Should I Strength Train Even if I Have an Important Game This Week?
As we get deeper into hockey season, games become more and more likely to have important playoff implications. Nobody has time to deal with any soreness from training, in the addition to all the bumps, bruises and fatigue endured through the grueling course of the season. So, should you stop training to conserve energy for these important games? If not, what exercises should you be doing to stay in top shape and perform your best?
Great question! The most important factor is how well you’ve been training throughout the year. Assuming you know the benefits of regular training, you have already developed a great exercise base in your summer off-season. Anyone who has ever exercised knows that a sudden change in any kind of physical exercise volume or even intensity, can create a harsh soreness. Volume is the amount of exercise multiplied by the intensity of the exercise which calculates the total amount of physical stress on your body (Volume = Exercise Quantity x Intensity). Your body can adapt to a slow steady increase well but has a tough time dealing with a sudden change all at once.
We have actually endured our heaviest loads of volume through summer strength training, practices ,and games during the beginning of the season. Now is the time we want to peak and have the best energy in the tank for games. It’s not uncommon that players (depending on age level) have actually lost some speed over the season. Losing speed is never the goal but it does happen. The best way to reduce speed and strength losses is to eat optimally and get good sleep every chance you get, as well as have scheduled rest days. Lastly, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Yes, I’m talking about speed! It’s super important to practice moving fast, weekly.
As the season goes on the volume in the gym lessens, but it’s not insignificant by any means. It’s very important to maintain optimal mobility and speed for performing your best. The basic exercise patterns of squat, hinge, press, and pull don’t change much but the tempo and the volume usually do. Instead of a high amount of sets in exercises it’s usually reduced to 2-3 sets for a shorter duration with a concentric focus. Concentric muscle contractions are contractions that shorten a muscle. These contractions can be produced rapidly and often require a smaller amount of physical stress. In addition to a concentric focus I like to add some more dynamic movement and compound exercises which not only resemble more sport specific movements, but serve as “2 for 1 exercise volume saver” (i.e. lunge to row, or stepping press). I like to think of training during playoffs like an extended 30-45 minute warm-up for the week, keeps you fresh, mobile and fast.
Mobility is a greater priority for older players 15 - 16 years plus generally, while younger individuals with quick recover need greater emphasis on stability. With the older athletes, often times a reduction in mobility is linked to an increase in a chance for injury. Younger athletes require even less variation come playoff time, due to their quicker recovery and need to develop better stability.
Once the season is over, whether it’s a championship win or an early loss, the primary focus is on healing any injuries you may have played through. While many athletes think this means avoiding training all together, that is not the case at all. The gym is in a controlled environment and it is crucial to continue to work around any injuries at all times to maintain good strength and mobility in un-injured areas of the body. Ultimately, once fully healed, the next immediate goal is to build up as much speed and speed endurance as possible in preparation for the upcoming season so your body can endure the rugged process of the next season. Training is not an immediate reward, immediately after a session you are weaker than you were before. The foundation of the training process requires planned recovery periods. You grow stronger by healing from this stress with adequate rest and nutrition. An optimal training regimen is year round, constantly building you up better with scheduled periods of stress and rest so that you are ready to compete at your best when it matters most. Weekly consistency with your training is the secret ingredient.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is now.” - Chinese Proverb Quote. Same goes for training.
For more videos and info on specific training techniques follow along at @adaptathleticsco on IG, or www.adaptathleticsco.com
Adapt Athletics Coach, CSCS, Pn1, TPI, USA Hockey Level 4