With August mid way through most players have their summer training plans wrapping up but I still thought it would be good to include an article I wrote several years ago called “Offseason Hockey Training”, as there is still information useful for players this summer, and in future offseason’s.
Unless you play professional or high end junior hockey, April is the month that your season is most likely finished. No matter how your season ended now is the time to start focusing on next year and doing something about it today. In the old days guys would take 2 months off and then slowly start to get back in shape during training camp. Those days are long gone as players at most levels of hockey now use the full year to improve their strength, conditioning and skills. Here is how you can break down your offseason and get the most out of your summer dryland training.
Rest & Reflect
Every athlete needs a break once the playing season is over, and hockey players need this more than anyone. I strongly encourage players to take at least 2 weeks off from all training once the season ends. Lie on the couch, eat frosted flakes, play X-box, take a holiday, just do not workout or play hockey for at least 2 weeks. This is the time your body needs to mentally and physically recover from the long hockey season, and this gives any injuries you may have some time to heal before offseason training starts.
This is the first order of business when you resume training, to correct imbalances that develop during the hockey season. From shooting all of your shots on one side of the body to developing strong and weak areas in the legs and core area, everyone needs to spend some time working to rebalance the body following the season.
How much time you spend in this area is dependant upon how much work you need to do to correct your muscular imbalances. This is where is pays to seek the guidance of a hockey specific strength and conditioning coach who can put you through functional and sport specific testing to determine what areas need to be addressed. Typically hockey players need to work on the shooting side of the body (because the opposite side is the one most developed from puck-handling and shooting), in addition to the abductor muscles and hip flexors of the legs. Players also should work on shoulder and neck stability, as well as correcting any weakness in the core area. Spending 2 to 4 weeks working on the weak areas will pay off in the next season and down the road when you start to ramp up your training intensity and volume.
Sport Specific Training
Once the body is rebalanced you can start to focus on building up those previous weak areas along with the skating and hockey specific muscles so that you work the body correctly for the sport. In the gym exercises such as squats, eagle squats, lunges, push-ups, rowing actions, kettlebell work, plyometrics, flexibility training and core work should make up the bulk of the training. Save the biceps curl and leg extension machines for the bodybuilders and fitness models as this will NOT help your hockey program at all.
On the field players can turn to interval running, sprint, sled work, agility training and general physical preparation type strength training intervals. Avoid the long slow distance training, cycling, or inline skating as these activities will not promote sport specific training and in most cases will make you a weaker player (either muscle balance wise or technique wise).
If possible I encourage players to attend some sort of training camp or hockey school in the summer to learn from experts in the field. A word of advice on choosing a camp or school is to make your decision based on learning and practicing skills, as well as working on a solid foundation of dryland drills, skills, conditioning and strength training as this all works together to form a good school. Programs that focus on playing lots of games will not give you the same benefit as you will get much less time touching the puck and working on weak areas of your game (not to mention all of the dryland work that needs to be done).
While this is a very broad outline of what players should do in the offseason it is critical to their development to being and stay with a training program all summer. Players younger than 12 years of age should take up another sport in the summer to develop all-round athleticism rather than target just one sport. Even older players can see big gains from player interval based sports such as ball hockey, lacrosse, basketball, martial arts or most racquet sports (as these sports are similar in nature to hockey rather than cyclical or endurance type sports). Just remember all of your hard work is geared towards stepping on the ice in September in the best possible shape so you can have a great hockey season. Have fun and keep your stick on the ice!