Some of you are making the biggest hockey training mistake of them all: You’re not doing any off-ice training, period. If that’s the case with you, almost anything is better than what you’re doing now. This article, however, is for players who are actually doing off-ice hockey training, those of you who are taking action and trying to improve your performance on the ice.
It is awesome that you are doing something, but I guarantee that 95 percent of you are making at least one of these three mistakes.
1: You’re using machines
I know, machines can be fun. Who doesn’t like loading all those plates on the leg press machine and moving the weight up and down?
Another argument I get from athletes who use machines in the gym is that they can lift more weight with the machines.
Do you know why you can lift more weight on a machine compared to free weights or cables? It’s because you do not have to stabilize the joint. Our bodies are incredibly smart, and we can only exert a force that we can stabilize. A machine, with its fixed plane of motion, takes care of stabilization for you. The problem is there is no machine to support your joints when you are on the ice. There are no fixed planes of motion when you are on the ice. It is a 3D game that requires 3D strength.
Let’s continue picking on the Leg Press. If you sit down and push 475 pounds on the leg press machine, consider for a second what is going on at our torso. The answer is nothing. There is no stabilization, no support, no nothing. You can develop legs capable of producing 475 pounds of force attached to a torso that is not trained to support any of the weight. You have just created a very weak link in your kinetic chain.
How often do you use your legs without your torso on the ice? The answer is never. Not when you are skating. Not when you are shooting. Not when you are battling in the corners for the puck.
What to Do Instead of Machine-Based Training
The cable column is one machine that will help you develop the strength and stability you need on the ice. Here are some exercises to sub in for the machines:
- Instead of Machine Chest Press, do Standing Cable Press.
- Instead of Machine Seated Row, do Standing Cable Row.
- Instead of Lat Pulldown, do Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups.
- Instead of Leg Press, do Barbell Front Squats or Dumbbell Split Squats.
2: You’re making your speed training too hard
Hockey players need to be aerobically and anaerobically fit, and their off-ice training needs to prepare them for those 40-second shifts. But they also need to be fast. To get faster, you must train at top speed; that makes sense, doesn’t it? Yet, most of you think that if your training does not take you to the brink of exhaustion, delirium or nausea, you are not working hard enough.
What happens to your speed when you train to exhaustion? It disappears. Your body does not even know you are trying to train speed, because you are working harder but moving slower than top speed.
On days when aerobic and anaerobic lactic workouts are on your training schedule but you are training pure speed, you want to get good speed and power with each and every rep—which means short work intervals (under 10 seconds) and lots of recovery time between reps (50 to 90 seconds).
Here are some substitutes for your favorite hockey speed drills:
- Instead of 100m repeats, do Squat Jumps to 10m acceleration.
- Instead of high-volume agility ladder drills, do Skate Bounding, getting power off each leg.
- Instead of doing 10 or more reps of Squat Jumps, do 4 reps of Dumbbell Squat Jumps.
- Instead of 50m sprints, do the Pro-Agility Drill to work on your deceleration and acceleration.
3: You’re training like a bodybuilder
This mistake is typically made by players who get their training information from magazines or websites dedicated to aesthetics—get a big chest, chiseled abs, bigger arms. The focus is on appearance, not performance. If you want to train for appearance, you are a bodybuilder and its OK to train like one.
If you’re a bodybuilder, it’s OK to have a chest day, shoulder day, leg day, back day and arm day.
If you are a hockey player, its not OK. There is a reason why you don’t see bodybuilders playing in the NHL.
Here are two options on how to organize your training, depending on how often you train for hockey.
Option 1—Pro Off-Season Hockey Training Schedule
- Day 1: Lower Body + Stamina (90 minutes total)
- Day 2: Upper Body + Speed (90 minutes total)
- Day 3: Custom day – could be recovery or metabolic resistance (60 minutes total)
- Day 4: Lower Body + Stamina (90 minutes total)
- Day 5: Upper Body + Speed (90 minutes total)
- Day 6: Custom day – we do a hill running interval (45 minutes total)
- Day 7: OFF
Option 2—Moderate Off-Season Hockey Training Schedule
- Day 1: Full Body + Stamina (60-90 minutes total)
- Day 2: Speed (30 minutes total)
- Day 3: Full Body + Stamina (60-90 minutes total)
- Day 4: Speed (30 minutes total)
- Day 5: Full Body + Stamina (60-90 minutes total)
- Day 6: OFF
- Day 7: OFF
For those of you making an effort to improve your on-ice performance, try these hockey training modifications to get a bigger return on your investment of time and energy. The goal is to train smart and work hard on the right things.
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