Our full 2018 Off-Season hockey program is available here: Off-Season Domination 2018
Hockey training is extremely important for any hockey player who is looking to improve their game. While we recommend training during the hockey season as well, the off-season is where the real progress is made towards making you a skater faster and better all-around player.
Our main focus this off-season is to help you improve your speed, power, explosiveness, agility, and conditioning. You will be skating faster, shooting harder, scoring more goals, and getting noticed on the ice!
Off-Season Domination includes a full 6-Phase Hockey Training program, which will provide you with professionally designed hockey training workouts throughout the entire off-season. This includes a full strength program, with conditioning and speed workouts synergized into the program to make you dominate in all facets of the game. You will notice massive improvements in your speed, strength, power, agility, explosiveness, and conditioning!
Your goal shouldn’t be just to play well at your hockey tryouts or training camp – you want to be that standout and dominant hockey player that everyone who’s watching notices. This training program is periodized so that you will be peaking and at your best for training camp and tryouts.
When you step onto the ice at the end of the summer you will be an absolute MACHINE on the ice, with new found speed, explosiveness, and power – and you will be dominating your opponents on the ice.
What Should Go Into an Off-Season Hockey Training Program?
When it comes to offseason training for hockey it’s incredibly important to understand that we are doing our off-ice work to become better hockey players, and not to have beach body’s or look like bodybuilders. This is a trap that is easy to fall into when working with your hometowns personal trainer, he may look the part, but does he truly understand the underlying physiology towards attaining maximum performance in hockey?
In almost all cases, the answer is no.
True sport specific training is observing the biomechanical, physiological and bioenergetic demands of the sport and segmentally working backward in determining kinetic segments, muscle actions, intensities, and energy systems required for each athlete’s position and/or movement pattern.
Put another way, just because somebody has biceps and a six-pack, doesn’t mean they know a thing about translating their workouts or their physical strength into actual on-ice performance. This takes tons of research, real hands-on experience with hundreds of hockey players, and a firm grip on the scientific literature to truly apply. For example, Bracko et al in determined with time motion analysis technology that forward professional hockey players spend 39% of the game in a two-foot glide, 16.2% in a cruise stride, 7.8% at a low intensity speed, 4.6% at an all-out speed, 3% completely stationary, 9.8% struggling for the puck, and 4.9% skating backwards.
This is incredibly important data and lends insight to both the how and the why behind the way in which you need to structure your speed and conditioning work to actually support on-ice performance, as opposed to just make you better conditioned at running on the ground.
Breaking apart the offseason into its main components, we are really looking at accomplishing eight major things:
2. Injury prevention
3. Structural balance
4. Hockey specific speed
5. Hockey specific conditioning
6. Strength and power development
7. Muscular hypertrophy
8. Peaking performance for camps, tryouts, or to go directly into the season
Let’s talk about each one briefly and connect it’s relevance to both hockey and offseason development.
First, it’s very important to understand that mobility is the intersection between technique, strength, and flexibility; and NOT just flexibility. Specificity is the principle of training that states that sports training should be relevant and appropriate to the sport for which the individual is training in order to produce a positive training effect. Meaning, anything and everything you do in and out of the gym in order to improve performance should be connected to improving your hockey performance in some way. In a far-out example of an improper use of training specificity would be a power lifter running marathons in order to get better at powerlifting, doesn’t make sense, not specific to the sport.
This also goes for mobility. More is not better.
Mobility is totally sport specific just like your training is. Do hockey players need to be as mobile as gymnasts? Of course not. Should hockey players be more mobile than a power lifter? You bet.
It is actually to an athletes disadvantage to be more mobile, or less mobile than is required for their sport, your offseason programming should be optimizing these concepts and driving movement quality, and not just movement quantity.
Injury prevention is something that is largely misunderstood in the hockey strength and conditioning world unless you’re deep into it. When asked, most people would assume that most injuries come from contact on the ice, but this isn’t the case. For example, a study published in the The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2009 found that a greater amount of injuries sustained in hockey were actually non-contact sprains and strains, additionally, these were most likely to happen in the second period. Understanding the “why” behind this and creating a bullet-proof body in the offseason is at the heart of your ultimate performance because if you’re injured, you’re not getting better at anything.
I have spoken extensively in the past about the repetitive physical demands of the competitive season and how this affects our structural tissue. Hockey players notoriously have structurally imbalanced hamstrings, quadriceps, shoulders, and core muscles. Additionally, they typically always have tight adductors and Achilles tendons. The primary object in the first two phases of the offseason need to be rebalancing these issues to bring back movement quality, prevent future injury, and support training quality so that the hockey players can safely make the best possible gains in the shortest possible timeframe. When we are done here, the goal should be to have you structurally balanced from the upper body to the lower body, and the left side to the right side.
Hockey Specific Speed
Although conditioning, strength training, and nutrition have been discussed to their absolute depth over the past several decades, many coaches do not address the topic of speed. Speed is an incredibly complex topic where a lot of puzzle pieces have to be properly organized and placed together to create it and train it. Speed cannot be oversimplified and is its own entire component. Meaning:
Strength training is a part of speed but speed training is also different from strength training.
Conditioning is a part of speed, but speed training is also different than conditioning.
Athletic skill coaches and strength and conditioning coaches often grossly oversimplify speed and will often only ask their athletes to go outside and run and you will get faster. Or skate some laps on the ice and you will get faster. And yet, how many of them actually get faster?
They may get some better aerobic and/or anaerobic conditioning. But they rarely increase their speed development. This is because speed is its own component in the design of a complete,
professionally created strength and conditioning system for the athlete truly training to make it to the next level.
Speed is built through many different things such as:
– Training age
– Warm up type
– Strength training
– Relative strength
– Structural balance
– Stride length vs. Stride frequency
– Top speed
– Starting speed
– Energy system conditioning
– Nervous system capability
In addition to these factors, a good strength and conditioning coach also has to incorporate all aspects of the specific sport the athletes are in. For example, speed training for hockey is going to look different than speed training for track athletes. Different energy system demands, different mobility requirements, different muscular recruitment, among many other things.
Hockey Specific Conditioning
Conditioning is one of the most complex aspects to get a full grip of when training for sport and when learning from the coach’s perspective on hockey-specific conditioning. There are so many underlying mechanisms to performance enhancement and especially conditioning that many coaches either feel too intimidated to take on or simply it flies right over their head going undetected due mainly to the fact that they feel “cardio” work will get their athletes conditioned. This is not the case.
You first have to ask yourself the question “conditioned for what?”
It would be very easy to ask 100 people on the street “Who is more conditioned – a marathon runner, or a power lifter?”
You can pretty much guarantee nearly everybody is going to just automatically say marathon runner because for some reason it has been burned into the industry that conditioning = your ability to do low-intensity steady state work for extended periods of time. This is also not the case.
A powerlifter is by no means conditioned to run marathons in his spare time, but a marathon runner is also in no way conditioned to do what a powerlifter does either. The have completely different muscle fiber/energy system use and sport demands. Apples and oranges really.
Which is why the physiological assessment of the sport becomes extremely important.
-What is the dominant energy system being used in competition here?
-What other energy systems are involved that are also important?
-How can we maximally replicate the demands of the sport through conditioning so that it has the greatest carryover to the game?
-What is going on at the cellular level that can be improved to better enhance athletic conditioning?
A runner, a triathlete, football player, swimmer, fighter, powerlifter and hockey player may all be very well conditioned. But conditioning for their sports are entirely different and conditioning may mean something different to each and every one of them.
You have to understand your sport and prepare yourself adequately for it. This is what is called training. Training is structured program design and periodization to achieve a desired goal or result. Whereas exercising is just burning calories with no aim to improve performance in a given task.
To become a better hockey player you need to train and training is done by understanding and replicating the demands of the game from all angles.
Strength and Power Development
We all know a guy who has some massive lifts in the weight room and yet cannot put it together athletically out on the ice.
One the other hand, we also all know a guy who moves quite well and has good endurance but gets knocked off the puck more often than he should due to his weak stature.
What every hockey player needs if they are looking to jump to the next level in their performance or jump up to the next level in competition is the combination of both power and strength. The guys who can balance these two effectively make the greatest impact out on the ice, it’s the best of both worlds. You’re explosive, fast, and agile; and yet can hammer shots from the blue line that intimidate the other team while also being hard to knock off the puck.
These are trainable qualities but they are very different, it is a mistake to use power and strength as interchangeable terms. The entire offseason (All six phases actually) should incorporate components of these qualities, the emphasis as to how much we focus on each one will change as the offseason comes to a close, but they are always present.
Muscle size development is very important for hockey players. Back in the old days, you didn’t need to be much as an opposing force in order to play the sport of hockey and do very well. But, in modern hockey the smaller guys are getting faded out. There are examples you can bring up of smaller players doing well, sure, but they are definitely the exception and not the rule. With the talent pool that exists in hockey today, you need to check all the boxes of physical development because if you don’t, you will get beat.
Picture you and somebody with an identical skill level to you both going into the corner after a free puck, but you have 10lbs of muscle on him.
99 times out of 100, you’re coming out of the corner with the puck.
Beyond the physicality hockey demands which makes it advantageous to build muscle in the offseason, it’s also critical to make up for the inevitable strength and muscle losses that occur during the season.
For example, hockey players always finish the season with an underdeveloped VMO muscle (that tear drop muscle in your quadriceps, just to the upper inside of your knee). Adding muscular hypertrophy back into this muscle drives effective knee stability which reduces knee pain and knee injury risk, while simultaneously supports movement quality and speed development.
Hypertrophy is not just about being jacked, it’s about being a great hockey player.
Elevation to the ceiling of your performance potential is what is referred to as “peaking”. How an athlete peaks is through a methodical reduction of total training volume, frequency, and intensity. When you lower the levels of accumulated fatigue and nagging injuries, you will peak performance. This reduction in training volume/intensity/frequency is known as the “taper” and this taper is considered among sport scientists to be a significant component towards the preparation for athletes.
The ability to truly taper and peak an athlete is a process that can be very complex and affected by many factors including training volume, frequency, intensity, genetics, diet, and sleep. The proper sequencing and use of these components need to be manipulated appropriately in order to positively benefit performance. At the end of the offseason, athletes need to go through a proper tapering and peaking process to shake off any last nagging injuries and completely regenerate their bodies so that they go into the season hungry and ready.
Beyond the eight crucial components towards offseason hockey development, it must be structured in a sequential manner that makes sense and ensures that each phase builds upon the last in all eight departments. Put another way, your offseason must be properly periodized.
Going from one magazine program that looks cool to another online program that looks cool doesn’t make sense from a sport science perspective. What an athlete needs are training systems designed to elevate their game that are connected to one another as the training systems continue to build upon your continued progress.
You can look at doing random program design throughout the year like building your own car from the junk yard. You have to go out and get different pieces from different models and in the end, you might actually get the engine to run.
Now compare that to a Roll’s Royce made entirely in-house by hand with premium parts.
Who’s going to perform better in the end?
The car that was put together randomly from random scraps, or the methodically designed Roll’s Royce?
You can decide if you’re going to be an athlete randomly designed that will hopefully run efficiently by the end, or you can take action now and have the confidence that you are being engineered to perform at your best.
Our full 2018 Off-Season hockey program is available here: Off-Season Domination 2018