If you have a budding hockey star at home, the off-season is a critical time in their development. Make sure your player has all the tools they need to succeed in their training endeavors.
In the off-season, your aspiring athlete should focus on strength and power movements, conditioning specifically to hockey, and honing their stick handling skills. Training should help boost confidence and enhance performance as they prepare for the upcoming season.
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Creating your off-season training plan
When your current season has come to an end, it is important to take a couple of weeks off from intense training to focus on rest and recovery. For the initial 2-4 weeks after the last game, you should mend any nagging injuries and give their body a full recovery.
This time of recovery should be a mental and physical break from the structured environment of the season. Activities can include playing other sports recreationally (especially ones that involve hand-eye coordination), doing yoga or other forms of flexibility training, and light cardio and conditioning such as jogging, hiking, swimming, or biking.
Scott Caufield, Coaching Education Manager of the National Strength and Conditioning Association says, “Take a break, enjoy time with your friends, enjoy a vacation with the family, and don’t think about anything related to their sport. It’s a good chance to just play, ride a bike, have fun, whatever it is.”
After a few recovery weeks, you should begin dry-land/off-ice and some on-ice forms of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.
Hockey is played at a fast pace with quick substitutions that are on the fly. The shifts are short and intense, and rest is also limited. It is crucial to train in ways that are similar to what you will be experiencing on the ice, as well as develop a strong aerobic base that will provide optimal recovery between training sessions, practices, and games.
Most of the game is spent in the anaerobic (meaning without oxygen) training zones, utilizing the phosphagen and glycolytic systems to create energy. These energy systems deplete rapidly and must be replenished with adequate rest to keep up power and endurance.
Guidelines from the National Strength and Conditioning Association say:
To train anaerobic capacity:
- Use short sprint intervals – 10-30 seconds with a 1:3 or 1:4 work-to-rest ratio (sprint 10seconds, rest 30-40 seconds),
- Start with a few sets and progress each week over the off-season
To train aerobic capacity:
- Use longer intervals with less intensity – 30seconds up to 3 minutes with 1:1 or longer work-to-rest ratios
- Use slower runs or bouts of activity 20 minutes or longer
You can use various modes to achieve these intensities – running, biking, rowing, slide board, and of course, skating.
Off-season strength training
When designing a strength training program, it’s helpful to know what types of exercises to include and which movements take priority. You should focus on fundamental movement patterns and building mobility, stability, and proper technique.
Dan Meinz, also of the NSCA, says, “In order to prepare a player for the season effectively, it is necessary to have a thorough understanding of the demands of the sport. Skating requires powerful legs, strong hips, and a stable torso to allow efficient transfer of force from the body to the ice.”
Your focus should be to develop transferable strength and power and to stay injury-free. This will help you skate faster, hit harder, play quicker, and become more resilient.
Mobility and flexibility training, especially for the hips and core, will help you move well on and off the ice. Strength training should also focus on the hips and core and include upper body training as well to help you hold your own on the ice.
Movements like squats, deadlifts, lunges (especially lateral ones), rows, push-ups, and pull-ups all make up a sound full-body approach to strength training. Start with your own body weight and then add other forms of resistance – dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, etc.
Train the core through full ranges of motion and incorporate varying challenges to stability and balance. Planks, side planks, bird dogs, med ball throws, and cable chops can develop hockey-specific core strength and stability to be nimble on your skates and absorb hits.
Power and plyometric movements such as broad jumps and medicine ball throws can build the explosive strength you need to shoot a puck or make a dash to the blue line.
Once you have mastered these fundamentals, you can start incorporating more advanced methods and more complex movements. Speak with a personal trainer or strength coach to ensure you are covering all the bases and won’t get hurt. Your team may have their own coaches as well.
Off-season skills training
Skills training should go along with your strength training and conditioning in preparing for the upcoming season. There are many training drills and small-area games that can be valuable.
Passing, receiving, shooting, and stickhandling drills can all be added to your repertoire. You may want to utilize a shooting pad and shooting target. This is another area where a synthetic rink could do wonders for your training!
Passing and receiving drills work best with a partner, and playing small-sides games with a couple of friends can be fun and beneficial. Games such as Monkey in the Middle, Keep Away can also be included to add a more dynamic environment.
Try to perform drills daily and spend lots of time with the puck. The important thing is to be consistent and intentional with your training. Honing your skills will help you stand out at tryouts and show your coaches that you have put in the work in the off-season.
Improve your conditioning, strength, and skills
A well-designed off-season training program can help reduce injuries, improve your strength and conditioning levels, and take your game skills to the next level. Check out our blog for more helpful hockey and skating tips!