As the hockey season comes to a close, it’s time for athletes to start thinking about what they are going to do in the off-season. The off-season is the ideal time to recover from injury, address movement dysfunctions, and focus on physical training to improve the strength, speed, and explosiveness that are so important to the game of hockey. We’ve broken down what you should be doing month by month to make the 2019-2020 season your best yet!
March: Recovery and General Physical Preparedness
March is a big month in the hockey life cycle! A lot of players don’t take advantage of this transition period from in-season competition to off-season training. They spend the month sitting on the couch, ignoring injuries from the season, and getting out of shape before hitting off-season training hard in May or June. Instead, athletes should be addressing their injuries, mental burnout, movement dysfunctions, and performing light workouts to stay in shape and prep for serious off-season training April-November.
Perhaps you suffered an injury at the end of the season or experienced a nagging, chronic issue throughout the season. Either way, now is the time to see a physical therapist to address both your current injury and any underlying issues that predispose you to future or recurring injuries.
Fuel: Sleep & Nutrition
What you put in your body is imperative for both physical and mental recovery. From a fueling standpoint, focus on a real food based diet with an emphasis on fruits and veggies, low fat dairy, lean protein, and whole grains. Avoid highly processed foods and fad diets. On top of a healthy diet, refill your tank with 7-9 hours of high quality sleep per night.
Hockey season is long and grueling, which can lead to mental burnout on top of physical exhaustion. In addition, injuries accrued over the season can wreak havoc on your confidence and mindset. It is important to take a mental break from competition to get your mental game in shape.
It is difficult to be in a good place mentally if you’re suffering physically, so address any injuries, other health concerns, nutrition or sleep issues that may be contributing to a poor mindset. Take time to reconnect with friends and family you may not have much time for during the season. Take time for self-care, which can be any activity that you do purely because it puts you in a good mental place, like yoga or listening to music. If you continue to struggle with your mental health or want to gain the extra edge, see a Sport Psychologist regularly.
General Physical Preparedness
As mentioned above, taking a month off from all training is not advised. While you may only take a few weeks off, you can set yourself behind by months because you have to regain the fitness you lost during your break.
Hockey players tend to be tight and stiff through their hips, which can lead to low back, hip, and knee injuries, as well as decreased athletic performance. During March, spend 20-30 minutes daily foam rolling and stretching your hip flexors, quads, IT bands, hamstrings, adductors, glutes, and calves. Add in active hip mobility exercises to gain ownership of your newfound mobility. Check out our lower body mobility instagram highlight for video instruction!
Hockey athletes need to have stable cores and hips in order to prevent injury, skate efficiently, and transfer energy for a powerful shot. Deadbugs, birddogs, and plank variations are excellent for activating the core, while bridge variations and sideplanks are excellent for activating your glutes/hipstabilizers.
This month is an ideal time to address dysfunctional movement patterns that could predispose you to injury or may be impairing your performance on the ice. Utilize isometric and eccentric muscle contractions to challenge your weak points, build strength and muscle endurance in key positions, and prep for hypertrophy in April.
April – June: Hypertrophy
Hypertrophy is the process of enlarging your muscle fibers. This builds the foundation by adding muscle mass that will later be utilized to make you a stronger, more explosive player on the ice. During a hypertrophy phase, you will be training 3-4 days per week. As a hockey athlete, you will be training your whole body, with an emphasis on lower body and core. Exercises are performed roughly around 6-12 reps which are performed at 75-80% of your 1 rep max to maximize muscle growth.
July – August: Max Strength
In July and August, we continue to build the foundation of a bigger, stronger athlete. The max strength phase helps improve muscular strength and increases bone density. It also teaches athletes how to create and regulate force at different joint angles, which is important for preventing injuries like sprains and strains. Exercise metrics change a bit in this phase to reach these goals. The athlete will continue to train 3-4 days per week, performing exercises 1-3 times per set at 90% of your 1 rep max.
September: Explosive Strength
Hockey requires a massive amount of explosiveness, and during September, we’ll train those bigger, stronger muscles to be explosive on the ice. On the muscle fiber level, this type of training enhances the speed of motor unit recruitment, or how quickly you can turn your muscles on and produce a lot of force, and emphasizes the use of fast-twitch muscle fibers, . Exercises type will transition to more power or explosive type movements. They will be performed 2-6 times at 50-70% of your 1 rep max.
October: Speed Strength
During October, your training plan will maximize your ability to recruit your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which help you to move quickly and powerfully. Weights will continue to fall to 25-50% of your 1 rep max as we focus on speed during your 2-6 repetitions of each exercise. This month will also focus on sport specific exercises as you transition into competition season.
November – February: In-season Training
Remember when we were discussing about how taking a post-season break from all training forces you to regain what you lost during that period once you do start training again? The same thought process applies to in-season training. Obviously between practices and games, available time for physical training drops, but fitting in two workouts per week can prevent the loss of strength and power that most hockey players experience over the course of the season. With a minimal investment, you can maintain your athleticism and reduce your risk of injury, which will make you a dominating force on the ice!