A few days back, I posted an article discussing several things that need to be considered when designing an in-season hockey training program. While this was really framed within the context of hockey, the reality is that these same principles are relevant for every sport, and for every time of year. If you missed that post, I’d encourage you to check it out here: 5 In-Season Hockey Training Considerations
Today I wanted to follow up on the topic of in-season hockey training by sharing the intro phase we’re using for our youth midget-aged players. This is just one of several programs posted to the Ultimate Hockey Training Insider’s Section each month, which along with the 800+ video database, is a great resource for those of you looking for a little more structure to your programs and some new exercise ideas.
Phase 1: Day 1
A1) Hang Clean Technique: 3×5
A2) Glute Bridge: 3x(3x10s)
B1) Front Squat: (2-0-2 Tempo): 3×6
B2) 1-Arm DB Row: (2-0-2 Tempo): 3×6/side
C1) Slideboard Hamstring Curl: 3×8
C2) DB Chest Press: 3×8
D1) Split Squat IsoHold: 3x30s/side
D2) Front Plank: 3x25s
D3) Side Plank: 3x20s/side
Phase 1: Day 2
A1) Hang Clean Technique: 3×5
A2) MiniBand Knees Out: 3x(6x5s)
B1) Stiff-Legged Deadlift (2-0-2 Tempo): 3×6
B2) Loaded Push-Up (2-0-2 Tempo): 3×6
C1) DB Reverse Lunge: 3×8/side
C2) Chin-Up: 3×6
D1) 2-Way Skater: 3×12/side
D2) Front Plank: 3x25s
D3) Side Plank: 3x20s
This is “Week 2” of this program. Week 1 started out with one less set for the B-D blocks and a little less time for the planks and IsoHold. Every training session is preceded by foam rolling and a dynamic warm-up. Being an “Intro” phase, the primary goals of this program are to:
Returning back to the previous article, we can break down this program in light of the 5 recommendations I made.
1) Age of the Player/Stage of Development
Midget-aged players are in the tail end of the “Speed 2” and “Stamina” window and entering the “Strength” window. This first phase, as mentioned above, is more motor learning (one of the goals of the 2-0-2 tempo is to slow the motion down and allow the players to feel their way through the full range) than strength oriented, but this phase is laying the foundation for the strength work to come. The next phase uses an almost identical exercise list, but the loads, sets, reps, and tempos are altered in a way that still emphasizes the motor learning component, but puts a greater emphasis on strength. There is a clear component of local muscular endurance (one form of stamina) for the lower body/hip musculature with split squat isohold and high-rep 2-way skater exercises, but because both of them are fairly isometric in nature, they won’t result in a lot of soreness. Improved focus on strength in the future will support the speed work that players are getting on the ice.
2) On-Ice Demands
Players at this age group train at our facility 3-4 days per week in the off-season (U-16s tend to be 3, U-18s are 4). Training sessions tend to be 75-90 minutes. When the season starts, the kids are only training 2 days per week for 60 minutes, with about 15-20 of those minutes spent on low stress things like foam rolling, warming up, stretching, etc. In short, the training volume is drastically reduced. Also, you’ll note that sprints, plyometrics, slideboarding, shuttle runs, etc. are all missing from this program. While I think there is a place for some of this work in in-season programs, in general players at this age group are getting the majority of their speed, power, and interval-based conditioning work on the ice. We return to some of these qualities in one form or another in future phases, but definitely not the first one.
3) Practice Plan/Game Schedule/Travel Demands
This part can get a little trickier depending on how much the hockey coach communicates with our coaches. We aren’t always aware of the on-ice practice plan, which isn’t ideal, but is understandable at this level. That said, we almost always know when teams have a big weekend (important games and/or 3-4 games), and can adjust the program accordingly. There are lots of different strategies to alter training stresses before or after a big game, but some of the ones we use most frequently are:
Periodically, the coach will just cancel off-ice, which isn’t always a bad thing. For example, we had one team play 10 games in the last two weekends and cancel a few off-ice training sessions during that stretch. While I don’t necessarily think anyone (especially not players at this age) should play 1/4 of a college hockey season in two weekends, I do think given the ridiculous fatigue accumulated in ONE weekend like this, let alone two, makes canceling training the right call.
4) Soft-Tissue/Muscle Stresses
All of the players foam roll, warm up, and stretch every day they’re with us. The stretching puts a very lopsided emphasis on stretching the glutes/posterior hip region, which I’ve found to be an effective strategy in helping players recover from and minimize risk for groin and hip flexor strains. We also steer clear of any focused work from a training standpoint for these areas during the first phase because of the on-ice load put on these muscle groups.
5) Logistical Considerations
Over the last year, we were able to acquire a larger space at the rink to train the youth players that play there, and we also moved more equipment over so space and equipment constraints aren’t as bad as they used to be. It’s certainly come a long way from doing all body weight work in the winter in the parking lot or rink lobby! I remember teaching 20 U-16 players with minimal lifting experience how to hang clean in an old party room that could be more than 700 sq ft. While far from ideal, I believe strongly that those situations are where you can really learn how to coach, and the kids learn to stay focused because there simply isn’t enough space to screw around. All of that said, part of the simplicity of these programs is to account for the ~16-20:1 Athlete:Coach ratio we’re working with. Again, a program is only as effective as the athletes’ ability to perform it correctly. As a result, there shouldn’t be anything in the program that we don’t feel comfortable coaching. In the past, we used more “Tri-Sets” (e.g. A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3, etc.), but have backed away from that this year in an effort to keep things simpler and a little more organized from a traffic flow standpoint.
Hopefully that gives you an idea of the rationale for how I’ve designed our in-season programs and provides a few real life examples of how to implement the information mentioned here: 5 In-Season Hockey Training Considerations
If you want access to more training programs and the largest hockey training exercise database out there, be sure to check out the Ultimate Hockey Training Insider’s Section! As always, if you have any questions, please post them below!
To your success,
Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!
Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.