If you’re looking to take your game to the next level, off-ice hockey training is critical
By Tim Turk, NHL-level skills & shooting coach
As hockey players get a few years of hockey under their belt, some begin to get more serious about the sport. They begin watching hockey games and videos, looking for ways to improve themselves. Young players may set a goal to become a professional player (or at least to be the best in their league) and then strive to achieve that dream.
One aspect of becoming more serious about hockey is to engage in additional training. Any player with aspirations of bettering their skills will work harder at practices and listen more intently to their coach. Some will also recognize that eating healthy is a huge part of success in sport, and they will improve their diet. However, one of the most crucial aspects of developing the lifestyle of a professional hockey player is to train at home; to work on your skills off the ice.
If you are a hockey player moving up the ranks and looking to take your hockey career seriously, off-ice hockey training is critical. Here’s what you can do at home to train like a pro.
The Importance of Off-Ice Hockey Training
Improve Your Hockey Skills Faster
The most obvious reason that off-ice hockey training is important is that you will improve your hockey skills that much faster. Let’s say you have one game and one or two practices a week (which is typical of a minor hockey team). In that case, you’re working on your hockey skills two to three times per week. But imagine if four of the other days you did off-ice training at home. Then, you’d have six days every week where you worked on hockey. You’ll notice much faster improvement, which will start paying off on the ice.
Great for Conditioning Your Body
Do you ever find that you burn out during your hockey practices or games, especially towards the end? Yes, everyone gets tired after a lot of physical activity, but doing off-ice training throughout the week will boost your stamina and allow you to do more without getting tired.
After a while, your body will become used to constant exercise and you’ll be able to push yourself harder and faster, and you won’t tire out as fast. It’s all a matter of putting in the extra effort.
Stay Ahead of the Game
If you’re at the point where you want to start doing off-ice hockey training to better your game, I can guess that most of the other players in your league aren’t. The benefit of doing off-ice training at a younger age—or early in your hockey career—is that most of your competititon haven’t reached the point where they want to be serious about hockey and aren’t working on their skills outside the rink. You can rest assured knowing you’re working harder than your competition and pushing towards your goals.
It’s Habit Forming
It goes without saying that all professional hockey players today do plenty of off-ice training. If becoming a pro—or simply a better player—is a goal of yours, then it’s a great idea to start getting used to off-ice hockey training right away. That way it will become a habit for you, so it’ll be easier to continue doing as you go further with your hockey career.
What You Need to Do
The main point of doing off-ice exercises is to work on the areas you’ll need to use in a typical hockey game. Here are the most important abilities that are required to be successful on the ice, along with some ways you can improve them at home:
A lot of the power you apply in hockey games is explosive strength, where you move at a high intensity for a short time and then have a recovery period. If you have access to a weight room, then exercises with greater weight with lower repetitions are excellent for hockey strength training. Throwing a medicine ball can also be very helpful in training burst strength. If you have no equipment, then simple sets of exercises like push-ups and squats should be sufficient.
Strengthening the core is also crucial for hockey players because it coordinates quick movement. Any fast change in movement direction is conducted by your core. Helpful core exercises include front and side planks, crunches, and medicine-ball throws as well.
Speed is one of the most important aspects of hockey. You often need to be able to skate the length of the rink to help defend or get to the puck as fast as possible. Fortunately, developing your speed often goes along with working on other important hockey skills. Variations of sprinting, jumping and medicine-ball throwing all contribute to improving your speed.
The best way to develop stamina is through interval training: Exercises that involve short bursts of energy followed by a recovery period. One exercise that accomplishes this is doing sprints, which is running at full speed for about half a minute and then walking for a few minutes to cool down, and then repeating that. You can also do the same thing on a stationary bike or a rowing machine; just go high intensity for half a minute followed by a couple of minutes of cool down.
Simply doing static (stationary) and dynamic (moving) stretches will increase your flexibility. Even before practices and games, you should make it a habit to stretch. The great thing about stretching is that it’s very easy to do off-ice anywhere you have the time, because it requires little to no equipment. There are plenty of resources online that will give you specific stretching plans that are excellent for hockey players.
5. Body Coordination
Hockey is a very challenging sport, as your body is doing many things at once. You need to be surveying the whole ice, keeping track of a small, fast puck while your arms work your hockey stick and your legs skate you around. Because of this, working on body coordination off the ice is very important.
Any exercise where you’re performing multiple different motions simultaneously is great for coordination. For example, you can throw a medicine ball at a wall while doing squats.
Clearly, off-ice hockey training is necessary for anyone interested in taking their game to the next level. If you start doing it at a younger age, it will become a habit and will eventually make you a standout player in your league. Plus, you’ll be cultivating your hockey skills and conditioning your body to be able to take on a greater level of hockey as you mature.
Now that you know what you can do at home to train for hockey, what are you waiting for? Start your off-ice training today!
Tim Turk has been an NHL-level skills and shooting coach since 2001. Tim works with many organizations, teams, coaches and players, male and female of all ages and levels from all over the world. For more information, visit TimTurkHockey.com.
It’s always best to check with a physician before undertaking any fitness regimen.