When young hockey players think about off-ice training, they often want to replicate what the pros do. How do the pros train? What does Sidney Crosby do during the off-season to become so strong when the season starts? Let’s take a closer look.
Strength coaches from 23 NHL teams were asked to rank the top 5 exercises in their athletes’ workout regimens. Here are their answers:
- Squats or Squat Variations (such as Single-Leg Squats and Balance Board Squats)
- Olympic Lift Variations (Power Clean, Hang Clean, High Pull, etc.)
- Push Press and Bench Press variations
- Chin-Ups, Medicine Ball or Core Work
Here are some tips to keep in mind when training younger athletes.
Aerobic activities like long jogs or spinning will not improve performance on ice. A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the ability to recover from intermittent high-intensity exercise (like hockey) is not related to aerobic capacity. The demands of the sport are anaerobic, emphasizing strength, power and speed.
Some speed training methods are better than others. Twenty-two of the 23 NHL strength coaches indicated that they use some measure of speed development in their off-season training programs—ranging from plyometric training (quick counter-movement jumps designed to increase speed) to resisted running and over-speed running. Only three used a skate treadmill to increase speed.
High-level hockey players are stronger and have more flex in their knees; they don’t necessarily have perfect skating strides. A study conducted at Queen’s and McGill Universities examined the differences in skating strides between elite and lower level hockey players. High caliber hockey players demonstrated more knee abduction (outward turn of knee) while skating. This allows them to turn their foot out further, which makes the skate blade stay on the ice longer, lengthening the stride. Better knee flex translates into better energy transfer to the quadriceps, improving propulsion.