To understand hockey strength and conditioning you have to be aware of the unique demands placed on an ice hockey player. In order to be successful in hockey, besides having exceptional skills, players should participate in a program that will enhance their strength, power, speed and agility. Ice hockey has a number of unique features. During the game, players must accelerate and decelerate rapidly in shifts that last 30-45 seconds on average. The game is played in shifts and the player rests sitting down. In addition, hockey players must endure extremely high force collisions due to the high speeds attained in skating.

Although many so-called authorities will tell you the energy supply for hockey may be primarily aerobic, the trained observer may draw a different conclusion. Forwards generally play in a rest-to-work ratio in the area of 3:1, while defensemen use a rest-to-work ration of 2:1. Most sports can be classified somewhere between low intensity and high intensity activity. Low intensity activities can continue for long periods of time. However, high intensity activities can proceed only in short spurts interspersed with regular rest intervals to facilitate recovery. Using these definitions, hockey places towards the high intensity end of the scale.

The off-season strength program should focus on preparing both the muscular system and the neuromuscular system. Exercise selection should include explosive weightlifting movements, multi-joint lower body exercises, upper body pulling and pressing movements, and a full range of trunk movements.

The off-season conditioning program should focus on speed development and interval training. We tell our athletes: “train slow, get slow.” Conditioning, speed development, and strength training should be specific to the sport of ice hockey. Speed training on land, using similar intervals to the game, but some conventional aerobic training should also be done.

There are two phases to building fitness for hockey:

  1. Improving general fitness or getting “into shape”
  2. Hockey-specific conditioning

Getting in shape means improving aerobic power, flexibility, strength and diet while decreasing body fat and increasing muscle mass. The second phase requires conditioning specifically for the demands faced on the ice. Exercises and drills are selected and completed with specific exercise prescriptions so that your physical and physiological development best suits the game of ice hockey. We are going to work on developing a good base of strength and conditioning before moving onto the development of sport-specific attributes.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will continue to add blog posts expanding on the principles of designing an effective summer training program, the benefits of attending specialty hockey clinics and hockey camps, and the things you need to do to become a college hockey player.