Here is a recent interview that I did with Made Hockey.
I wanted to write about something that I have seen happen over the last 5-10 years in the hockey training realm. Before I express my view, it’s important to note that I am a strength and conditioning coach. My work is primarily off the ice.
I believe young hockey players are skating too much during the off-season. I understand the reasoning for professional players to be on the ice on a year-round basis. They can perfect their craft while also improving or maintaining their conditioning. As pro’s get older, they may not like the pounding of training on land (i.e. running). Although I do believe that pros would benefit from running and extending their hips more in the off-season, I understand where they are coming from. With most pro’s nowadays, there was a time when they were involved in a structured strength and conditioning program while not skating as much.
I believe the issue is with players at the high school level or below. I am not talking about tryouts or other evaluation programs. I am referring to the daily 1-2 hour long skating sessions that can occur 1-2 times per day, 5-6 days per week.
I am not advocating for no skating as I do believe that some on-ice work is appropriate. Skating specific drills to improve crossovers, change of direction, and stride length all have a place. I question when the volume of the on-ice work interferes with the physical development of the young player.
Here are some of my reasons
- Strength training workouts are stressful. There has to be time to recover between workouts as muscles are damaged through strength training. They need time to repair and grow. Younger athletes may not need as long of a recovery time as adults. I do believe that it isn’t beneficial when a young athlete is in a 4-day per week strength and conditioning program and a 5-6 day per week skating program at the same time. You will not get the most out of your training on or off the ice.
- Increasing force production will help you get faster. Strength training will help increase leg strength which will help increase force production when you skate. The more force you can push into the ice, the faster you will go. The key would be to get progressively stronger during the off-season which may not happen if the athlete doesn’t recover between workouts.
- Don’t skip strength and conditioning for skating. It’s hard to convince parents to have their child skip the skating sessions to get their strength and conditioning in. I understand that tryouts maybe approaching or the opportunity to work with a highly regarded skills coach is important. However, most of the time, I think it comes down to parents feeling like their kid will miss out. (Unfortunately, I’ve been there as a parent). I do believe that in the long run, the strength and conditioning session will be more beneficial. Make strength and conditioning the priority or at least don’t schedule your lifting and skating at the same time of day.
- Communication with skating coaches is important. Skating coaches and strength and conditioning coaches should communicate frequently. It would be beneficial to know what the skating coach’s plans are for the day and vice versa.
While I am always going to push for adequate recovery time between workouts, the reality is that I think kids are going to be on the ice more and more. Again, I am not advocating for being off the ice completely during the summer months. Two to three sessions per week while working on a specific skill is fine. I do think there is an issue with kids and parents trying to juggle too many things such as strength and conditioning, high school captain’s practice, power skating, and week-long drop in sessions.
Off-season on-ice work with a good coach is beneficial when combined with a strength and conditioning program. Lower body strength training, plyometrics, and sprinting can help a hockey player become a better skater. A good skating coach can help you improve your skating position and speed in conjunction with a good strength and conditioning program as long as rest and recovery is integrated.
I originally wrote this a few years ago. Looking back, I still feel the same.
Today’s hockey players are becoming bigger, stronger, and faster while becoming more fit than they were in years past. In addition to young players participating in other sports, they are also participating in strength and conditioning programs either at their own school, with their team, or with private training companies that are in the communities.
Strength and conditioning for sports has now become a common necessity that really wasn’t around until recently. It has now become a business as there are now several training facilities within every neighborhood.
With the sports training market becoming very saturated, there are several to choose from when it comes to choosing one for your son or daughter. Like any other businesses, in my opinion, there are some very good ones, some average ones, and some not so good ones. What I have listed below are some quick guidelines on making a selection for a strength and conditioning coach/personal trainer or company. These are based on observations and opinions about today’s hockey players and performance:
1- Make sure that the trainer(s) has a degree from a 4-year college/university. A master’s degree would be a plus. Preferably, their degree is in Exercise Science, Kinesiology, Biomechanics, or any other major related to Exercise and or Sports Medicine.
2- Make sure that the trainer is certified by a reputable certification agency. For Strength and Conditioning Coaches or Personal Trainers who work with hockey players, the Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach (C.S.C.S) certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is probably the most reputable certification. Another good certification is any certification provided by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (N.A.S.M.).
3- Ask for testimonials and/or references from athletes that they have coached. They should be able to provide current or past testimonials from people who have trained with them. If they can’t provide you with any testimonials, ask for references. If they can’t give you any references, find another trainer. Also, make sure that the trainer actually trained and worked with an athlete who they say they may have.
4- Don’t get caught up in the “bells and whistles” about the facility. Most of the good strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers out there can get results without the high-tech equipment which may be considered “hockey-specific”. Also, they may not need a large facility the size of a Wal-Mart.
In today’s world, it is easy for anyone to get a personal training certification from a non-reputable source and then partner up with someone with a lot of money and start up a sports training business. I would always prefer an individual or company that started out with close to nothing and then grew their business by getting positive results from their athletes and clients. As a parent who is paying for the child to participate in a strength and conditioning program, you must do your homework when trying to choose one. Hopefully these guidelines and recommendations will help you make the right decision
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.
I like to read books all the time- although I probably don’t read as much as others. Here are some of the books that I have read recently and have almost finished:
Tough to say that this is a book that I am reading but I did purchase it and do read the words on the page on a daily basis. I enjoy starting my day with gratitude writing. I have tried a few of them but I wanted to try a new process. So far so good.
Iron Works Preparation: The Best Way to Prepare for Football
I have really enjoyed listening to Arizona Cardinals Strength and Conditioning Coach Buddy Morris on several different podcasts. I have also read some of his “Coach X” material on Elitefts.com. This book (which is co-authored by Ryan Williams)was another way to see how good strength and conditioning coaches organizes their thoughts and write programs. I am a nerd when it comes to this stuff and enjoy learning how other coaches write programs even if it isn’t for hockey.
Gift of Injury
This is a great resource for me because I have low back pain. I am also always looking for methods that work in the prevention of LBP in my athletes/clients. I have read lots of Stuart McGill’s work but this was different because it was written from Dr. Mcgill’s perspective as well as the athlete’- Brian Carroll. I had the opportunity to meet with Brian at the the annual PHATS meeting in Orlando. It was pretty neat to hear his experience.
Thinking, Fast and Slow
I had a good start with this and I put it down because I found it to be a tough read. I anticipate picking it up again soon.
Would love to hear thoughts and suggestions.
Here is a link to a recent podcast that I did with Steve Breitenstein from TCBoost Sports Performance:
I had fun participating. I hope you enjoy it!
This is another phase 1 exercise. I like this because it allows us to get shoulder and arm work done with one exercise versus performing dumbbell curls and shoulder presses individually.
– The athlete is tall with their hips extended.
– The arms must be long at the start of the curl and the wrists are nuetral during the presss.
– I’ve found that the nuetral grip helps allow us to get a better anatomical position with less back extension and the pressing path in line with the ears.
This is phase 1/Accumulation phase exercise that we do for horizontal pressing.
I’ve always like these because it allows us to get unilateral work in with dumbbells while also getting some shoulder stabilization work.
Week 1 we will start with 8 reps each side and progress 2 reps each week. Ideally, we try to increase the load as well. I feel that this allows for a smooth transition to barbell work in phase 2.
We like to incorporate stretches to muscle groups that can be tight from prolonged sitting and simply playing the game of hockey. We will stretch within our strength training sessions to ensure that stretching doesn’t become an afterthought and to utilize the rest periods in between sets of strength training exercises.
A muscle group that can become tight and restricted is the Quadriceps (more specifically the Rectus Femoris, Vastus Intermedius, Vastus Medialis (VMO), and the Vastus Lateralis).
Years ago, I read this article by Charles Poliquin Question of Strength 22. I’ve been using this variation ever since. I’ve found more benefit with the addition of foam rolling the quads prior to this stretch.