Making the most of the off-season
Hockey is Canada’s game, there is no doubt about it. Growing up in Sudbury, most kids learn to stick handle on an outdoor rink about the same time they learn to walk. Due to this popularity, the sport has become very competitive, rendering the “off-season” a thing of the past.
There are countless numbers of programs offered for hockey players away from the rink. In order to develop off the ice and prepare for your next season, be sure to incorporate exercises that will develop each of the following four components:
The most important factor for any athlete is how strong they are. It is a myth that young athletes can’t lift weights (although the training does change slightly for younger athletes). One of the greatest ways to set yourself apart from the competition is to be strong on your stick, skates and in the corners. In addition to strengthening the bones, muscles and tissue that support the joints, you can greatly reduce your risk of injury. Resistance training, or weight training, with proper form is the most important component of every off-season program.
Every position requires you to react and move quickly depending on the play. Being first out of the corner or a step ahead when you move will put you in a better position with more time to make the best play possible. Speed drills may involve doing sprints with a parachute or pushing/pulling a sled. The goal is to overload the body so it is forced to move faster than normal once the resistance is removed.
Being able to change directions on a dime can be the difference between shaking a defender and keeping your step on the opposition. Incorporating speed movements where you must change directions quickly will help with the core stability, co-ordination and timing of your movements.
This isn’t just for goalies anymore. More than half of hockey injuries occur due to a lack of flexibility in the joint and supporting tissues. Moving through the full range of motion when doing each exercise, as well as incorporating mobility movements to pre-habilitate and rehabilitate is important.
Remember, time away from the rink is important to get your drive back, but sitting in front of a television screen for four months is not the answer. When putting together your spring/summer agenda, a properly laid-out off-season plan will get you bringing a better, and stronger body back to the arena, while still allowing you the much-needed recovery time after a long season.
Always consult a professional before diving into your off-season program, and be sure the program is customized to your fitness level and goals. Be sure to assess yourself at the beginning, middle and end of your program to look for weaknesses, as well as to stay motivated by seeing your progression.
John Hillier is a certified personal trainer and instructor in the physical fitness and leisure management program at Cambrian College.