Strength and Conditioning
Hockey is an excellent game that allows players to play on ice while balancing on sharp blades, and it can unite people from different cultures. But you may be wondering which strength and conditioning programs help make a pro hockey player.
To develop an effective strength and conditioning program, you should include warm-ups, stretches, plyometrics, balance and coordination, core conditioning, agility and quickness, off-ice stickhandling, and cool-downs. These programs play a huge role in the performance of any hockey player.
The rest of this article will discuss topics related to these activities, including the importance of youth strength and conditioning, the three principles of training, and how to develop strength and conditioning programs.
Strength and conditioning programs involve various exercises developed to build specific skills with a focus in mind, stability, agility, endurance, power, speed, mobility, and performance. These programs are designed to enhance the performance in athletic competition.
Strength and conditioning coaches are very different from other personal trainers and group exercise instructors. They work with people who only want to improve their skills in sports.
A strength and conditioning instructor has two main goals:
- To enhance the athletic performance of your trainees. This means typically improving their mobility, stability, strength, power, endurance, speed, agility, and general performance.
- To reduce injuries. A conditioning coach usually creates regimens to strengthen the body parts prone to injuries in a particular sport; in this case, hockey.
The strength and conditioning program for youth athletes should be well supervised, safely developed, and adjusted for the young player’s goals and participation in other physical activities.
Before you start with the resistance training, you have to ensure that they are safe for the kids. The following are some safety guidelines to follow:
- Before beginning a strength training program, make sure that a pediatrician or the family doctor does a medical evaluation.
- Younger children should not use weight machines that are meant for adults.
- Powerlifting, maximal lifts, and bodybuilding are not necessary until physical and skeletal maturity.
- Instructor to trainee ratios should be 1:1, 1:2, or 1:3.
- To reduce the risk of injury, kids and teenagers should start without resistance and learn the precise form and technique. When they have mastered these aspects, you can introduce extra weight or resistance.
- The strength training must be strictly supervised by a professional adult, especially a pediatric strength trainer, a physical therapist, conditioning specialist, certified strength, or a licensed trainer.
The main benefit of warming up is to prevent injuries and improve the performance of the trainees. Warming up has several benefits, including avoiding potential injuries and enhancing the performance of your hockey players. Warm-ups can help you accomplish this in various ways.
Muscles contract forcefully and relax quickly compared to those that have not warmed up. Therefore, this leads to higher speeds, agility, strength, and power.
When hockey players warm up their muscles, they increase their nerve receptors’ sensitivity and the speed at which they transport messages. This helps improve their speed and reaction time, and it is sometimes referred to as “waking up the nervous system.”
Warm-ups will also enhance vasodilation, allowing substrates such as electrolytes and carbohydrates to enter working tissues. Vasodilation also helps their bodies to remove waste products from the muscles at a much faster rate.
The following are exercise to do as a warm-up:
- Jumping jacks x 20
- Arm circles x 12 in all directions
- Shoulder T x 15
- T-stab push-ups x 5 for each side
- Hip circle x 12
- Straight arm rotation x8 per side
- Zombie squat with reach x 8
- Zombie lateral jump x 5 each side
- Combination of high knee and heel kicks
You should include some light aerobic work before training together with some static stretching. You should pay more attention to hockey stretches. A good stretching program will help increase agility and enable the player to gain speed and improve their handling skills. You should also include the following stretches into your program:
- Stretching the hamstrings while sitting
- Stretching the hip flexors
- Stretching the quadriceps when standing
- Stretching the trunk and shoulders while standing
- Calf stretches
- Groin stretch
- Side lunge
- Neck rotation
Plyometric exercises are not just for skilled and elite athletes. According to some studies, plyometric training has constructive effects on various performance attributes in children. It helps develop general power and speed by enhancing their running speed, swiftness and agility, lower body power, and force development rate. An excellent plyometric training program must include:
This training is standard in hockey players. Most training instructors or trainers consider vigorous stretching, practical strengthening, and plyometric exercise to be enough. But in hockey, agility and balance are significant. Therefore, you should consider how the players can enhance their balance off the ice. Some balance and coordination exercise include:
- Stickhandle and juggling
- Throwing a ball and catching it
- Hand swap on a stick
- Handling a stick while juggling
- Walking squat- stickhandling
- Stutter steps for stickhandling
Below is a video that shows exercises that can help improve balance:
Well-conditioned players can perform well at a high level of intensity for a longer time without getting tired. Fatigue resistance allows the trainees to be both mentally and physically in control of themselves from the start to the end of the game. Some compound movements that can enhance sufficient core stimulation are:
- Squat variations: To perfect a single leg squat, players must stand on only one leg and lower themselves to a depth at which they are able to perform well. Advise your trainees to keep their chests up, ensure that their weight is spread evenly over their foot, and press their heel through the floor.
- Chin up/pull up variations: When it comes to shooting, checking, and skating, the pulling strength is fundamental. Strengthening the back muscle not only helps when playing hockey but also enables people to maintain a better and more efficient posture. When doing a pull-up, almost all the upper body muscle groups are used.
Other core stimulation movements are:
- Row variations
- Bench press variations
- Front squats
- Split squat variations
- Standing overhead press
Conditioning programs enable players to use oxygen as an energy source at different workloads. Therefore, the player is able to train for a more extended period of time at a greater intensity.
Swiftness, speed, and agility are the foundation of hockey. For this reason, you will have to work with your player(s) to help them develop top speed. The foundation of these skills is the player’s ability to stand on one foot. The key to improving the players’ agility and speed is to provide them with age-appropriate training. Don’t expect them to do speed and agility training meant for adults.
Enhancing speed and agility in youth hockey players is vital for various reasons. The player will be able to:
- Move quickly in different directions
- Maintain balance while changing directions
- Change focus to get away from a check
- Change direction swiftly to stay with an opponent
Some examples of exercises to improve speed and agility in young hockey players include:
- Single leg lateral jump
- Forward hop with a bounce
- jumping side to side
- Sprinting on the spot
- Running figure 8 around cones
- Zigzag hops
- Side shuffles
- Two footed hop
- Reverse plunges
- Stair running
- Quick taps on a platform stair
- Squat thrust
Stickhandling is one of the most fundamental aspects of hockey. Players need to master some off-ice hockey stickhandling drills. This exercise requires only a stick and a ball or puck. The main objective of the off-ice stickhandling training is to help the player to be able to control the ball or puck in different ways.
As a parent, coach, or even player, you can build an impressive home training area if you have the means to do so.
The following are some off-ice stickhandling exercises that you can add to your strength and conditioning program:
- Figure 8 pucks, six pucks, and four pucks; all these help develop lateral reach, speedy hands, and puck control in all directions. This exercise only needs hockey pucks. For progression, have the player try the above drills on one foot, and use a broken stick as an obstacle instead of pucks to increase difficulty.
- Narrow and wide ball control combination
- Side/front/side ball control
- One leg ball control - left/right
- One hand ball control
- Two hands ball control
- Rotation ball control
- Combination of toe drag, side, and front ball control
- Around the body ball control
- Ball control with a stick through legs - from front and back
- Freestyle stickhandling
An excellent cool-down exercise should return the player’s heart rate to its relaxing status and reduce lactic acid levels and adrenaline. It should also be able to minimize tenderness after practice. The cool-down should take place straightaway after training and should last from 5-10 minutes.
In many cases, the cool-down exercises can be similar to one in the warm-up routine, but with low-intensity body movements like jogging or walking instead of running. Having your trainees stretch after training helps ensure maximum flexibility, return the muscles to their resting interval, and leads to a healthy lifestyle.
Cool-down exercise also helps bring down the stress hormones and increase the level of recovery. During a warm-up, it is vital to use static stretching, which means stretching while in the same position.
When doing the cool-down stretches, make sure to address all the muscles involved in training like the quadriceps, adductors, hamstrings, and gluteal so that they all stretch correctly.
The following exercise will help your trainees to slow down their movements and provide a stage of relaxation. Let the player(s) take extended, relaxed, deep breaths when doing the cool-down exercises.
- Shoulder stretches
- Quad stretches
- Reclining twists
- Double hip stretch
- Hamstring roller
- Thigh flexor
- Groin stretch
Playing hockey requires incredible strength, speed, agility, and power. Hockey utilizes both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. The young players are required to think strategically, have a swift reaction time, and show premeditated and technical puck movement skills from the beginning to the end of the game. Additionally, there is a significant amount of fluid loss and injuries, making nutrition and hydration strategies vital for boosting the players’ performance.
As a parent, you are responsible for your child’s eating habits. Therefore, there are some things that you must take care of to assist your kid’s general development.
To ensure adequate nutrition for hockey players, you must avoid giving them money to buy junk foods. Instead, make healthy food for them. Use organic food when possible.
Overeating puts too much stress on the player’s stomach. An upset stomach can easily affect the player’s endurance as well as their concentration levels.
Because of the physically demanding nature of hockey, players need a diet that is rich in nutrients. A hockey player’s diet should be centred on lean proteins for muscle repairs and recovery as well as timed carbohydrates for energy.
- Protein: Make sure that the players consume enough but nor excess proteins during the day. Proteins not only help with muscle recovery but also academically. High protein diets can be dehydrating; make sure that the players stick to lean meats, fish, eggs, poultry, cheese, and tofu.
- Carbohydrates: They provide the energy needed for working, growing, and dynamic bodies. Carbohydrates include vegetables, whole-grain foods, whole grain, milk, legume (apart from being a slow-release carbohydrate, legumes are also protein). Put them in broths and other dishes.
- Fat: Fats from healthy sources are useful in maintaining good health. Healthy fats can be found in peanuts and peanut butter, walnuts, brazil nuts, soy nuts, pecans, almonds, and fatty fish like sardines, char, mackerel, trout, and salmon.
Good alternatives to junk food:
- French fries - baked sweet potatoes
- White bread - whole wheat wraps or pitas
- Ice cream - frozen yogurt or frozen 100% juice
- Cakes - low-fat muffin, baked apple
Drinking enough water increases energy, improves the appearance of the skin and the fascia. Hydration is a vital component to achieve optimal performance in training. Players sweat during exercise, and if they don’t replace that lost sweat with water, they become dehydrated, limiting their ability to train and compete.
Here are habits to help establish a hydration routine:
- Stay hydrated during activity. Players losing some percentage of their body weight due to fluid loss can substantially decrease performance. Hydration differs from one player to another. Teenage players can choose hydration supplements with some milligrams of sodium per ounce to help elevate electrolyte replacement.
- Foundational hydration needs. Players should begin their day by drinking water. The standard rule is to drink 1 ounce of fluid per body weight every day.
- Choose a popsicle. Children love popsicles, and so do teenagers. Popsicles are made to replace the kid’s electrolytes and cool their bodies.
- Always have a water bottle. Advice the players to carry a water bottle everywhere they go. That will serve as an excellent reminder to stay hydrated.
All athletes share one thing – they are or were youthful. The youth strength and conditioning programs that hockey players participate in have long term performance effects. Therefore, whether you’re a hockey player, parent, or coach, here are some essential concepts on youth strength and conditioning:
- Enhance physical literacy for the youth by promoting a long-term tactic to daily physical education and irregular moderate-to-vigorous physical activities
- Promote positive psychosocial and mental development and physical development
- Strength training is the foundation of hockey
To transform your hockey players into powerful pro players, you must provide them with appropriate strength training to maximize their potential, even if they’re already fast. Your athletes need to have a good bodyweight. Recent studies have revealed that sport’s people with high body strengths have the ability to run much quicker than weak players.
- A little more confidence could help your players perform better. Because the mind is directly connected to the body, your athletes will be more determined through strength training, which will translate into other areas of life. Their improved strength will boost their confidence to perform better in their sport and other areas of their lives.
- Faster recovery. When hockey players who do strength training get injured, their injuries may not be as severe, and they will heal at a much faster rate than for athletes who don’t follow a structured strength training program. This is mainly because strength training gets the body used to stress placed on the muscles (similar to having a flu jab to help protect you from getting the flu).
Warming up before a hockey game improves the motion and mobility of hockey players. This helps reinforce their functional output in the sport and reduces the likelihood of injuries since they have an active range of motion.
Most benefits of warming up result from the increase in body temperature. The temperature impacts energy metabolism, joint lubrication, range of motion, blood saturation, and the body’s overall vasodilation. All these will play an essential role in the performance of your players.
Unfortunately, most hockey players often make a half-hearted effort to identify the best warm-ups before their hockey games. They practice the usual standard warm-up drills, which include a few stretches, jumping jacks, and jogging. However, while warm-ups are essential, you should identify the proper ones to help prepare your hockey players for hard work, as well as to improve their performance.
The best strength and conditioning programs are made up of three principles:
By utilizing these three principles, you will be able to create a strength and conditioning program that enhances your player’s performance, skills ability, and physical fitness.
Overtraining is a usual problem that comes about when you don’t give your players enough time to rest during the training schedules. With insufficient training, the body fails to adapt to the training and results in the decline of the player(s) fitness making them prone to injuries or illnesses.
Overload is typically doing a task within the provided threshold to create a stimulus for adaptation. The task must be in the same way, shape, or complete a more complex task that the player has been exposed to previously. The task should not present an overload to the muscle or the system involved to change and progress.
This system requires you to progressively or gradually increase the workload for improvement to continue. This will ensure that the body is pushed beyond its regular rhythm. Remember to increase the workload gradually to avoid injuries to the player(s).
Specificity is essential when training hockey players, but unfortunately, it is often overlooked in different training programs. There are various tests and movements in strength and conditioning that you can use to measure “sports athleticism” rather than just measuring “fitness athleticism.”
The law of Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID) requires the body to adapt to particular demands placed on it. According to this principle, every player has their own distinct needs, and to improve the skills unique to a specific sport, it is best to practice the moves used in that sport.
If you’re planning to build a strong base for your hockey player(s), there is a program that they should undertake before they can begin the actual resistance training.
Typically, you have to make sure that every player can demonstrate bodyweight movements before you can provide them with resistance training. Therefore, if one of your hockey players cannot perform a proper pull-up, push up, or squat, it should be the starting point of their training.
Once your hockey players have a solid base of strength, speed, balance, flexibility, agility, and power, you can then proceed to sport-specific preparedness. Note that all strength programs are not sport-specific; they’re just training to help the body move correctly on the play. This is important as it will help your players accelerate, cut, and decelerate with control.
This is an important section that you should focus on because it will also enable you to treat muscle imbalances, pre-existing injuries, and address technique flows. However, real progress will come from hockey specific training.
Everyone trains for a different reason. Therefore, you should first determine the purpose of training your players. Select a goal that you would like to reach in the next four weeks. What changes do you want to see in your players in the next four weeks? To get the best results, align the goals with a nutritional plan and potentially consult a general nutritionist for guidance.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that an athlete is healthy just because they are young. Even younger athletes experience mild injuries, imbalances, and pain. The earlier you detect such issues, the sooner you can start addressing them.
Make the new trainee comfortable by making the assessment candid and straightforward. Just simple flexibility and mobility assessment that includes testing movements like hamstrings as well as shoulder flexion and extension: doing push-ups and squats; simple questions about their goals, sports, and positions played, right or left-hand preferences, pain, and past injuries are enough.
For even better results, get the parents involved. Ask them the same queries to see if their answers match up. This way, you will be able to draw a conclusion and proceed with the young player(s) first training program.
Successful hockey players aren’t successful because of a single moment of motivation; instead, they are successful because of the positive habits they have developed over a long time. According to many studies, habits form success, and habits tend to be strongly formed during the youth years.
However, to be able to help your hockey players develop new habits, you need to start by doing one thing at a time and in an orderly manner. A good rule of thumb is to try one new thing every two weeks. This will help prevent them from being overwhelmed, and it also creates enough time for them to adopt this new habit.
To get started with developing new habits, the hockey strength and conditioning schedule will look something like this example:
- Day 1: Body workout 1
- Day 2: Off
- Day 3: Body workout 2
- Day 4: Off
- Day 5: Body workout 3
- Day 6: Conditioning
- Day 7: Off
You can change this schedule any way you see fit, but remember, the best place to start is by creating a plan. Within that schedule, you can structure the program in a way that prioritizes hockey performances. However, remember to put into account the needs and limitations of your hockey players.
After training, your players should run through simple static stretches to soothe their muscles and nervous system. The stretching will help ensure flexibility gains and help in the recovery to prepare them for the next playing season.
If a child is ready to join the sport, they should be prepared for resistance training. The resistance training should be done 2 to 3 times every week or on nonconsecutive days. After the warm-ups, the kids should perform 1 to 3 sets of 6 to 15 repetitions for various upper and lower body strength exercises and cooling down with light callisthenics.
Many parents wonder whether strength and conditioning programs are safe for their kids, the safety concerns about their children’s growth, and the health effects. It is okay to be concerned; however, strength and conditioning have numerous benefits. Various studies have shown an increase in self-esteem with strength training.
The intensity of the strength program allows the kids to be more focused, attentive and dedicated. More so, the strength and conditioning programs promote the children’s long term athletic performance. Various researches state that children around the ages of 7-8 are old enough to participate in sports and are ready for strength training.
- Coach Brock Bourgase: Warm-up and Cool down
- Wikipedia: SAID Principle
- Mayo Clinic: Strength Training
- WebMD: Warm-up and Cooling down
- Harvard Health Publishing: Importance of Stretching
- Pure Hockey: Plyometric Exercises
- Cross Ice Hockey: Nutrition for young players
- Rush Hockey: Youth Hockey Nutrition
- Sports Dietitians Australia: Hockey Player’s Nutrition
- Ophea: Cool-down Activities
- How to Hockey: Off-ice Stickhandling
- Stretch Coach: Stretches for Hockey
- Hockey Training.com: Hockey Warm-up
- Alta Fitness: What is Strength and Condition
- Stack: Creating a Strength and Conditioning Program
- Hockey Canada: Off-ice Training Manual
- Team USA: Hydrating young athletes