Don’t Fall Into This Hockey Training Trap

As Hockey Training continues to grow its reach in the strength and conditioning world, I find myself often answering the same type of question over and over, but communicated through a different way…

“Hey Dan, I do 50 lunges after training, is this good?”

“Coach Garner, I train total body three times a week and speed once a week, will this work?”

“Hey, I found this core workout to be strong on the puck, what do you think?”

“Coach! I have my team do your lateral agility workout once per week and we have playoffs in seven weeks, what do you think?”

What’s confusing for most people to understand is that all of these strategies can be perfectly fine for hockey performance – there is no one “magic” solution.

There are many ways in which you can find your way to hockey performance success, and this completely depends upon the “big picture” program you are on, and not the “small picture” exercise that you’re doing.

Science vs. “Things”

Programs are governed by the scientific principles of training, the methods that you choose to express the principles are up to the creator of the program. Program design is both an art and a science, and it takes a coach with a deep understanding of sports physiology to make a program that covers all of the bases for hockey excellence.

What I really want you to try and stay away from is the idea that programs and exercises are “things”

I honestly think this confuses trainers and athletes more than any other factor in learning how to properly program for hockey. When you view programs, set/rep schemes, and exercise combinations as “things” – You miss the fundamental importance of the real things that are driving progress:

Where is their total training volume, average intensity, and weekly frequency?

What’s variable (method), and what’s constant (principle)?

Does this program make sense based on your evaluation of the hockey athletes needs-analysis in combination with the scientific principles of programming?

Are you doing a workout (“thing” you saw a pro hockey player doing)? Or do you have a fully periodized plan for the next 6-Months to guarantee success?

Does this program make adherence-sense based on what’s Realistic/Fun/Flexible for this specific demographic (for example, youth training vs. NHL programming)? Or are you just trying to make something “optimal” to look cool?

I don’t say this stuff to you to give you a hard time, I’m here to give you arguably the most important lesson you could ever read about sports programming.

Using one “thing” at a time and bouncing around from one “thing” to the next could be compared to pinballing your program design and hoping that somewhere down the line you make progress. Whereas if you took the structured and periodized route, your pinballing would look more like a planned trip, and your arrival at making progress would be expected and not just wishful thinking.

Pinballing from workout to workout or exercise to exercise isn’t how we design or measure program success. Just because something looks cool on paper, or just because it has been issued a name from some East-European country does not mean it is a great program for your hockey athletes in this moment.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be…

So long as it measures up appropriately with what really matters.

I have discussed at length the importance of the primary principles of programming:

  • Specificity
  • Overload
  • Individualization
  • Recovery
  • Variation

And also, the program manipulators:

  • Volume
  • Intensity
  • Frequency

Your constants ensure long-term progress is to be expected, and your variables are what you can manipulate along the way based on the context of your goals and whether or not this is the in-season or off-season.

I have threaded these concepts into my blogs, webinars, and Q/A’s repeatedly for a reason. At Hockey Training, we create real programs for guaranteed long-term success – and not just short video clips of things we think will get likes on Instagram.

The former helps hockey athletes achieve massive success, the latter gives them something entertaining to watch for 15 seconds.

I’m not in the business of always looking cool and exciting, I’m in the business of doing what’s most impactful towards your hockey performance. Sometimes that means saying and doing things that aren’t always fun and exciting, and I’m fine with that. Those who understand true program design will respect the stance I have taken, and my readers will be the ones who stand out on the ice.

As one of my favorite strength coaches, Dan John, likes to say, “If something is important, do it every day.”

So, I like to remind you of the Big Ideas of long-term program design over and over. My goal with my programs and free content isn’t to give you a collection of “things”, my goal is to provide you real-world tactics that make sense within a long-term strategy – no pinballing in sight.

Programming for Success

Arguably the biggest mistake I see among coaches today is the confusion between tactics and strategy.

Strategy is the big picture thinking, it’s the art and science behind your programming approach.

Tactics, on the other hand, are the specific tools you use at a particular time for a particular reason.

Your strategy is your overall battle-plan for the war, and the tactics are your surprise attacks against the opponent. I want you to remove yourself from this confusion and understand that tactics accomplish a particular thing, and a strategy is a long-term plan to achieve the goal that the tactics must fall within or else they are useless.

So many coaches and hockey players get obsessed about new tactics because you can market them to sound really sexy (for example, a new BOSU ball protocol of 100 reps per session for MAXIMUM CO-ORDINATION), but this comes at the expense of missing the bigger picture.

But that’s not you anymore. You now understand that program design and periodization demand that you use the appropriate tactics within the strategy.

Now you can get what I was saying in the beginning on how all of those scenarios may be effective – but what determines whether or not those scenarios are effective is if they have taken the time to ensure their tactical approach fits into their long-term strategy in a way that’s measurable, progressive, and hockey specific.

Put another way, if you don’t have a plan for your next six months of training, and you don’t have your programs sequenced in a way to ensure that one program is always building upon the last by way of principles/methods – then I would venture to say that you’re pinballing and programming.

Pinballers do workouts they see in magazines and hope for a result, programmers do programs for guaranteed success.

Final Thoughts

To bring this one in for a landing, I want to use the analogy of going to the movie theatres.

If you ask me “Hey Coach Garner, is this workout good?”

You can compare that to going to the movie theatre, walking in a movie half-way through the show, taking a picture of the screen with your camera, and then going home and be expecting me to somehow know the characters, plot, beginning, and ending.

Your snapshot is a single workout, which may be good or bad depending on the context of your situation.

But without the whole movie set in place, the snapshot is just a “thing” and “things” aren’t guaranteed hockey success. Everything you do should be strategic and tactical, and if it’s not, you may just be a pinballer.

If you aren’t a member of one of our Hockey Training programs yet, I highly suggest signing up so that you can see real progress and consistent improvements on the ice!

About the author

Dan Garner

Dan (or Coach Garner) is the head strength and conditioning coach and nutritional specialist at HockeyTraining.com. He holds 12 of the top certifications in both training and nutrition, as well as a formal education in both functional medicine and health science. Dan specializes in hockey performance, having worked with hundreds of athletes from the youth leagues, right up to juniors, AHL, KHL, and NHL.

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