Should Hockey Players Train In-Season?

YES! But, Quality over quantity and IF it is done it right environment

This is a question I seem to answer every year and also something I seem to continually preach to our athletes and parents. 

Here are 4 reasons you should be training in-season:

#1 – Team Training not done properly can be a waste of time

Let’s look at the facts first:
⁃ Most teams will provide team training 1x/week
⁃ Most team training is done in a massive group setting
⁃ Most team training sessions are understaffed for the amount of athletes
⁃ Most team training sessions do not take the individual needs of each athlete in to account

The reality is, other than creating potential team camaraderie (this is assuming all teammates are attending consistently) team training rarely accomplishes any adequate level of progression throughout the year. 4 sessions/week in a setting where coaches are forced to manage training sessions, the value per session can be extremely low. There are cases where team training can be done effectively and efficiently. For example, we currently work with 4 teams (3 hockey, 1 ringette), but we have 1 staff member assigned to specifically oversee team programming, scheduling and communication, training sessions are properly staffed and we provide numerous external resources that athletes and parents can take advantage of. To me this is the only way team training makes sense for an organization.

Young players (ages 12-17) typically need coaching with every rep they do. I say this because quality of repetitions and emphasis on proper technique should greatly out way quantity or working hard to work hard. Because gym/programs are forced to manage a large group, they typically resort to circuits or stationed based training, which has it’s place, BUT when the majority of sessions are built around this model, athletes will not receive adequate strength training.

Advanced athletes could benefit from higher intensity days with lower volume. Younger athletes would greatly benefit from consistent strength training 2x/week with moderate intensity and load. The important point here is that each athlete is very different and they need to be treated as such. Relying on generalized training for all 20 players is like throwing darts while blindfolded expecting to hit the bullseye.

#2 – Reduce the risk of injury, loss of weight or increase in body fat %

Skating everyday will give you the reps needed to become a better player, but without taking the time to strength train, recover and take care of your body, could lead to higher risk of injury, loss of weight or gain in body fat %. Typical on-ice sessions are also based around 1 energy system, the Lactate system. The problem with this is over use in one specific energy system will lead to potential “burnout”.

Off-ice conditioning should rarely mimic the same energy system the game and practices are played at. Depending on the season and schedule we will work on different systems. Players will feel better and more energized throughout the season if done properly.

Power and Speed:
A loss in strength means there will be a loss in power and a loss in power will lead to a loss in speed. Power and speed output will drop off after 2-3 weeks of not training them. Hockey is a power and speed game, teams with players that maintain or improve in these two categories will have a better chance at winning at the end of the season.

#3 – Skating everyday can severely hinder mobility & performance

Reduced mobility will lead to higher risk of injury and poor patterns. Due to the fact Hockey has numerous repetitive actions we seem to continually see the same overuse injuries throughout the year such as, hip flexors, groins, ankles, low back, and shoulders.

Everything starts with the feet:
Most players will spend countless hours in their skates in-season and off-season. Depending on the skate model, how you tie your skates, and ankle mobility/stability, players will lose dorsiflexion (forward flexion of the ankle). A loss or lack of ankle dorsiflexion will cause a bent over and short stride.

If there is ankle issues players will spend the entire game or practice in a hip flexed position. Simply, this will lead to tightness throughout the hip. Tightness in hips will lead to the player altering their stride without even knowing it. This can lead to hip and low back injuries, which often becomes a reoccurring issue.

Due to the game being played with your hands in front of your body, shoulders round, chest muscles get tight, leaving the shoulders in a vulnerable position. If you see a group of kids with backwards hats, joggers, rounded shoulders and their butts sticking out, there is a 90% chance they play hockey.

Without proper strength and mobility work to balance out the positions they get into while playing, players are asking to get hurt. I can speak to this personally, not being able to lift my hands over my head after years of playing while not doing proper mobility exercises to counteract this.

Programs should always have a portion dedicated to creating flexibility (range of motion) and stability (tendon strength) for all of the areas listed above. You will never reach your sport goals if you are injured all of the time.

#4 – Create good habits

Depending on your hockey goals, creating good habits around proper body care in-season will benefit you down the road. If you want to play college hockey, major junior and eventually professionally, this is what those teams and athletes are doing. The sport is advancing rapidly and the use of analytics are becoming more and more prevalent in the way organizations make decisions about players. Taking control of what you can control is a good start.

These points are all doable IF time management is sufficient. Obviously there are many other responsibilities for athletes, family, school, social life, etc. having gone through this myself, playing with teammates that made it a habit and now working with kids who are following this, I can confidently say with proper time management, you can accelerate your progression as a hockey player.

To give you a better idea of a typical week here is an example of what a program would look like for a hockey player in-season:
*Assuming games are played on the weekend

Day 1 – Monday
45 mins – Full Body

1. Corrective work – mobility, stability
2. Dynamic Warm Up
3. Linear Speed/Power Development – sprinting, plyometrics, medicine ball work
⁃ That typically takes 15 minutes

A) Main Strength Exercises
B) Secondary Strength Exercises
C) Accessory Exercises – focused on core, hips and shoulders
⁃ 20 Minutes

D) Energy System Development
⁃ 7 – 12 Minutes

Day 2 – Wednesday
45 mins – Full Body

1. Corrective work – mobility, stability
2. Dynamic Warm Up
3. Lateral Speed/Power Development – sprinting, plyometrics, medicine ball work
⁃ That typically takes 15 minutes

A) Main Strength Exercises
B) Power Exercises
C) Accessory + Speed Exercises
⁃ 20 Minutes

D) Energy System Development
⁃ 7 – 12 Minutes

Day 3 – Thursday **OPTIONAL
25 mins – Speed Focused

1. Corrective work – mobility, stability
2. Dynamic Warm Up
⁃ That typically takes 10 minutes

A) Main Speed Drills – sprinting, plyometrics, agility
B) Accessory Exercises – focused on core
⁃ 15 Minutes

If you would like more info on our in-season programs click this [link]

Best of luck this season!