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Hockey: Staying Fit in the Off-Season

A good off-season workout routine is crucial to hone your skills and prepare you for in-season play and performance. Proper form, consistency and attention to detail will keep you in optimum shape to help you endure long games when the season finally rolls back around.

On average players are performing for 15-20 minutes of a 60-minute game, so a hockey training program should meet the demands of this physically challenging sport. Be sure that your workout program incorporates the following activities: cardiovascular training, strength and flexibility training as well as endurance exercises. Remember that simply playing hockey to keep your body fit is not enough. Off-season and in-season body training will help you to maintain speed and strength as well as the physical and mental readiness for each upcoming season.

Hockey players are faced with 30-80 second intervals with a 4-5 minute rest between shifts and usually consist of short, intense bouts of high speed skating and aggressive body contact. The intermittent nature of the game means that endurance becomes of the utmost importance. Add to all this the fact that players are skating, holding a stick and controlling a puck and you’ll see that hockey is in fact very physically challenging.

Cardiovascular Exercise
Cardiovascular fitness helps players cope with these demands and can help speed recover from an injury. Establishing a good cardiovascular “base” is very important before focusing on more specific exercises. Start with a 4-day workout program, concentrating on the lower body for two days; upper body for a day. Begin every session by focusing on strong aerobic exercises by cycling on an exercise bike or treadmill for 20 minutes. Include sprints, starting with 400-meter exercises and then working up to shorter and faster exercises. Running for distance is probably your best option to get your heart rate up and help with endurance.

Strength and Flexibility Training
Strength and flexibility training in the off-season promote a balanced body, improves muscular endurance and power and helps stabilize joints. However, be sure that your weight training is targeted and specific. Increased lean mass is not the only goal of strength training. Gains in maximal strength are only useful on the rink if they are converted into explosive power and power endurance. This takes a more refined approach than a typical bodybuilding routine.

Flexibility exercises stretch tight muscles and improve joints’ range of motion. Incorporating strength and flexibility training into your off-season workout routine also helps prevent injury. Start by lifting weights three to four times per week, taking a day off between workouts to allow your body to rest and recover. Be sure that you are stretching after each workout to keep your body flexible and strong. Children should use strength training (not weight training), using his/her body weight to provide the resistance. This will ensure that you are not piling on more than your child can lift. Weight lifting injuries are common among children, but they should be able to lift their own body weight with little trouble after time.

Some other good exercises to build into your routine include squat exercises, jumping rope, sprinting and stair climbing. These are all great for upper body strengthening. Also try fast push-ups and power abdominal crunches.

Endurance Training
Training for endurance involves intensity and duration. This type of training is typical of a long distance runner’s routine and will help you increase oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle and increased utilization as fat for fuel (which spares muscle glycogen). Endurance training is about getting yourself to the point that you can endure intense physical activity for longer periods of time without being too winded afterward. It also means that your muscles can continue after such strenuous exercise. In essence, there are three forms of endurance training that you’ll need to incorporate into your routine; aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance and speed endurance.

  • AEROBIC ENDURANCE: Aerobic simply means “with oxygen”. During an aerobic workout, your body is working at a level that the demands for oxygen and fuel can be meet by the body’s intake. Aerobic endurance is developed using continuous and interval running to improve maximum oxygen intake and to improve the heart’s function as a muscular pump.

    Aerobic endurance can be sub-divided into short, medium and long aerobic endurance. You’ll want to get proficient in each of these areas:
    Short aerobic – 2 minutes to 8 minutes (lactic/aerobic)
    Medium aerobic – 8 minutes to 30 minutes (mainly aerobic)
    Long aerobic – 30 minutes + (aerobic)

  • ANAEROBIC ENDURANCE: Anaerobic simply means “without oxygen”. During anaerobic workout, your body is working so hard that the demands for oxygen and fuel exceed the rate of supply and your muscles have to rely on the stored reserves of fuel. The oxygen-starved muscles take the body into an oxygen debt of sorts and lactic starts to accumulate in the muscles. Unless the oxygen debt is repaid, your activity will not be resumed. Anaerobic endurance can be developed by using repetition methods of high intensity work with limited recovery.

    Anaerobic endurance can be sub-divided into short, medium and long aerobic endurance. You’ll want to get proficient in each of these areas:
    Short anaerobic – less than 25 seconds (mainly alactic)
    Medium anaerobic – 25 seconds to 60 seconds (mainly lactic)
    Long anaerobic – 60 seconds to 120 seconds (lactic +aerobic)

  • SPEED ENDURANCE: Speed endurance is used to develop the co-ordination of muscle contraction. This type of training should form the later part of pre-season training and in-season training. It is important to develop a solid fitness base beforehand, which includes strength and endurance conditioning. Because speed endurance training can be so demanding, keep session duration to 20-30 minutes maximum. Rest intervals should consist of active recovery exercises such as walking or jogging slowly on the spot.

    Sprints are great for speed endurance. Try changing this training up a bit with some high intensity shuttle runs. You’ll need 7 cones in total. Pace out 30 meters on grass or a running track. Place a cone at the start and at 5 meter intervals. Sprint from the starting cone to the 5 meter cone and back. Turn and sprint to the 10 meter cone and back to start. Sprint to the 15 meter cone and back to start and so on until you sprint the full 30 meters and back. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat. Complete a total of 6 sets keeping rest periods to 90 seconds.

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