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Maximizing Your Off-Season Hockey Training

Most highly motivated clients want to train 7 days per week on the ice and off the ice. Now this is great, however we need to understand some of the challenges and contraindications this may bring about. Unfortunately having an “all systems go” mentality tends to neglect the recovery system which includes nutrition, rest, and sleep. So the question is, how can you maximize your training time to achieve the most optimal results? That all starts with your personal goals.

Do you know what they are?

Let address to the three most specific categories of goals:

  • speed strength

  • absolute strength

  • hockey specific skill

Yes I know you of course want to improve on all three of these skills but unfortunately one of these has to be a priority over the other. This doesn’t mean that you can’t work on all of them over the course of the off-season, but one does have to be a priority.

“If you chase two rabbits you won’t catch either”- Chinese proverb.

So which one is it?

Let me educate you on the benefits and potential drawbacks of each skill and I’ll give you my opinion at the end.

Speed strength in hockey is the most valuable physical skill. The faster you can potentially move (in any and all directions) the easier the game is because it’s easier to buy yourself some extra time and space. From a developmental standpoint, being capable of moving fast will never be a drawback to performance. This is evident in younger players (12U) as generally the most physically developed player (due to mostly genetics) dominates the game. The downside to being really fast is you may not need to think the game very well because you just end up blowing by opponents almost making the game too easy.

Hockey specific skill refers to your ability to perform different hockey maneuvers efficiently. In younger players (15U) its not uncommon that speed strength is the limiting factor to being able to perform a maneuver efficiently. Athletes that struggle with change of direction (a speed strength skill) are often not capable of performing many basic maneuvers efficiently like a quick pivot forward to backward, open up (aka mohawk), a quick top speed stop and start, or even an efficient forehand to backhand deke!

Absolute strength is a skill that is primarily determined by genetic size. This does not mean you cannot get stronger, however, this is generally more of a specific goal for our much larger hockey players looking to fit a specific role on the team. Modern NHL examples would be Zdeno Chara or Dustin Byfuglien. They have “more” value in their absolute strength. The drawback to chasing absolute strength is often sacrificed in your speed.

Now how do you choose your priority and why does it matter? Very simple, because speed strength will never hurt, and the goal of in season hockey is to play a lot of hockey and improve your hockey specific skills, the goal of the off-season, when in doubt should always be speed strength. Speed strength not only will improve your speed, it will help facilitate better skill development as well as ultimately improve your sport specific conditioning naturally. Leave absolute strength for highly mature specialized players. Finally, when chasing speed strength it’s imperative that you follow your performance data. Specifically your speed. Ideally, your speed should be improving weekly. If you are not improving the first place to look is your nutrition. Are you getting enough of protein, carbs, and fats? Secondly if you are not improving, you need to look at how much rest you are getting. In general the older you are, the more your rest days become crucial to speed strength enhancement. This means at MINIMUM one rest day per week. Ideally, 3-4 days per week training for speed strength and at maximum 2-3 days doing skill work. Summer is almost here, be sure to schedule your initial assessment at Adapt ASAP to optimize your performance for the next regular season!

Matt Atsoff

CSCS, Pn1, TPI, USA Hockey Level 4

Adapt Athletics

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