It is the time of the year when images and memories of last season become clearly fixed in the rear-view mirror and new dreams for the season ahead are created as we watch the Stanley Cup Finals. We are familiar with what we as hockey players can do on the ice, and can’t help but be envious as we see the big guys playing with seemingly effortless poetry. How do they do it?
Regardless of their natural talent level, the common thread all pros have is that they work at their game year-round in one way or another. Some NHL players skate 15 hours per week, some only 15 hours the entire offseason—everyone is different. They all, however, engage in some offseason workouts, ranging from golf to intensive weight training. After being cooped up in an arena all year, there are clear benefits both psychologically and physically to being active outdoors throughout the summer. Breathing air that isn’t cold and filled with Zamboni exhaust can sometimes by itself be enough to prepare for the upcoming season, but usually there’s more to it than that.
A player’s offseason routine will vary with his or her age, ability, desire, level of commitment, and long term hockey goals. What should you do? Well, following are a few workout suggestions, but start with a good pair of running shoes to limit knee and ankle impact. Always stretch for five to 10 minutes before and after each workout, and try to change your workout routine to maintain interest. Beyond that, the following offseason training ideas are excellent for developing hockey specific skills and muscles.
Workout Suggestions. Change workouts to include jumping with both feet, one foot, and alternating feet. Jump rope 2-4 times per week. Alternate between the following two workouts:
1) Quick Bursts: 30-45 second intervals at the fastest tempo possible without breaking your rhythm, with 1 minute rests bet-ween each repetition. Try 3 sets of 3 reps, with a 2 minute rest between each set.
2) Endurance: Gradually work your way up to jumping 20 minutes straight, at a moderated pace, alternating your foot patterns throughout the workout. Set goals of 5, 10, 15, then 20 minutes without a “miss”. Jump with a Walkman on, listening to your stereo, or while watching TV.
Jumping rope works your wrists, ankles and calves, as well as shoulders.
Workout Suggestions. Vary your workouts to include distance training and technical skills training. Train on your inline skates 2-3 times per week. To avoid dehydration and sunburn, skate in the morning or evening and drink plenty of fluids.
1) Distance Training: Skate at 50% speed for 20-30 minutes, maintaining a 90° knee bend. Try to find a route with changing scenery.
2) Technical Skills Training: Work on your skating and puck control skills for 30-45 minutes. Create drills to develop your forward and backward strides, crossunders, turns, stickhandling, passing, and shooting. This is a mental workout, rather than a physical one. The emphasis is on precise execution, not power or speed, and skills must be practiced at a learnable rate.
Inline skating works your quadriceps, hamstrings and cardiovascular system.
Slide Board Training
A training tool widely used by international speed skaters and competitive hockey players, a slide board (if available) can help develop leg strength, correct striding, and provides a challenging cardiovascular workout.
Workout Suggestions. Vary your workouts to include distance training, quick burst training and technical skills training. Incorporate slide board workouts 2-3 times per week.
1) Distance Training: Stroke at 50% thrust for 20-30 minutes, maintaining a 90° knee bend and a consistent head level. Swing your arms back and forth to involve your upper body and to finish the transfer of body weight. Adjust the slide board to a challenging (wide) length.
2) Quick Burst Training: Adjust the board to a shorter length. Maintain controlled strides, picking up the tempo of your strides to approximately twice that of your distance training. Three sets of three 30-45 second bursts at 80%-90%. Rest one minute between reps and two minutes between sets.
3) Technical Skills Training: Complete, explosive leg thrust and upper body control must be maintained throughout any workout involving striding motions.
This could very well be one of the best cross-training activities; one that simulates game-like situations, challenges you mentally and physically, and allows you to breathe fresh outside air on a nice summer day. Step training will develop explosive leg strength and quick burst speed.
Workout Suggestions. Go to your local high school or stadium and run 2-4 sets of 3 reps, once or twice per week. Each repetition should involve a 20-30 second burst up the steps, with 45 second rest intervals between each rep. Concentrate on exploding off a deep knee bend, swinging arms front to back, and maintaining a level head position. Change your step workouts to include running every other step, or using only one leg, or a combination of the two. Find what works best for you. WARNING: Your legs will get quite wobbly as a result of fatigue, so take it easy on the way down the steps! Use this return to the bottom as a time to catch your breath and regain your strength.
Quite possibly the most neglected muscles in a hockey player’s body are those that control upper body positioning and control, the stomach and lower back. Our quest for power and speed focuses us on developing our legs and arms, overlooking the importance of well conditioned abdominal and lower back muscles. Every shot, change of direction, and all body contact stems from your midsection.
Workout Suggestions. A very simple exercise that anyone could and should do 10 minutes each day. Lying on your back, bring your legs up and pull your knees back toward your body forming a 90° angle between your thighs and your upper body. Place your hands on your stomach, NOT behind your head, so you can feel your abdominals contracting. The key is to feel a “burn” and to keep your stomach tight and contracted throughout the entire repetition.
Start by slowly lifting your entire upper body upward toward the ceiling, while contracting your stomach with each “crunch.” Keep your shoulder blades off the floor, crunch upward 4-8 inches, hold for one second, then slowly return downward keeping your shoulder blades off the ground the entire time. Repeat slowly and completely, working your way up to three sets of 30-50 reps. This exercise should be performed strictly by feel. Use the formula “Burn + 10.” This means if you feel a good burn at 20 reps, crunch out 10 more at that point. If you don’t feel a burn until 50, congratulations! With each set, you will feel the burn in your stomach area a little more—which is good.
This activity utilizes a very short range of motion. Do not curl or arch your back, or crunch in a jerking motion. Simply pull your upper body upward by contracting your stomach muscles.
Puck control/shooting Skills
On a smooth surface, using a ball or puck, make up creative stickhandling and shooting drills 2-4 times per week.
Workout Sugges-tions. 1) Place pucks in a triangle or any other random pattern and work on your reach and “soft hands.” Develop a soft feel for the puck/ball using controlled wrist and arm motions.
2) Hang Gatorade (or similar PLASTIC) bottles from a hockey net and practice hitting the targets from different angles both on the forehand and backhand. Learn to concentrate and focus on hitting your target, never settle for just getting close. Have contests with your friends and family or keep track of your accuracy percentage. Make those bottles dance!
3) Stickhandle a golf ball on a slick surface to develop soft, quick hands. Pay special attention to the sounds of the ball hitting the stick blade. There should be little or no sound. Work on range of motion, reaching the golf ball around your body, even using your feet.
You will find that the most difficult part of an off-season training schedule is getting started. Pick a day, say one week from today, and begin! Always train with a friend or two when possible.
The nature of this great game draws us in and consumes us. We eat, breathe, and sleep perfectly taped sticks, and game-winning goals. Many of us play year-round and are at risk of burning out. Burnout is very real and happens to players at all levels. We recommend a summer structured around a variation of creative hockey-related and hockey-unrelated activities. So there’s the balance. Set attainable goals and remember, your workouts must be both fun and challenging. Good luck!
Shawn Killian is the Director of Skills Development & Training for Planet Hockey.
This first appeared in the 08/1996 issue of Hockey
© Copyright 1991-2003, Hockey Player® LLC and Hockey
Posted: Nov 8, 2001, 20:48
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