Hockey Off-Season Training
What is it?
Off-season training is where hockey players switch gears from in-season play to post-season work, translating to future improvements on and off the ice. During the spring and summer months, athletes work to develop their skills and potential as an athlete. Off-season training is dedicated time to improve physical and mental performance off the ice, create new bonds with individuals who share mutual goals, reduce the risk of potential injury, and most importantly, have some fun!
Why is off-season training important?
Forwards, defensemen and goalies, have you been told you need to get better, faster, and stronger? It is a pretty common comment for coaches of all levels to say and we are here to help.
1. Reducing the risk of injury
Throughout a hockey season, a player adapts to the required patterns and postures needed by their sport. This can create imbalances as with anything that we do “too much” of. Common nuisances in hockey include tight hip flexors, decreased ankle range of motion, anterior (front) shoulder pain, wrist injuries, and groin injuries and we address these common areas.
All athletes across all positions must have the ability to maintain both muscular balance, postural balance, and control to avoid hindrances. Through proper training, we can improve proper muscle balance, structural support, and the capability to sustain core control.
It is no surprise that an athlete needs to be strong to play the sport of hockey. Off-season training is specifically designed to build up the athletes’ overall strength. Strength transfers to power and speed which are all crucial for hockey. Being well rounded in upper and lower body strength can play an integral role in an athlete’s ability to be strong on the puck, having a quick release/hard shot, firm checks, competing in corners for forwards and defensemen, and a strong recovery and push following a save for goalies. Increasing core stability helps an athlete connect their upper body strength to their lower body strength. Not only is strength training important for these aspects of the sport but proper coaching and training helps improve body awareness and proprioception. Body awareness involves being aware of one’s body position in space and tuning in to the messages from the body’s muscles, organs, bones, and connective tissue. There is no better place to learn this positioning and awareness than in a controlled environment of training.
3. Speed, agility, and Change of Direction (COD)
Some may say that this is the most important aspect of the game. Being able to skate with power and speed allows athletes to be quick, agile, maneuver between players, avoid hits, accelerate and decelerate when needed. Improvements in this area of performance are best enhanced when utilizing exercises that closely mimic the demands. We accomplish this at Acumen with horizontal jump training (unilateral and bilateral), lateral jump training (unilateral and bilateral), loaded vertical jump training, sport-specific speed/agility/COD training, and general speed/agility/COD training.
Hockey is unique in that it requires high demands and efficiency from both aerobic and anaerobic capacities. Hockey is characterized by high-intensity intermittent skating rapid changes in velocity and duration and frequent body contact. The intensity of the sport and a player’s “shift” requires both energy systems. At Acumen, we focus on proper periodization and development of these energy systems that can help with overall conditioning and reducing fatigue to again reduce the risk of potential injury.
5. Change in Focus
After playing hockey for 8 months out of the year, summer is the athlete’s time to decompress. Hockey seasons can be stressful and tiring. Regardless, the offseason should allow:
- Physical break: The athletes get to take a break from skating and address the muscle imbalances that occur during the season. Also, gives the body proper time to recover from ongoing injuries or aches and pain.
- Mental break: Athletes get a chance to shift their mindset, reset their goals, and focus on preparing without outside factors playing a bigger role (schedules, injuries, making mistakes, etc). Training in a controlled environment will help athletes this way.
- Enjoy! The athlete gets to train, have a great off-season, and not worry about crazy schedules. This is probably one of the most important mental boosters of the entire off-season. The off-season is something every athlete should look forward to, to work hard, gain confidence, have fun and become a more well-rounded athlete for the next season.
What to expect?
Off-season training is a big- commitment, but so is hockey. Off-season training is rewarding where athletes can unlock new physical potentials and meet the sport demands. At Acumen the off-season program starts with a movement and performance assessment. This allows us to properly program for an athlete’s specific position, needs and goals. We will also periodically reassess and test for continual improvements. This will also dictate how we periodize programs for the summer for athletes. We also believe recovery is a very important aspect of training and taking care of any nagging injuries. Our team of Sports Medicine professionals and Strength Coaches are here to help you through this journey as a person and as an athlete. It’s a time to grow-Join us today!
Tyler, T. F., Nicholas, S. J., Campbell, R. J., & McHugh, M. P. (2001). The association of hip strength and flexibility with the incidence of adductor muscle strains in professional ice hockey players. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 29(2), 124-128.
Brughelli, M., Cornin, J., Levin, G., Chaouachi, A. (2008) Understand Change of Direction Ability in Sport: A review of Resistance Training Studies. Journal of Sports Medicine 38 912): 1045-63
Montgomery, D.L., (1988) Physiology of Ice Hockey. American Journal of Sports Medicine. (20):99-126.