, Jump Rope, MB Slams, KB Swings and Battle Ropes.
Two of my favorite intervals are:
- 20 seconds on, 10 second off x 8 times (20s:10s x8)
- 12 seconds on, 30 seconds off, x10
These two are short duration, but the rest times are insufficient to allow full recovery.
I also like to take three types of exercises from above. I use Jump Rope, Slideboard, and Battle Ropes. The interval is two minutes at one station, walk to the next one, and repeat until all exercises are done three times. This takes about 20 minutes and is way more effective than distance running.
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