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Weight Training for Ice Hockey

Get Fit for Hockey with Strength Training

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Updated July 18, 2011

Hockey - New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers

Ben Walter #29 of the New York Islanders skates against Jeff Carter #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers during their game on November 12, 2007 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Updated July 18, 2011

Comprehensive training programs for individual sports are “periodized.” That is, they are broken into three or four phases in the year with each phase concentrating on a particular fitness development. Periodized programs provide a progressive buildup to peak fitness and performance.

For professional sports that utilize weights in their training -- which is most sports these days -- each phase has different objectives and each successive phase builds on the previous one.

Important note: Hockey requires good aerobic fitness to provide endurance for sustained effort. Although training on skates "on rink" is essential, many players also benefit from "off rink" training on treadmills, indoor tracks, cycle machines and other cardio equipment. The part of the program outlined here is confined mostly to the weights and strength development part of the program. You will need to do cardio training to develop aerobic fitness early pre-season , and then build up anaerobic fitness, such as doing sprints, shuttles and intervals to be fully prepared for the season start.

Aerobic fitness means you can skate, ski, jog or run for a long time at moderate pace without getting too tired. Anaerobic fitness means you can keep going longer at high intensities before your legs and body slow down. Both are important in hockey, especially if you are likely to play the whole game. When you optimize all elements of fitness -- skating fitness, strength and power, you can claim to be at peak fitness.

A year-long ice hockey weight training program could look like the program I’ve outlined below. I’ve used the term “ice hockey” at this early stage of the article to distinguish between “ice” and “field” hockey. From here on, hockey means ice hockey.

Early Pre-Season

  • Players are preparing for the season and starting to build up after the off season.
  • Emphasis is on building aerobic fitness, basic functional strength and muscle bulk, which is called "hypertrophy".

Late Pre-Season

  • Players are working up to the start of the season and pre-season trials are imminent.
  • Emphasis is on building anaerobic fitness and maximum strength and power.

In Season

  • Competition is underway and players are expected to be fully functional for competition.
  • Maintenance of speed, aerobic and anaerobic fitness and strength and power is emphasized.

Off Season

  • You won the title, or you hopefully came close; time to relax for a while but you need to keep active.
  • Emphasis is on rest and recovery with maintenance of light activity -- cross training, light gym work. Several weeks break from serious fitness and strength training is helpful.
  • As pre-season approaches, more regular work can resume with an emphasis on building aerobic fitness once again for the pre-season training.

Role-Specific Training

Within a generic training program for a particular sport, further specialty programs may be useful, especially in teams where members have specific roles and certain advantageous physical attributes apply. For example, in football, a quarterback and a defensive lineman will probably have a different program in the gym. One emphasizing speed and agility, and the other bulk, strength and power.

In hockey, defensemen and forwards are not so distinctly different in their fitness requirements even allowing for “stay-at-home” and “offensive” defense players. Even so, goaltenders may need additional skills in reflexes and flexibility.

One point of fitness that does distinguish hockey players from most other team sports is the requirement for single-leg strength and balance. Naturally, this aspect can be targeted in a weight training program.

Consider the program presented here to be an all-round program, best suited to beginners or casual weight trainers without a history of weight training for hockey. The best programs are always specific to an individual's current fitness, role in the team, access to resources, and, no less important, the team coaches' essential philosophy. You will be best served by using the following program in conjunction with a trainer or coach.

If you're new to weight training, brush up on principles and practices with the beginner resources.

Always warm up and cool down before and after a training session. A medical clearance for exercise is always a good idea at the start of the season. Now, let's get started:

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