Kevin Neeld — Hockey Training, Sports Performance, & Sports Science

Hockey Conditioning: To Bike or Not to Bike!

In an interview I did with Maria Mountain, I told her that I never have my hockey players ride bikes.

If you missed the interview, you can listen here: Hockey Training Interview with Maria Mountain

Given traditional hockey training practices, this comes as a pretty big surprise to most players and coaches.

Let’s take a second to compare three commonly used hockey conditioning tools. Quick side note: All three of these modalities would be used in an interval training fashion only. I don’t think traditional steady-state aerobic training has any merit for hockey players at all. This includes “recovery rides”, which may have a mental benefit for hockey players, but probably lack any physiological benefit in light of the long known fact that nearly ALL lactic acid is processed within about an hour of ceasing activity (1,2,3). I realize this may offend some of my European Hockey Friends. I apologize in advance.

Exercise Bike

Pros:
Leads to similar “burning” feeling of the legs as a long shift. Improves local muscular endurance of thigh musculature.

Cons:
Biking involves MORE time in an unwanted hunched over posture (same as sitting in a desk or in a car). One of the main goals of our training programs is to REVERSE this terrible posture as it leads to range of motion limitations, undesired compensations, decreased performance and increased injury risk.

The upper body is relatively still while biking. Aside from the obvious fact that your arms move while playing hockey, because biking only uses your lower body it is more difficult to get your heart rate up to the near-max levels characteristic of a high intensity shift. Interval failure is more likely to result from localized muscular fatigue in the legs than from a more global energy delivery failure.

When players get tired on a bike, they begin to pull up on the foot straps, which puts more stress on their hip flexors. Sitting on a bike and pulling repetitively with your hip flexors reinforces the hip flexor tightness that too many hockey players already suffer from.

Biking involves putting force downward into floating pedals with a pre-determined range of motion. Skating involves putting force into the ice in a free range of motion. The force production and joint stabilization characteristics of biking and skating are completely different.

Should hockey players bike? I don’t think so. If you need a good leg burn, do split squat iso-holds. If you want good conditioning, use the modalities I’ll explain in my next post. Check back soon!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you want to use a PROVEN ice hockey training system this off-season to guarantee you enter tryouts and next season at your best, check out my Off-Ice Training course.

References:

1) Gollnick PD, Bayly WM, & Hodgson DR. (1986). Exercise intensity, training, diet, and lactate concentration in muscle and blood. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 18(3): 334-40

2) Hermansen L, & Stensvold I. (1972). Production and removal of lactate during exercise in man. Acta Physiol Scand,86(2): 191-201

3) Freund H, & Gendry P. (1978). Lactate kinetics after short strenuous exercise in man. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol, 39(2): 123-35

Kevin Neeld

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Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld Knows Hockey

Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He spent the last 7 years as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ, the last 3 of which he was also the Strength and Conditioning Coach and Manual Therapist for the Philadelphia Flyers Junior Team. Kevin is in his 5th year as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s National Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey .