Implementing an Off-Ice Training Program
The hockey season is here. Coaches have started setting goals for the team and making plans for each player’s individual development. Many times these goals are limited to the on ice development and may not include the overall physical development of the hockey player. Hockey players can show great strides in agility, coordination, balance, quickness and strength from a well-planned out off-ice program. Not only will players enhance their performance levels, but a program that includes resistive training a few times a week can also reduce the risk of injury.
When developing an off-ice plan, coaches and/or parents should look at implementing four basic elements of an exercise program. These elements include flexibility, cardiovascular training, agility/quickness drills and some sort of resistive training. Early in the season, players should build a strong cardiovascular base and focus on the flexibility of all the major muscle groups within the body, especially the hip adductors (groin muscles) and hip flexors. These two muscle groups are responsible for the majority of the soft tissue problems in hockey players. A good program that incorporates cardiovascular training throughout the week will help the cardiovascular system become more efficient and reduce the fatigue factor in the later portions of the game.
The overall frequency of an off-ice conditioning program will depend on the amount of time on the ice, age of the individual and the skill level of the players. Aerobic exercise can vary from jogging to sprint/jog workouts that should be changed on a daily or at least a weekly basis. A well rounded flexibility program can increase joint range of motion, balance and coordination. Flexibility exercises can be the more traditional static stretches while others may prefer to utilize dynamic stretches or a combination of both stretching techniques. Yoga has been very popular with sports teams and can be very beneficial for many hockey players/goalies.
As teams start playing more games, their off-ice program should shift into resistive training that incorporates both speed and agility exercises. This is a great time to introduce the agility ladder, jump rope workouts and five dot drills. In-season resistive programs should be limited to one or two days per week depending on a team’s practice and game schedule. Older age groups should factor in the overall exposure to resistive training. Always start with proper form and technique keeping the repetitions higher and resistances lighter. Exercises should be multi-joint movements that focus on developing strength within the muscle groups utilized on the ice surface. Some beneficial multi-joint exercises are hang cleans, squats, lunges and step-ups. These resistive exercises can be changed on a daily or weekly basis and the repetitions with resistance should change on a monthly basis.
At the younger levels, resistive training should focus more on technique and form throughout the season. The repetitions should continue to stay high with the resistance coming from an individual’s body weight or the use of some sort of light resistance such as dumbbells or resistive tubing/bands. These exercises should also focus on multi-joint movements that will help in the development of coordination and balance. Many of the multi-joint exercises used by the older athletes can be used by the younger individuals without the use of heavy resistance. Other resistive exercises for the younger athletes are body squats, wall sits, single leg squats, standing heel raises and pushups. If these exercises are done properly, individuals will experience muscle soreness even if there is no resistance.
No matter what type of off-ice program your team chooses, make sure your workout is safe, fun and challenging for the age group you are working. Good luck to all the coaches and players this hockey season.
Mike Gulenchyn LAT/CSCS
Mike Gulenchyn is certified with the National Strength and Conditioning Association as well as the National Athletic Trainer Association and has worked for twenty-two years in the sports medicine field as an athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist. He has spent a majority of his time working with youth, high school and collegiate athletes, although he has had the opportunity to work with professional athletes as well. Mike has been the brains behind the operation of the off-ice training work outs for the camps and programs at The LumberYard.
The LumberYard Hockey & Sports Center
1650 WASHINGTON AVENUE, STILLWATER, MN 55082