If your season is over, time to prepare for next season NOW with these offseason hockey training tips
By Christopher Costa
If you’re reading this, then your season is probably over (sorry about that). You put a lot of blood, sweat, and maybe even a few tears into the season, but unfortunately, things don’t always go the way you plan. Just don’t use it as an excuse to delay the inevitable. If you want to be a better hockey player next season, you must start your now with some offseason hockey training. When I say train, I don’t mean follow a teammate into a gym or sprint all night, like in the movie Miracle. What I mean is a fully committed, systematic approach—something kind of scientific, but more basic.
It all starts with two-and-a-half weeks of downtime. You may have hoped for more or even less, but it’s necessary. Likely, your body is recovering from a battered season. Nagging injuries stack up throughout the season, and they require time to heal. If it happens to be a more serious or severe injury, then hopefully you’ve already seen a doctor who has you on a track to recovery.
Psychologically, you need time to heal as well. A clear mind is quicker and better at releasing those good hormones that sharpen our senses. Two-and-a-half weeks of you time: No hockey training. Just mental and physical recovery. Do what you enjoy outside the game. In fact, don’t even think about the game until 17 days in. Take a vacation. Do something different!
After that time, you should feel refreshed. If you took our advice, you’ve already started to think about how you want to proceed into next season. What needs to change? What needs to be better? Recognize your flaws and begin your hockey training.
When I mentioned a systematic approach earlier, I was referring to change that would improve the body as one whole working unit. Let’s say you struggled to make it through a shift. I could relate that to three different problems that need to be addressed.
- Poor energy-system utilization
- Muscular imbalance
One of the quickest ways to employ some offseason hockey training is to change is your diet. Cut out the junk. How do you expect your body to function at 110% capacity if you’re feeding it Twinkies and candy bars? If you’re at a loss as to how to eat well, then take the initiative and visit a Sports Nutritionist who can help you get your diet on track.
What does nutrition have to do with energy systems?
Our bodies function on energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). In order to create ATP efficiently, you need proper fuel. But wait—high-octane fuel doesn’t make a Prius run any faster. This is where proper energy-system utilization becomes important. I would assume that if you are gasping for breath after a quick shift, then likely you have trained your energy systems ineffectively. The rigors of the season have depleted your endurance levels beyond expectation, so you must build them back up. In fact, I suggest developing higher levels of endurance than you may have had during the past season, so that you can sustain those levels well into the playoffs.
We build endurance in two different ways: Muscular and Cardiovascular. Muscular endurance provides us with the ability to perform a task that requires repeated power: i.e., a hard shot or pass, while Cardiovascular endurance enables us to go faster longer without being totally gassed. Chances are if you’re drained after a shift, then you need to address the cardio aspects of your game in you’re the first step of training. We call that Periodization.
Gauging time spent in each “period” is relatively easy. Take your worst attributes—the ones that you want to work on the most—train those first and sustain that level of fitness through the of the offseason. Follow that up with your strongest attributes, but be cautious of overtraining. That can be a major setback. Signs of overtraining are slowed progress, increased and prolonged soreness, poor sleeping patterns and much more. If your exercise performance mechanics are affected, then muscular imbalances can occur, which is another problem you may need to address in your hockey training.
Correcting your diet and teaching your body how to utilize the right energy at the right time provides you with the best opportunity to gain strength, power and increase muscular efficiency. Hockey players are notorious for having muscular imbalances, especially in the hip complex. These imbalances lead to an increased risk of injury. Equally, a body that is inhibited lacks the ability to perform at peak performance. Maybe your shot is weak. Maybe you struggle to beat the opponent to the puck in less than three strides. There are several factors at play here.
Both of those issues have a little something to do with your muscles’ ability to read, react, and perform. As a hockey player, you need power (aka the ability) to get to the puck in less than three strides. So we teach our athletes to train the legs and core to become more explosive via various degrees of resistance and plyometric training, the platform that produces quickness and agility. The goal, in this situation, is to make all of the muscles involved in producing efficient power and quickness, work better together.
It may be a little difficult to see, but developing a systematic approach to the offseason ensures that each stage produces cumulative results. Sometimes admitting your flaws can be tough, especially to your trainer or Strength Coach. Fortunately, it’s our job as Strength Coaches to identify the problems and correct them before you do. The goal is to lead the body into the next stage without hesitation, giving you the best chance to develop efficient patterns that lay the groundwork for an improvement over last season.
Christopher Costa, a Strength Coach, has dedicated his life to hockey, as a coach, player and official for 22 years. He is the owner of Assist Performance, based in Philadelphia, where he builds protocols to address all key aspects that produce elite talent, including nutrition. He recently worked with the Philadelphia Flyers organization of the NHL. Chris is pursuing his Masters degree in Strength and Conditioning at Edith Cowen University. For more information, visit his website www.assistperformance.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org