Hockey Conditioning Drills
Hockey conditioning drills are not like drills for most other sports—your hockey drills should prepare you for game conditions. In a nutshell, the rigors of hockey require high-intensity training.
Hockey Training: It's All About the Game
Your hockey training should speak to the game of hockey, which is characterized by bursts and short-term explosiveness. Loading up the digital music player and going for a long jog around your neighborhood will help your cardio, but it won't do much for your hockey game. To be in shape for hockey, you need to train for hockey.
Imagine your game on the ice. You're skating up the ice at a glide, when suddenly a teammate steals the puck, and you sprint full speed the length of the ice—only to watch his slapshot bounce off the backboards and onto the stick of an opponent. You stop, and sprint the other way full speed to get back on defense before a whistle stops play. You do this time and again throughout your shift before sitting and waiting for the next shift. A shift can last from a quick 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. You must be able to repeat that maximum effort throughout the game, and also bring your maximum effort in the final minutes of the third period.
If your hockey training consists of long jogs, you're training to be a runner—not a hockey player. You should be preparing your body for high-intensity sprints over short periods of time, followed by moments of low-intensity effort before another all-out effort. Your hockey conditioning needs to replicate what happens on the ice and build that kind of stamina so you'll have plenty left in the tank for the third period. That's not to say that long jogs or skating laps don't have a place in your training regimen—those kinds of conditioning exercises will help you recover between shifts. But they should represent a lower percentage of your hockey drills or conditioning than the high-output drills made to build your explosiveness and improve your ability to keep those bursts fresh throughout your shift, and for the entire game.
Your Hockey Training Program: Make the Drills Work for You
Your hockey training program should focus on exercises and skating drills that build explosiveness. Your off-ice hockey training in the gym should include jumps—forward, backward, side-to-side, and up on top of blocks, as well as work with kettlebells, medicine balls, weighted sleds, and plenty of sprints of short, intense duration. Your rest periods in between these conditioning drills should never allow you to completely recover. If you're not working on a set based on time, then restart the next set of reps before you have fully recovered. If you're working with a clock, then adjust your workouts so you either get the same amount of work done in a shorter amount of time or accomplish more work in the same amount of time. Reaching those benchmarks is how you'll improve capacity for high-intensity performance.
In-Season and Dryland Training for Hockey: Work Smart, Play Hard
Hockey training looks different in season than it does when you're getting ready for the season. During the off-season, you'll focus more on your dryland hockey training—building strength, speed, and flexibility. Longer reps and covering greater distances in your off-ice conditioning drills will help build up your body, unburdened by the rigors of the season to tear it back down. And don't forget to eat right: packing on weight that isn't lean muscle will slow you down and impair your performance on the ice.
Although there's nothing wrong with getting in ice time in the off-season, stay focused on building up your body. Right before the season starts, you'll transition from dryland training to a mixture of off-ice and on-ice work to start preparing for the season. As you transition to on-ice hockey conditioning drills, the key is maintaining your peak condition without beating up your body more than practices and games already do. Depending on how often you practice and play, slide in a workout similar to the regimen you followed in the off-season, but practice fewer reps, go shorter distances, and use lighter weights or resistance.
Being a complete hockey player is a year-round commitment. Yes, you'll achieve plenty of hockey conditioning during practices and games, but improvement comes during the offseason and between practices while on your own. Nobody is going to make you become a stronger, better-conditioned hockey player—only you can do that.