Traits of a Great Hockey Training Program

In this article, I’m going to walk you through what you need to take note of in your training so that you’re always becoming a better hockey player. 

As a hockey player, you may wonder if an exercise (or full program) is the right type of exercise for you and your current needs.

Believe it or not, this is actually an easy question to answer.

If an exercise:

  • has specificity to the sport
  • can be performed without pain
  • can be performed with good technique
  • and can be objectively or subjectively measured to improved movement quality from week-to-week

Then it is definitely a good exercise for you as a hockey athlete!

Let’s take a look at what goes into a great hockey training program (and the exercises within)…

Specificity

The more closely an exercise simulates the target activity to what you’re trying to train, the more specific and “functional” it is.

However, it’s important to understand that the realm of specificity doesn’t just need to mimic the movement you would see in the sport – this is one of the biggest mistakes strength and conditioning coaches make.

For example, Single-Leg Hip Thrusts and Bulgarian Split Squats (seen below) will both have a measurable benefit towards your skating speed, even though they look absolutely nothing like skating. 

These types of movements work because specificity applies to a fraction of a movement just as much as it applies to the total movement.

In the case of the Single-Leg Hip Thrust, the vertical loading of the skating motion is obviously missing. But, the exercise still effectively teaches the hamstrings to pull and extend the hip while simultaneously controlling both flexion and extension.

The fact that Single-Leg Hip Thrusts can be used by hockey athletes who can’t run/skate due to shin splints or a low-back injury makes it one of the most powerful tools in specificity progression for skating.

So, just remember, your hockey training doesn’t always have to use exercises that look exactly like skating or shooting in order to be hockey-specific.

Pain-Free Training

Training without pain is immensely critical for success in hockey – the injury rates are high enough as it is, let’s not add to that problem by “working through the pain” in the gym.

Actual pain is very different than the natural discomfort that comes from training hard. 

Training with real pain is something that will set you back a few notches (which is ironic because you’re in the gym to get better at hockey, not worse).

Pain is a mechanism that the body uses to protect itself while trying to repair a structure or tissue. 

It will limit your range of motion and limit the amount of load you are able to place on that tissue, which causes you to utilize an altered movement pattern when you try and “train through it.”

But, training and reinforcing poor movement patterns is the last thing we want to do.

This is something that can quite literally rob you of your performance capabilities and may even lead to permanent injury.

Work around pain, not through it. 

Your hockey training should always be pain-free.

Excellent Technique

Correct movement during exercise is a must.

If you don’t have great technique within a movement, proper progression cannot take place. 

You do not want to reinforce poor motor patterns or cement-in bad habits in the gym.

When you have proper control and technique of a movement pattern, it provides a synergistic force production between muscles and muscle systems that translate into more strength and power production being produced in a way that’s safe (and pain-free) for your tissue structures.

And when your muscles are working in a more coordinated fashion, the body can produce more force with much less effort and distribute this force over more muscle systems to result in less wear and tear on your active joints, ligaments, and tendons.

Never sacrifice your technique to increase the weights.

Proper Progression

Historically, many strength and conditioning coaches in hockey only ever cared about how much weight an athlete can lift.

However, if we start putting more thought into true hockey-specific programming, we know that progress comes in many different forms.

Less pain.

Faster movement.

Heavier loads.

Better technique.

More confidence.

Greater coordination.

These are all forms of what you could verify as significant progress.

When you look at training from a hockey-specific perspective, you can create both objective and subjective measures for performance enhancement.

For example, it’s hard to truly quantify how much your balance improved while performing a slow Single-Leg Anterior Reach…

Or how your core stiffness has improved while performing a T-Stab Push-Up…

Or how the rhythm of your pelvis and spine have improved during a Cossack Squat…

Yet, these are all examples of progress and are improvements that will lead to you performing better during a game setting. Objectively quantified or not.

Don’t be discouraged if your numbers in the gym aren’t shooting up each week, if you are doing a properly designed hockey training program you are making progress (and you’ll notice the difference on the ice).

Final Thoughts

The keys to progress in hockey are patience and persistence.

Most hockey players and coaches can fully agree on this, but few actually practice what they preach.

One of the biggest mistakes in hockey training program design is an overall lack of proper progression, and this is due to a misunderstanding of both specificity and the importance of patience.

If you’re not patient, then you will move to advanced movements too soon.

This will result in poor motor patterns leading to not being able to perform the volume of work required to keep getting better.

What you end up with is a hockey player “doing all the right stuff” but getting nowhere because of it.

If you want to do this thing right and finally start dominating out on the ice, check out the Hockey Skills Accelerator today.

The Skills Accelerator VIP Membership will give you access to every hockey training program at HockeyTraining.com so we can get you started with a custom approach to your training! Click here to join now!

Written by
Dan Garner
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