How To Warm Up Before Hockey Games

In a recent email we sent out a survey asking hockey players for training and nutrition questions that they want answered. I picked the top questions and answered them below.

How should I warm up before games?

I wouldn’t incorporate any static stretching, it’s just simply unnecessary and has mixed research behind it. A standard dynamic warm up (such as the one below) plus whatever your coach wants you to do on the ice would be just fine.

Here’s the full hockey warm up:

1: A-Skips x 10yds there and back
2: B-Skips x 10yds there and back
3: Bodyweight explosive pause squats x 10 (1sec pause at the bottom)
4: Hip Circles x 10 in each direction
5: Cossacks Squats x 8/leg
6: Iron Cross x 8/side
7. 20 Jumping Jacks

Warm-ups can improve performance, but not nearly as much as being properly fuelled for the game. Ensure your nutrition is in check and you will be doing yourself a world of good. Don’t stress too much about the warm-up, unless you have pre-existing adhesions/injuries, then it would be best to seek professional advice from a hockey strength coach on your individual scenario.

What can I do to make my legs not fatigue as quickly?

Weight training + conditioning + proper nutrition + being 10% body fat or less.

Weight training + conditioning are going to build your strength and endurance to perform better in a fatigued state, such as late into the 3rd period. It is the 3rd period where you can really tell who has elite athlete level conditioning and who does not.

Proper nutrition is absolutely vital because a machine cannot operate without fuel. Athletes are the machine, food is your fuel. It’s not enough anymore to rely on talent and natural gifts. There are too many good guys out there putting in the work every day on and off the ice to be the best. This is where a lot of guys say “Well I don’t follow a meal plan and I feel pretty good”. Ok, that’s great. Here’s the problem, a lot of people don’t actually know how good the human body is actually designed to feel. So you may think you feel great, until you get on a meal plan made by a specialist and think “Holy crap! I feel great!” There is a reason why sports nutrition specialists exist, they drastically improve your performance.

Last but not least being 10% body fat or less. This one is obvious, additional fat does you no good whatsoever. It does not make you stronger, you cannot contract fat. It definitely doesn’t make you faster and it definitely will cause you to fatigue quicker. Don’t believe me? Walk around all day with a 20 lbs weight vest and tell me how you feel.

One trick to help with fatigue is Beta Alanine Supreme. Beta alanine supreme is a product I always use with my high level athletes during competition as it benefits the energy systems that hockey players are using to perform better both on the ice and in the gym. This product is a no brainer for hockey players as it helps to improve both your strength and your endurance.

How much cardio should I be doing in ratio to weight training to prepare for an upcoming hockey season?

This is a particularly tough question to generalize as each individual player would require different approaches. As an obvious example, if a player’s #1 weakness was his conditioning there would be a greater emphasis on achieving that over other priorities.

In any case, I would like to set the record straight on what “cardio” means in the hockey dictionary. Many people right off the word cardio as long duration, steady state aerobic work. Such as jogging, walking, doing medium pace laps around the ice, biking, etc. Training in this manner is not to a hockey player’s advantage at all as hockey is primarily an anaerobic sport.

Without getting into too much detail, the difference between aerobic and anaerobic is basically slow, non-explosive movement done for a longer period of time (aerobic) versus fast, explosive short duration activity (anaerobic). When you’re playing hockey it is a short duration explosive sport. Your shift is not a long time and in that time period there is high velocity direction change, shots, body checks, breakaways, getting it out of the corner, blowing be the defensemen among many other things. In no way shape or form will jogging replicate and train the energy systems and substrates that a hockey athlete uses on the ice. It has very little to zero crossover into the game.

When I talk cardio with my hockey athletes I don’t use the word cardio, I use the word conditioning. We perform short duration, extremely difficult tasks that better replicate the energy systems that you are using on the ice so that there is more crossover from the gym to the ice and you become a better hockey player.

In the offseason, 1x per week is usually plenty, as you get closer to the season, it’s best to up this to anywhere from 1 – 3x per week depending on your conditioning levels.

High carb or low carbs for hockey players?

Again, this is a tough question to generalize for the entire population. To make it short, the more out of shape you are, the less carbs you get. The leaner you are, the more carbs you get.

If you are very lean, you can have plenty of carbohydrates to fuel both your practices, gym sessions and games. If you’re over 15% body fat, you need some work. You would be on enough carbohydrates to keep you performing at your best for games, but not enough to where it would negate weight loss. An athlete who is at 15% body fat or more needs to work first on getting leaner. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice performance, carbohydrates given at the correct times will still ensure 100% performance output, and additionally your performance will further improve as you lose more weight.

Universally, hockey players require moderate amount of carbohydrates. Not low, and not high, moderate. Going too low hurts performance in most athletes and going too high wouldn’t have any additional benefits going beyond your required energy output.

Do we need to eat the same amount as the off-season during the season?

It depends on the goal.

If you’re one of these guys who needs to put on weight in the off-season, odds are you will be eating a lot more food. Simply because at that point it becomes your #1 priority and since it is the off season you will not be travelling as much so you can throw more food back. On the other hand, if you wanted to maintain that weight you gained in the off-season you would have to eat as much, or else it would be lost.

This is always individual dependent, but it would go without saying that universally, yes, you would be eating the same. If your goal was to get bigger in the off season, you would have to maintain that weight during the in season with just as much food. Likewise, if your goal was to get leaner in the off-season, you would have to ensure you don’t overeat in the in-season.

What it really boils down to is that are you at the best possible body composition you could be at to be the best you can be on the ice? The way you answer that question, dictates how you’re going to eat both in the in-season and off-season.

About the author

Dan Garner

Dan (or Coach Garner) is the head strength and conditioning coach and nutritional specialist at 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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