Thoughts on In-Season Training for Hockey

Jun 22, 2022

I had this Friday off so I decided to put together a quick little brain-dump on in-season training with hockey players. Nothing new or outside the box, but some good reminders for other coaches working with hockey as well as a lot at what we are doing on a weekly basis.

#1: Don't Underestimate the Importance of Diaphragmatic Breathing


“If breathing isn't normalized no other movement pattern will be.” Karl Lewit


This is simple: diaphragmatic breathing is probably the simplest and easiest thing we can perform with our athletes when it comes to changing and improving movement and performance.

Proper respiration leads to better posture. Better posture leads to an athlete that is more resilient to injury and leads to better performance. More resilient + better performance = better athlete. Don't miss out on the low hanging fruit.


#2: Consistently Sprinting On and Off Ice

Acceleration is king in most sports and hockey is no different. Winning chases to loose pucks and stops/starts are all acceleration based. If you want to be fast in short distances you need to consistently working to improve being fast over short distances.

Consistently timing 10 yard sprints is one of the best additions to our off-ice program that we've ever made (thanks Tony Holler & Michael Boyle). We've always performed acceleration work, but the intent has improved (a night and day difference) when the athlete is sprinting versus the timer.

With the way our week is set up we have been able to consistently time 10's off-ice every Monday. We have done some timed sprints on-ice this fall but not as consistently as we'd like or probably should. In a perfect world, with our current weekly set up, we'd like to time 10's off-ice on Monday's and on-ice on Wednesdays.



#3: Anti-Extension for Hip/Groin Health

We perform a lot of things year round to help maintain hip/groin health. Some are smaller 'prehab' type things we'll perform as part of our daily warm ups (tissue quality work, Cook Hip Lifts and other bridge work, different Foam Roll/Pilates Ring groin squeezes, various hip flexor strengthening/function work, etc.) while others are training staples like anti-extension core work with movements like rollouts, fallouts, front plank variations and body saws.

Long story short, our goal is to create balance;
- overworked/tight hip flexors can pull the pelvis into an anteriorly tipped position
- creating stiffness through the anterior core with anti-extension core work does the opposite, pulling the pelvis into a more superior position



#4: Training Power Outside the Sagittal Plane

Hockey is played in different planes, so we train power in different planes. Do we Olympic lift or perform loaded power exercises? Sure. We still hang clean, dumbbell snatch and do jump squats with the trap bar, but we also spend just as much time training power outside of the sagittal plane. We throw med balls in various planes three different days (Monday/Wednesday/Thursday) over the course of each week.



#5: More Hip Extension

This is pretty straight forward: hockey is a sport that is played in constant hip flexed position. Therefore, in order to do everything you can to keep hips healthy, I think its critical to train hip extension often in-season through sprinting, sled marching, 1-leg deadlift's, slideboard leg curl's, and 1-leg bench hip lift's among other lifts/movements.

This year we've taken it a bit further and tried adding a little more hip extension throughout the course of the week. On our Day One (Monday) lift we'll typically do some timed 10's (2-4 sprints), 1-leg deadlifts (generally 3 sets of 5), and slideboard leg curls (2 sets of 5-8). On our Day 2 (Wednesday) lift while getting in some sled marching (3 sets 5-10 steps each) and 1-leg bench hip lifts (2 sets of 8-12) on our day 2 lift. So far, so good.



#6: 1-Leg Training

Piggybacking off the previous thought, at this point in the year all of our lower body strength work has been transitioned into single leg through 1-leg squats, split squat variations, 1-leg deadlifts, etc.. We perform bilateral lifts like Trap Bar Deadlifts and Goblet Squats in the off-season, but I'm of the opinion that during the competitive season, spending too much time training bilateral strength as well as in the sagittal plane, could potentially have the tendency to lead to imbalances of the hip adductors/abductors. With the additional benefit of potentially more carry-over to the sport of ice hockey/skating, it seems like an obvious choice at this point of the year.


#7: Chin Up = Our #1 Upper Body Strength Movement

We push chin ups and we push them hard. It isn't often that we go a week without performing some type of chin up or chin up variation. In sports where there is a chance for potential collision-related shoulder injuries, whether it be a collision with an opposing player or a collision with the boards in the case of hockey, pulling strength is hugely important from an injury prevention standpoint.



#8: Shoulder Friendly Pressing

Probably one of the big things we do different then other programs; we don't bench press with a barbell in-season. Yes, we still bench press, but its more of an off-season movement for us. Most hockey players don't tend to have the best posture in the world and live in that classic shoulders rolled forward posture, in large part because of the sport demands.

Because of that, in-season we tend to focus more on what we would consider more shoulder friendly pressing movements; landmine press variations, dumbbell bench press, 1DB and alternating dumbbell variations (flat and incline) and push ups. When the season ends and we spend much less time on the ice we can clean up posture we'll bench with a barbell more often, but in-season its a simple risk > reward scenario for us.