Nov 152010

In the November issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, there is a study on page 2883 titled “Complex Training in Ice Hockey: The Effects of a Heavy Resisted Sprint on Subsequent Ice-Hockey Sprint Performance”. The authors are Martyn Matthews, Paul Comfort, and Robyn Crebin from the University of Salford, Greater Manchester, UK. I actually didn’t have to look hard for this study as it was the first study In the journal.

The authors looked at the effect of resisted skating as a “pre-load” on skating speed. There were 11 subjects who were players from the English National League. There were 2 experimental conditions. Condition 1 consisted of a 10-second heavy resistance sprint while condition 2 consisted of just resting. A timed 25 meter sprint was recorded before and 4 minutes after each condition. Condition 2 showed no improvement. Condition 1 on the other hand, showed a significant 2.6% decrease in times. Obviously, this study shows that a single resisted sprint on-ice was enough to improve sprint performance on-ice (with 4 minutes rest).

To me, this is an interesting study. I’ve always been a big believer in complex training. From a practical perspective, we’ve always included a phase of complex training in the off-season in the weight room. It is not uncommon for us to “complex” exercises such as front squats and hurdle hops or bench press and medicine ball throws. We’ve also done complex training with resisted sprinting and sprinting on land as well. The purpose is the development of power.

Late in the off-season, I think there needs to be a transition from off-ice sprinting and speed development to more on-ice speed development. This is usually mid-late august for us. We don’t do much off-ice sprinting when we start a higher volume of skating. From a practical perspective, I think resisted on-ice sprinting is something that would be beneficial late in the off-season for hockey players.

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  7 Responses to “Complex Training in Hockey”

  1. Bringing it into the gym, you can do energy systems training with something like heavy sled sprints below anaerobic threshold (about 8 seconds of work per minute) over and over and over again to promote the oxidative capacity of the fast twitch fibers, as well as develop the aerobic energy system to recover from repeated maximal effort bouts… just like how most team sports are.

  2. Great post Sean. Not to many studies done regarding hockey players and work on the ice. There sure is a lot of “this is how we’ve always done it” in hockey. As you know, one thing that may get misconstrued is “what are we trying to improve with the resistance sprinting”. As Boyle talks about all of the time, it’s all about acceleration. I just hope that this gets taken and applied correctly..
    Personally I’ve already designed a “fitness product” that’s hockey specific and way better for resistance sprinting than anything on earth!!!!! Bands? Bands and harnesses won’t work for hockey! You need “special” product for hockey. To late guys, I’ve already called a patent attorney!
    Sorry, I just get fired up because I can’t wait to see “stick times” filled with a new product for hockey players who are all now doing this new thing called resistance sprinting. Better yet, I can’t wait for a Kevlar Bosu Ball to come out for hockey specific training on the ice.
    (slowly stepping off of my soap box)

    • Thanks for the post Scott. Whats interesting is that I emailed the authors. The resistance they used wasn’t an elastic type band. It was more like a belt that was attached. Let me know what you come up with.

  3. Sean,

    how do you feel about the practicality of this set-up? 4 minutes rest is quite a bit in a team training environment. I have used complexes but tend to make it a back-to-back scenario based on Don Chu’s book. I’d like to see a study where the rest time was more real-life…keep up the great work!


    • I would say it wasn’t practical either. 4 minutes is quite along time in a team environment for sure. I’ve always done plyo’s immediately after strength set when in the weight room during complex training phase. I always tell them to think about doing the lift faster in the concentric phase of the lift. Interesting to see something on-ice.

  4. Sean, I was actually “pissing about”.
    I’ve used a traditional parachute before with pretty good results. The only problem is that while inside a rink there’s not additional wind(like outside) to help the shoot open sooner than later. Full ice is definitely needed for optimal starts(where the shoot has room to open)and enough room to stop. In order to go from blue line to blue line I have the athlete start at the face off dots so that the shoot “picks up” when he gets close to the first blue line. The goal was blue to blue.. We progressed to blue to blue then releasing the shoot for about a 5-10 meter sprint/ other face off dots. Only after a few weeks of sprints. This kid is a 500 lb squatter and a 245×5 rear foot elevated split squatter- so he’s powerful and has very good skating technique. Adjustments can easily be made for optimal starts.
    I can’t image a band or a towel not working or a basic harness for resistance sprinting. The only issue with those tools is that they cannot be easily released so that the hockey players can accelerate away without resistance. Again those issues boil down to the training age of the athlete, the current strength level, and how much access you have to ice so that you can get the most bang for your buck. As Sean has stated, I like using them Pre-camp as I try to get my hockey guys off of the ice as much as possible in the summer. The pro’s get it. The college/junior guys don’t.
    Another negative is that I’m not a skating instructor. If the athlete has bad technique because of #1 he a brutal skater, #2 fatigue, #3 to much resistance, then you are hurting them more than helping.
    An example would be getting a fighter(tough kid with bad stick and skating skills) who is basically a tri-pod and having him do resistance skating. I honestly think that’s a waste of time. He needs technique work. No point in putting a turbo charger on a car with flat tires.
    As far as the 4 minutes goes.. I’m looking more towards heart rate getting around 105-110. I know this isn’t ideal and many “smart” guys heads are spinning because it’s more like 1:30-2 minutes not 4. I know that Easter Block countries used 4-10 min rest periods. They also owned their athletes and the ice/facilities. Additionally, their athletes didn’t have ADD.

  5. […] This study found that performing a single heavy sled-resisted sprint on the ice was sufficient to improve 25-m on-ice sprint times. With my background in neuroscience, this isn’t surprising. Heavy training results in an increased neural drive to the working muscles. This does provide an on-ice training application for power skating work though. By performing heavy sled-resisted sprints, resting for a few minutes, then performing an unloaded sprint, you can train the body to use a greater proportion of the skating muscles’ capabilities to operate at higher velocities. The key is to provide ample rest between the two bouts (2-3 minutes), and not just run the players into the ground. Sean Skahan wrote a great post on this on his site: Complex Training in Hockey […]

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