I wrote this a while back and it was posted on StrengthCoach.com. I may post some others that aren’t on this site.
The goals of the pre-season strength and conditioning phase for hockey are 1- To help prepare for the demands of training camp and 2- To bridge the gap between the off-season and in-season strength and conditioning phases. At the collegiate and professional levels, this is a unique time for the Strength and Conditioning Coach because it is when most of the players are present for strength and conditioning sessions. With the fact that many athletes could be in different locations throughout the off-season, this a great time to get the entire team together and implement the program and help build team camaraderie.
The pre-season phase is usually 3-4 weeks in duration and occurs from late August through early September. We will spend 3 days in the weight room and 4-5 days on-ice on a weekly basis. Strength training will take place prior to skating on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while conditioning on the bike is completed prior to skating on Tuesday and Thursday. Skating is Monday through Friday.
During this phase, more volume is implemented. This is much different from the early off-season phase when training is primarily off-ice. Some of the training methods that were done in the off-season will be discontinued. This includes running and slideboarding. The conditioning focus is on-ice speed and conditioning with the exception of 2 bike workouts per week.
The strength training philosophy during this period will consist of circuit training. This is different from any other time of year. Instead of doing 5-6 strength and power exercises, we will now do 12 exercises straight through. When the circuit starts, the rest periods between exercises will be determined by how many athletes are present. For example, if there are 24 athletes, we will partner up at each exercise and go at a simple I go-you go pace. Each athlete and partner is assigned an exercise/station from 1-12 and then they will follow along. There is a 1 minute and 30 second rest period when the circuit is completed.
I have found that putting the exercises in this order has worked best: double leg push, upper pull (vertical), upper push (horizontal), core/anterior chain, lower explosive, 1-Leg lower push, upper pull (horizontal), upper press (vertical), 1-leg lower (glute/hamstring emphasis), 1-arm upper pull, core/stabilization, and upper explosive. We will perform these circuits 2 x per week on Monday’s and Friday’s. The difference between the Monday and Friday circuit is that although the format of movements will stay the same, the selection of exercise will be different. For example, on Monday we may perform a pull up (hands facing away) while we may perform a chin up on Friday (palms facing). On Wednesdays, we will perform a plate circuit which is borrowed/stolen from Strength and Conditioning Coaches Mike Boyle and the Calgary Flames’ Rich Hesketh.
During the Monday and Friday circuits, each player will perform the prescribed number of reps for each exercise in the circuit. Regressions are implemented for athletes who may not be able to perform a specific exercise due to reasons such as past injuries and/or biomechanical deficiencies. For example, we may substitute a goblet squat for the front squat or a split squat instead of the 1-leg squat.
During the Wednesday circuit, each player will be given a 35-lb plate and complete the entire circuit without resting. This will take place for each exercise until the steering wheel exercise in which all of the athletes perform it together.
The off-ice conditioning will take place on the stationary bikes Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays, the bike sessions will consist of 1-minute sprints at a high level of resistance. During these sprints, we are trying to enhance the player’s resistance to fatigue- especially after the 30-40 second mark in which the average hockey shift ends. At the end of the sprint, they will recover to 130 bpm while at level 1 on the bike. We will start with 6 reps in week 1 and add one more rep each week. On Thursdays, we will simply perform a steady state/cardiac output ride where the emphasis is on keeping the heart rate in the 130-140bpm range. This ride is to help increase cardiac output and enhance our ability to recover. We will typically go for 30-60 minutes. Saturday bike rides will be prescribed based on how the player feels and what his needs may be.
On the ice, the players will run their own practices. They will perform 45 minutes of drills and then follow up with a 45 minute scrimmage. On Fridays during the preseason, players prepare for the training camp conditioning test at the end of practice. The conditioning test is very demanding and requires serious preparation. Not only do the players get prepared for the test, but they are getting some conditioning work in during the process.
What I really like about pre-season workouts is that there is full participation from everyone on the team. The players believe in the program and the importance of training together for team building. This is a great phase because it can help establish the culture of the strength and conditioning program prior to the in-season phase. The Strength and Conditioning Coach can coach and interact with the athletes while making a smooth transition into the in-season phase.
As I continue my career in professional hockey, the process of getting your athletes to buy in and participate in the program is much more important than providing them with a “state of the art” program that not everyone will want to do. I believe that when you provide them with a basic program in an environment where they are training hard together, the results can be positive from an on-ice perspective.