Hockey Conditioning: In-Season vs. Off-Season
Before reading this post, check out the two preceding posts on hockey conditioning:
As you may have noticed, I’m not a huge supporter of hockey players riding exercise bikes, but I am a huge supporter of slideboarding.
My opinion changes slightly when hockey players are in-season.
When players are on the ice for hours a week, they probably don’t need as much work in lateral and diagonal movement patterns because they get enough of that on the ice. To this extent, slideboarding consistently throughout the season could over-stress (or not allow for sufficient recovery) the hip adductors (“groin”) and lead to overuse (or under-recovery) injuries.
If Not Slideboards, Then What?
I generally think shuttle runs are a better alternative than exercise bikes if players NEED to condition (read below). With that said, one of the Hockey Strength and Conditioning Coaches I’ve learned the most from is Michael Boyle. He has his players ride exercise bikes in-season to decrease the risk of hip overuse injuries, as described above. However, he uses Schwinn Airdyne Exercise Bikes, which allow upper body movement and a more upright posture. These bike design changes remove many of the downsides of using exercise bikes for conditioning hockey players.
Do Hockey Players Need to Condition In-Season At All?
The amount of in-season conditioning players need depends on the amount of ice time they get and the composition of that ice time. There is nothing more hockey-specific than skating intervals. If coaches build conditioning-type drills into their practice or go through familiar drills at a high tempo, it’s likely that many players won’t need ANY off-ice conditioning.
Train Hard. Train Smart.