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In-season Strength and Conditioning

November 28th, 2017

What are the goals for my in-season strength and conditioning program?

How can I accomplish this while still focusing on my short and long term goals?

How can I structure a program around the busy schedule of the hockey season?

These are the questions every hockey player should be asking themselves before they start a training program during the season.  Or, these are the questions their strength coaches should be asking themselves before designing a program for their player / team.

I feel players at different levels can potentially need very different in-season strength and conditioning programs.  If you want to get complicated you can look at the following variables when designing a program:

  • Physical maturity of each player
  • Age of each player
  • Nutrition / recovery habits
  • Ice time
  • Travel schedule
  • Long term development goals
  • Injury screening
  • Off-ice demands / sleep schedule

To handle all these variables properly, players need a qualified and experienced strength and conditioning coach to guide them through the rigors of a season.

For our purposes here, let’s talk about the main goals of an in-season program.  There are a few things that should be a focus of your program at any level.

  • Strength training
    • Minimum Effective Dose:  What is the minimum amount of strength training needed to maintain the strength I gained in the off-season while not wearing myself out?  1-2 days a week, 2-3 exercises, 2-3 sets, 4-8 reps at a moderate to high intensity.
  • Combat the negative changes in soft tissue length and quality
    • Players spend a large amount of time in an “unnatural” posture while skating.
      • Leaning forward
      • Rounded shoulders
      • Shortened hip flexors
    • Stretching and mobility work should be included every day to help your body maintain a “neutral” position off the ice.  This will help prevent injuries down the road.
  • Recovery
    • Proper Nutrition and Hydration
      • The foundation of recovery
    • Soft Tissue work
      • Foam rolling, massage, stretching
    • Sleep
      • 8-10 hours a day

 

In general the level you play at and your game schedule should dictate your in-season program.  NHL players have to be ready to play their best all 82 games.  There is no time for anything except focusing on staying healthy and maintaining strength as best they can.  Collegiate players have a less demanding and consistent game schedule (weekend games) and typically can handle a higher intensity training day early in the week.  Junior players have to pick their spots in the schedule to blend in some higher intensity days with maintenance days.  Both collegiate players and junior players should be balancing their long term development needs (strength, size, speed) with their in season needs (playing their best every night).  No matter what level you play at everyone should be focusing on a few things: strength training (appropriate to their needs), soft tissue work, and recovery.

About the Author: Don Jupp is an experienced strength and conditioning coach in multiple sports, specializing in hockey. He has been at his trade for 12 years and counts players such as Auston Matthews, Paul Stastny and Ben Bishop as clients.  He understands the details that go into crafting a long and healthy career for pro hockey players.

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